When it comes to invasive species, every part of the province, including here in the southeast, is affected. From zebra mussels in waterways to plants such as garlic mustard, to insects like the ash leaf cone roller and the gypsy moth, to animals such as wild boar. 

Invasive species are plants, animals, and fish, as well as diseases of plants and animals, that are not native to the region and can pose a significant threat to the environment, economy, or even society.  

“One of the prime examples of that in southeastern Saskatchewan would be the Dutch elm disease fungus,” explained Dr. Rory McIntosh. He is an insect and disease expert with the provincial Ministry of Environment’s Forest Service Branch. “It’s been established and growing for quite some time now. We first identified, or found, Dutch elm disease in 1981, and then since 1990, it has really become established and spread quite extensively throughout the southeast corner of the province.” 

Concerns about Dutch elm disease have also prompted the provincial government to put into place an elm pruning ban from the beginning of April to the end of August, as this is when the Dutch elm beetle, the insect that carries the fungus, is most prevalent. It is attracted to cuts made in elm bark and can propagate the disease that way.  

The Dutch elm beetle isn’t the only invasive species that poses a threat to the trees of the southeast, however. Dr. McIntosh noted the emerald ash borer is another species that can cause issues.  

“It became established in Ontario, and spread all the way to the east coast,” McIntosh said of the initial spread in Canada after its discovery. “In 2017, it was found in Winnipeg, so since then, this poses a massive threat to our urban forests in Saskatchewan, because with Dutch elm disease as well taking out the elm trees, and then another species coming in and killing a lot of the ash trees, it really doesn’t leave many species that won’t be affected in our urban environments.” 

Another invasive species that has been found in Canada, and has generated a lot of press in recent years, is the Asian giant hornet. The hornet has been confirmed as being found in British Columbia, but there haven’t been any confirmed sightings there in a few years. There have been reports, though, of it coming as far east as Saskatchewan.  

“I’ve had a couple of people send in samples or pictures that they think were the hornet, but I think that our winter climate is restrictive of that becoming a real problem in the near future,” McIntosh stated. “But, we can never say never, and if there’s anything that looks even slightly like it, it’s always wisest to report it.” 

Invasive species can be carried from one area to another through movement. Recreational activities such as boating can bring invasive aquatic species, while camping, hiking and transporting firewood can carry other species into the area. Some invasive species have even been linked to shipping materials from one place to another.  

Dr. McIntosh advised that those who want to learn more about the various invasive species in the province and what residents can do to help can visit the Government of Saskatchewan’s invasive species page.