Most people, when they think of invasive species these days, probably think of Burmese pythons slithering wild in the Florida Everglades.
Central New York doesn’t have any exotic serpents gobbling up native wildlife, but it does have scores of invasive species. And if you think they’re a minor problem, you’re wrong.
Moreover, their cost goes way beyond their assault on native species. They have a direct effect on agricultural production and, in some cases, human health.
Assemblyman Pete Lopez, R-Schoharie, called invasive species a “huge problem” at the Otsego County Chamber’s State of the State Breakfast last week and said he’d like to see more effort put into controlling them.
The state already spends millions of dollars to eradicate some of the worst offenders, such as Asian longhorn beetles in the downstate region. But no region is immune.
The culprits in this region include giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), which has been found in Chenango and Otsego counties. Its sap makes human and livestock skin ultrasensitive to ultraviolet, resulting in severe burns, blistering, painful sores and purplish or blackened scars. It can cause blindness if it gets into the eyes, and it’s toxic to livestock when mixed with feed, according to the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s New York Invasive Species Clearinghouse (www.nyis.info).
Giant hogweed may be one of the nastiest invaders, but it isn’t the most pervasive, such as Japanese knotweed, and probably isn’t the most costly. The truth is, there is nowhere near enough space here to list all of the invasive species present in Otsego, Delaware, Chenango or Schoharie counties, but they affect everything from livestock to timber to fruit and vegetable production.
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