Just because snow is piling up and temperatures are dropping below freezing doesn’t mean our flora and fauna are safe from invasive plants and microorganisms this winter.

The Wyoming Weed and Pest Council is asking everyone who plays outdoors in the winter to take care not to spread invasive species that can harm the environment. Nonnative plants and critters can proliferate rapidly, crowd out native species and harm wildlife habitat.

Though the weather is cold and plants aren’t growing, it’s still possible for viable seeds from noxious weeds to spread. And certain invasive species like zebra mussels can survive underwater during the winter.

“Invasive species never take a day off,” Weed and Pest Council President Larry Smith said in a press release. “We have to remain diligent during the winter season to slow the spread of invasive species that threaten our ecosystem.”

Here are some steps you can take to protect the environment:

• Hiking/winter boots: Stay on marked trails and remove mud, leaves and other debris using a boot brush.

• Ice fishing: Check and clean anything that comes in contact with lake or river water, including bait, hooks, lines and augers. Buy native bait at a local shop. Properly discard any aquatic species you catch; don’t put them back in the water.

• Cross-country skiing: Stay on groomed trails and away from mud, plants, leaves and other debris. Clean equipment when done.

• Snowmobiles: Before taking your equipment out, check to make sure there are no plant parts or seeds stuck to it. If your trailer and snowmobile were parked over the summer somewhere with invasive plants, then seeds and plant parts could be hitching a ride.

• Dogs: It’s easy for invasive plants and seeds to stick to fur. Check your pups thoroughly after a hike, hunting trip or other excursion.

Jennifer Dorsey is chief copy editor for the News&Guide and one of the editors for local articles printed in the Jackson Hole Daily.

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