Washington hunters reminded to be aware of noxious weeds

As hunters head into the backcountry this fall, several state agencies are asking them to watch out for noxious weeds, to report any they find and to take easy steps to prevent their spread.

The Washington Invasive Species Council, Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board, Washington State Department of Agriculture and Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife are reminding hunters that boots and equipment that might carry noxious weed seeds could spread these destructive plants to new areas, damaging habitat and leading to poor conditions for wildlife. Hunters are asked to clean their boots and gear and also to report any noxious weeds they find to help the State inventory these species – especially new infestations.

“It is everyone’s responsibility to help protect the backcountry and wildlife from the devastating impacts of invasive, noxious weeds,” said Alison Halpern, executive secretary for the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board. “Brushing off your boots and gear takes just a few minutes but has such lasting effects by preventing further spread of invasive species.”

Some of what makes invasive plants and noxious weeds so damaging is that they replace native plants, which can be important food for game species. In some instances, wildlife have been known to move to new locations after an expansion of invasive plants.

To protect the landscape and game animals, hunters are asked to clean all mud, seeds and propagating plant parts from boots, vehicles and equipment before entering the backcountry so that invasive plants from their homes are not accidentally introduced to the backcountry. Everything should again be cleaned before leaving the backcountry.

“The last thing you want is to introduce a problem plant to your own yard that you picked up while hunting,” said Justin Bush, executive coordinator for  Washington Invasive Species Council. “The importance of cleaning boots and equipment cannot be understated.”

Simple actions like using a boot brush before and after hunting, or cleaning equipment and tires cannot only protect the landscape, but also ensure that wildlife is abundant and available for harvest.

Before hunting, spend some time familiarizing yourself with noxious weeds by vising www.nwcb.wa.gov. If you spot one of these species while hunting, report it using the WA Invasive mobile app or online reporting form: http://www.invasivespecies.wa.gov/report.shtml

You also can take a Global Positioning System (GPS) point and photograph and e-mail it to invasivespecies@rco.wa.gov. Never assume that landowners or managers know about the issue, your help will be very much appreciated.

“Prevent the introduction and spread of noxious weeds. It’s far less expensive than trying to remove species once they arrive,” Bush said. “If you value the experience of hunting, quality habitat and abundant wildlife then take a few minutes to preserve it.”

- State of Washington Recreation & Conservation