Washington State is preparing to launch a new program aimed at educating the public about the dangers of releasing exotic pets outdoors.
Many dangers face wildlife when exotic animals enter the picture. Both the native flora and fauna, and the unwanted pet itself, can find themselves struggling to survive. Abandoned pets are an easy meal to predators they've never seen.
The varied climate in Washington sees hot, dry summers and cold, wet winters that make it difficult for animals of other climates and ecosystems to adapt. Additionally, they might lack sufficient food sources or simply not know how to scavenge or hunt for food having been reared as a pet.
Invasive animals can also push out native species through competition of resources or physical altercations. Common pets like domestic rabbits and less common pets like the nutria, a rodent of South America, are often spotted in Washington.
The Don't Let It Loose campaign will advocate against releasing exotic pets into the wild and provide an online map for contacts within the state that are trained in exotic animal care, from veterinary clinics to animal shelters to concerned individuals. Some of the locations will take in pets in need of re-homing while other locations can act as a reference point for where to go or what to do. Residents are also encouraged to report sightings of non-native species .
If you live in Washington state and can take in or provide information on exotic pets, fill out the online survey here.
Have you seen an invasive species in the wild? Tell us what and where in the comments below.
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