Undoubtedly, the United States exports some of the world's most in-demand products—aircraft and medical equipment, to name just two. But not everything that leaves American shores is a wanted commodity, especially when it has jumped—or crawled—ship.
Here's a look at the underbelly of exports: eight American critters that have been shipped abroad—either accidentally or intentionally—and have created out-of-control messes. From preying on indigenous wildlife in Asia to spreading illnesses in Europe, these eight invasive species are definitely out-staying their welcome in other parts of the world.
Native to the southeastern United States, the rosy wolfsnail was introduced to islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans in the 1950s by the Hawaii State Department of Agriculture in an attempt to control the giant African land snails plaguing agricultural areas. The wolfsnail is now found in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, Madagascar and French Polynesia, to name a few of its present locations. The rosy wolfsnail has been strongly linked to the extinction of numerous snail species in all of these regions.
Though European countries banned potato imports from the U.S. in 1875 after learning about the Colorado potato beetle, the insect still turned up in 1877 and spread across the entire continent within 30 years. In Germany, it’s estimated that an uncontrolled Colorado potato beetle would cause potato production to decline by 50 percent. And the insecticides needed to ward off the beetle are of no help to organic farmers, who are not permitted to use them.
They may be a delicacy to many in the eastern United States, but expanding their habitat to Norway and the Netherlands has been anything but appetizing. American lobsters have been found to carry a bacterial disease that is lethal to European lobsters as well as epizootic shell disease, which could shut down European lobster fisheries. How they made it across the Atlantic is still a bit of a mystery. Some theories are that they attached themselves to boats, were tossed when a cruise liner emptied its unused stock, or were released by cooks who felt too bad boiling them.
The North American bullfrog is native to the central and eastern U.S. but is now common in Europe, Asia, the Caribbean and South America. Due to its voracious eating habits, the bullfrog often preys on native species and has been known to out-compete native birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes for resources. Its high reproductive rate also makes it difficult to control. U.S. exportation of the bullfrogs began in 1898 when global consumers started having a hankering for frog legs.
The seemingly unobtrusive gray squirrel, native to the eastern U.S., is one of Britain’s most loathed pests because it threatens the red squirrel, which is adored by Brits. Besides consuming seven times the food supply as red squirrels, gray squirrels also carry a squirrel pox that is plaguing their red counterparts. Prince Charles, who according to Red Squirrel Survival Trust, considers the red squirrel “the most utterly charming and irresistible of British native creatures,” is among those raising awareness about the red squirrels’ plight. But gray squirrels weren’t always pests. The first ones were brought to England in the early 19th century as pets for the wealthy and were released once their owners grew tired of them.
As raccoons proliferate across Europe, and especially throughout Spain, there is mounting concern over the illnesses they carry. Besides rabies, raccoons carry the nematode worm, which causes “larval migration and parasite persistence under the skin, in the brain and in other organs,” according to Science Daily. Raccoons made their first appearance in Europe as cuddly pets, and some still consider them as such.
The American mink has invaded several countries, including Ireland, Scotland, Britain, Chile and Argentina. Environmentalists say the animals likely ended up in these regions after escaping U.S. fur farms and are unwelcome for preying on native fish, birds and rodents. In the U.K., the rising population of mink is largely responsible for why the water vole, a semi-aquatic rodent, faces possible extinction.
Though seafood lovers in the southern U.S. crave them, Africa definitely does not. First imported into Kenya and South Africa in the 1970s to rid the area of parasite-infested snails, Louisiana crayfish (or crawfish, as they’re known in Louisiana) eat fish eggs and fingerlings, which reduces the population of native fish and eliminates food for other wildlife.
Paige Brettingen is a journalist in the Los Angeles area where she is pursuing her masters at USC. When she's not on the lookout for the next story, her interests include eating too much peanut butter, doing yoga and taking long walks with her poodle-boxer pup.