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Help Prevent the Spread: Keep Invasive Species at Bay


Love to take to the water by boat or to the trails by motorbike or off-road vehicle? Responsible ownership and operation of these vehicles requires you to be mindful of preventing the spread of invasive species.

What are some of the dangers of transporting invasive species, and how can you help stop the spread of invasive species before and after you take your recreational vehicles out for a spin? Here’s everything you need to be aware of the next time you recreate:

Dangers of transporting invasive species

When you take to the trails or waterways in your recreational vehicles, you need to be careful—you could start the process of non-native species introduction. The moment you drive past a plant or set down your gear next to a trail, seeds and plant debris can cling to your things. Likewise, when you’re out for a day on the water, you could be picking up aquatic plants and organisms on your boat and equipment.

Why can transporting invasive species be so harmful? Non-native species can outcompete native ones for food and habitat—in the very worst case, they can cause native species extinction. To educate yourself on the invasive species that are prevalent in your state or regions you may be traveling to, read Wikipedia's List of Invasive Species in the United States.

Every time you operate your recreational vehicle, enjoy the adventure but be sure to leave invasive species behind. Here are some guidelines for the most common vehicle types:


Off-road vehicles

There’s nothing like hitting your trails in an off-road vehicle like an ATV, UTV, OHV or snowmobile. Enjoy your journeys responsibly by performing the following steps when you head out for your next excursion:

  • Always start your journey with clean shoes and gear, ensuring there are no seeds or plant debris on your clothing from your last outing.
  • Stick to marked or designated trails to keep invasive species off your vehicle and your gear.
  • After your excursion is done, clean clothes and gear to remove any plant debris. Also, spray down your vehicle and trailer with water or compressed air to remove mud and plant parts.

Dirt biking

Want to take your bike out for a spin on your favorite trail? These are the steps you need to take to ensure you don’t transport invasive species along with you:

  • Start every journey with clean shoes and gear, removing any seeds or plant debris you’ve picked up on your most recent excursion.
  • Always stick to marked or designated trails to keep invasive species localized and prevent their introduction to new locations.
  • After you’re done riding and before you leave your location, clean your footwear, clothes and all gear of all seeds and burrs. If you’ve brought any furry friends along, remove mud and seeds from them and comb out their fur.
  • Spray your equipment with water or compressed air to remove plant parts and mud.


Ready to enjoy a day out on the water? Before you leave the boat ramp, you have a duty to make sure you aren’t transporting invasive species back home or wherever your travels take you. Here are some steps you should take to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species:

  • Clean off any visible mud, animals and aquatic plants from all your boating equipment, including all gear that’s been exposed to water before you leave the boat ramp. A thorough cleaning ensures all visible large-bodied organisms are removed from the boat. Use water that’s at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit for cleaning—the hot water is often able to kill any organisms but be sure your equipment can withstand these high temperatures. If hot water isn’t available or isn’t recommended for your equipment, rinse with tap water and let it dry completely.
  • Use a high-pressure hose at the boat ramp or a nearby car wash to thoroughly rinse all equipment and boat hulls.
  • Use a low-pressure hose and hot water to rinse all interior compartments of the boat.
  • Flush the motor with hot water according to your owner’s manual.
  • Drain the motor, bilge, livewell and any other water-containing components before leaving the boat ramp. This ensures all nearly invisible microorganisms, like Zebra Mussel larvae (veligers) are removed from all water-containing components.
  • Let everything dry for at least five days, or wipe everything dry with a towel before exposing it to the water again. Since many organisms can survive in even tiny amounts of standing water, getting all components dry is completely necessary.
  • If you think you’ve spotted any invasive species on your boat or boating equipment, be sure to report your sightings. Take a photo if possible and send all information to the appropriate authorities.

Recreational vehicles are made for fun, but there’s much more to responsible ownership than simply driving your boat, bike or off-road vehicle safely. By taking the steps above whenever you head out for an exciting excursion, you’ll keep invasive species at bay and protect our ecosystem.

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