Cogongrass, an invasive grass from Asia, is considered "the seventh worst weed in the world". This species is wide-spread in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi and is now beginning to spread in Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee. Cogongrass is capable of displacing entire communities of native plants and the wildlife which depend on them. The leaves of cogongrass are extremely unpalatable to native wildlife due to the high silica content. Large infestations can become so dense that many smaller animals find it difficult to travel through them. Large dense infestations also diminish quality brood rearing habitat for quail and turkeys.
Feral hogs, although challenging to hunt, can cause a wide variety of problems for hunters in the South. Hogs are omnivores and will eat almost anything, including eggs and chicks of ground nesting birds, such as turkey and quail. Hogs also directly compete with native wildlife for forage. Acorns, a preferred food of hogs, are a significant part of the diet of deer, bear, turkeys and ducks. Hogs are wallowers and rooters; these activities can destroy water holes utilized by other wildlife. Feral hogs have also been shown to spread brucellosis to humans and livestock.
Red imported fire ants, as anyone from the South knows, are extremely aggressive and have a pow-erful sting. Pustules that result from fire ant stings are irritating and can cause permanent scarring. Ground nesting birds, such as quail and turkey, are also greatly impacted by the presence of the red imported fire ant. Fire ants have been shown to attack bird and reptile eggs, juveniles, and adults. Red imported fire ants have been shown to reduce bobwhite quail chick survival and, in one study, 38% of chick deaths were attributed to fire ant stings.
Redbay trees are important to wildlife of the South. Deer eat the fruit and leaves. Fruit are eaten by turkey and quail. A high rate of mortality in redbay trees has been reported in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida. The cause of the mortality was linked to a fungus (Ophiostoma sp.) that is carried by the redbay ambrosia beetle, an exotic beetle from Asia. New trees can also be infected by the movement of infected wood to new areas. Once a tree is infected it will wilt and die within a few weeks to months. The beetles and fungus can also infest sassafras and avocado trees.
Laurel wilt, Raffaelea lauricola
Ronald F. Billings, Texas Forest Service, Bugwood.org