The Okanagan's Most Wanted

Two Partners in Crime

What are invasive species? How do they come to be? What impacts do they come to be?

Invasive species are animals that are brought here and are not native to the regions. They are brought in groups so they can reproduce, and thus their population grows. These species are negative to our envirovment because most of the species are dangerous and will kill some species that are native and then the population goes down, meaning that one day, there will be no more native species only invasive. Most often they come to be here by humans knowing or unknowingly importing them region to region.

Eurasian Watermilfoil

If you live in the Southern Okanagan and by a lake, you better be careful and watch out for Myriophyllum spicatum also known as the Eurasian Watermilfoil. This plant is invasive. It has slender and smooth stems which are 3 meters long, and spreads its branches out several times near the water surface, orange flowers spike and emerge above the water from late July and early August. Their habitat is in lakes and almost seen in every lake in the Southern region of the Okanagan Valley.

The Eurasian Watermilfoil was imported from Europe in the early 1800's and was first recorded in North America in the early 1800's as well. They first were recorded here in the Okanagan in 1970. Here in the Okanagan, it has spread to 80 lakes, ponds and rivers. People also say that it got here in the Okanagan because the Eurasian Watermilfoil was once a popular aquarium plant and may have arrived when they dumped unwanted aquarium into the wild. It ecological impacts the ecosystem because it has the ability to out compete with and replace native plant communties, reducing overall biological diversity and reducing water quality. The Myriophyllum spicatum can clog a whole entire lake!! It starts growing at 10 meters and will continue growing. One day, the whole Okanagan Lake can be clogged up with this plant. Unfortunately they seems to easily reproduce by spreading seeds, rhizomes, buds and stem fragmentation. They spread from lake to lake by being stuck underneath boats and in boat motors, stuck in diving gear and getting caught in it, stuck in water skis and caught underneath tubes.

Eastern Grey Squirrel

They may look cute and fluffy but trust me they're not. This animal is out of its natural habitat here in the Okanagan region. Sciurus carolinensis (the scientific name of this cute creature) is a problem to the native species here in the Okanagan. The Eastern Grey Squirrel is easy to identify mainly due to their tales. Their tale is long and bushy, making it 19-25 cm long, they mostly have grey fur and sometimes can be black or red, their head and body length is about 23-30 cm long and they have slightly hairy ears. Eastern Grey Squirrels live in trees like the smaller squirrel that is native to the Okanagan. Don't make the mistake of MISTAKING these two cousins.

There have been 5 recents sightings here in Kelowna, including myself as I had an Eastern Grey Squirrels living in my own backyard! It has been identified as living in Kelowna and West Kelowna, however it is now being reported of sightings as far down as Pentiction and Oliver. Eastern Grey Squirrels are orignally from New York and the East Coast and were imported to West Coast of Canada. They are a danger to the ecosystem as they strip bark from young oak trees, they cut out the embryonic roots from acorn and this prevents germination, they feed on lily bulbs which are native here and particularly dangerous to the fragile Garry Oak ecosystems. They also prey on nesting birds, bird eggs and nestlings. They are more aggressive then the native Okanagan squirrels and seemingly these Eastern Grey Squirrels are 'pushing' our native squirrels out of their native region. This species has spread like wildfire. In fact it has been reported that in 1914, a New York man released 8 squirrels into Stanley Park- in Vancouver, BC. Yet another way they invaded our region is when wildlife rehabilitators have help spread them by trapping them and releasing them into a new habitat. They reproduce like any other squirrel.

Preventing the Eurasian Watermilfoil

Once it is in a lake, it is almost impossible to eradicate. It spreads easily and will tangle in anything. It is important to clean all plant materials from boats, motors, anchors, trailers and wet wells, learn how to identify it, drain all water from motors because the plant still live out of water with a little bit of water, dispose all unwanted live bait on land, rinse your boat and equipment and let it dry for at least five days. The government says that people aren't drying their boats for five days so they go back in and it keeps spreading and the government wants it to stop. We need to be aware that this is happening and do what we can to stop it from overtaking this region!

Preventing the Eastern Grey Squirrel

Many people are aware that these squirrels - as cute as they are- don't belong in the Okanagan and are trying very hard to stop these squirrels from overtaking this region. Lots of way are being done from trapping them and relocating them, understanding that we shouldn't feed them!!!! , keep all garbage, compost and pet food covered, use squirrel-proof bird feeders. The government said that the most important thing is to not feed them. They will just get used to 'hanging around' and will come back every day.


I have reported two sightings for both of my species. I have seen the Eurasian Watermilfoil in the Okanagan Lake several times and it gets worse every time. The Eastern Grey Squirrel has been actually living in my backyard for awhile until it moved away, staying in my backyard for all of last Spring.
By Ashley Berg

Block 4