Over-hunting and fishing often puts ecologists and hunters and chefs at odds. But there is one increasingly less rare occasion when these groups team up: the introduction of an invasive species.
In last night’s episode of “The Savage Line,” animal guard Cory Valdes tracks a wild boar, one of many non-native boars that roams the island. Invasive species like the boar can wreak havoc on environments and economies, and while some once invasive species have integrated well into ecosystems without much damage, many cause enormous damage.
Obviously, the best way to combat invasive species is to prevent them from traveling in the first place. But globalization makes it almost impossible to entirely prevent disruptive species from entering non-native environments.
Here are some of the most creative ways that scientists and states are fighting invasive species:
Only fifty years after the brown tree snake invaded Guam by hitching a ride on US naval boats and planes, there are an estimated 2 million snakes on the island, or approximately 2o snakes per every acre of land. So in an effort to contain the snakes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture parachuted 2,000 dead mice laced with painkillers onto various spots around Andersen Air Force Base. The fourth of such drops was conducted last December, and the USDA says that if it proves successful, there will be more.
Invasive species costs the state of Florida half a billion dollars every year. But arguably none is more frightening than the burmese python, which vied for a spot at the top of the food chain in the Florida Everglades with native alligators (which the python, you know, eats). The Washington Post estimates that up to 100,000 burmese pythons currently inhabit the Everglades. So in a highly-publicized attempt to rid the park of the snakes, Florida authorized a rare month-long burmese python hunt, allowing people who were not terrified of the 20 ft. long snakes to go out and catch them. However “creative,” the test was widely considered a dud, if not somewhat stupid to begin with; news outlets reported instances of drunkenness, non-python hunting and perhaps most importantly, of the 1,500 hunters who participated, only 68 pythons were caught.
“If you can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em!”
It may make for a great headline, but transforming invasive species into culinary delicacies is exactly what many conservationists and environmentally conscious chefs want to do. There are plenty of examples of invasive species as primary ingredients in tasty dishes for high-end diners, but less exclusive uses have been even more successful. In 2012, Maryland sold around 427,000 pounds of blue catfish, an invasive species that also happens to be a tastier version of regular catfish. But however appealing it may be for us to solve the invasive species problem with our appetites, some scientists caution that by turning these species into commercially popular foods, we could actually increase the introduction of these species to new markets, and naturally, new environments.
Not all invasive species control require mass deployment of pesticides or hunting free-for-alls. Sometimes all you need is a few goats. That’s what the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is doing at the Oak Brush Plains State Preserve in Long Island in an attempt to control invasive plant species. According to The Wall Street Journal, the goats are more likely to eat the invasive grass, and the whole process costs a fraction of what it would take for humans to remove the plants. Another invasive species problem solved with the most basic animal need!
While above-ground invasive plants often disrupt ecosystems, some of the most difficult to control grow underwater. This is certainly true of the Eurasian watermilfoil, which most likely traveled across the ocean accidentally in the ballast water of commercial ships. According to the New York Times, the Adirondack Park has seen an explosion of the plant, and have ruled to eliminate it without using chemicals. In order to starve the plants of photosynthetic procreation, divers swim to the bottom of the lake and fasten plastic sheets at the bottom of the lake, compressing sediment and disrupting and blocking sunlight.
Catch the next episode of “The Savage Line” Thursday, June 19 at 10p!