Lesser-known Invasive Species
Written By: Natalie McAlister
Edited by: Mark Butler
If you’re concerned about the ongoing invasion of feral hogs in the United States, you might be a Texan. It doesn’t require extensive research to know the species has become a serious issue in the United States. However, there are many other invasive species in the US and around the world that are less-famous but equally destructive. These somewhat-overlooked species include the Burmese Python, Canadian Goose and Nutria, and their numbers are growing every year.
Alligators are internationally recognized to be the reptile of the Florida Everglades. However, their distant relative, the Burmese Python, is quickly replacing the alligators, and occasionally targeting them, when they get bored of eating fox, marsh rabbit and raccoon. Burmese Pythons have become such a problem, in fact, the state of Florida has created a “Python Pickup Program” in order to give locals an extra incentive to stamp out this growing threat. Complete with an enter-to-win prize and free t-shirt, the existence of the program alone sheds light on the desperate condition officials believe southern Florida ecosystems to be in currently. Shotguns are listed as one of the approved means of eliminating the invaders if property owners are first notified and give approval.
Why do Burmese Pythons have officials all bent out of shape? Ever since the python’s arrival in the U.S. half a century ago, a 99% decrease in fur-bearing animals has been recorded in the Everglades area. That’s not a statistic officials can ignore. These massive reptiles were originally brought over from Southeast Asia as pets, but irresponsible owners released them into the wild, likely because of unforeseen issues due to their sheer size. As we noted earlier, Burmese Pythons have virtually no natural predators to limit their population growth.
Given their threatening size of up to 23 feet, a hunter must know what they are getting into when taking on these south Asian vipers. Enthusiastic python-hunters in this area have noticed their most successful hunting hours are at night, on the levees, where the cold-blooded creatures can get warm. Having scouting technology, preferably digital or night vision equipment, is essential to ensuring your pursuit is a brag-worthy success. Pulsar’s new Digex Digital Riflescope is selling itself with a remarkable 1280×720 HD sensor that practically guarantees the hunter will see their prey before it sees them. With sufficient technology and community enthusiasm, the Burmese pythons in Florida can be brought to a sustainable population.
In the past 40 years, the Canadian Goose has gone from being nearly-extinct to a staggering population of over 5 million. If you ask any farmer or rancher, they will likely complain about the hundreds, possibly thousands of dollars, lost in crops and vegetation. If you ask a chef, you will hear nothing but praise for the bird’s natural flavor and ample portions. While it’s illegal to kill a goose to sell in a chain-restaurant, some residents take their kill to a local eatery personally for a chef to specially prepare.
These birds might look harmless 100 feet in the sky, but their feeding methods are what has earned them their position on Europe’s invasive species ‘wanted list’. Canadian Geese can consume their entire body weight in food (usually about 18 pounds) every 4 days. Even more concerning is how challenging killing one can be. These disruptive birds are described as skittish and preternaturally aware of the presence of firearms. Their jumpy nature often earns some distance between them and a vengeful rancher. Add a dime-size head that is always moving, and flat-out precision shooting becomes the only solution. Unlike ducks, a Canadian Goose won’t circle back to give you a second shot if you miss. Nine times out of ten, a shot at a Canadian Goose will have been a waste of ammo if you haven’t invested in a quality reflex sight to mount on your firearm. Repeatable accuracy and ultra-fast target acquisition level the playing field against these jumpy birds. Conditions have grown so desperate in locations across Europe and New Zealand, there is no official season or protection for the migratory birds. As for the U.S., there are still seasons and regulations to double-check before killing the birds is permitted.
Some people may be more familiar with the name “river rat” for this semi-aquatic rodent. These little invaders systematically destroy the wetland habitats they thrive on until conditions become unlivable for fish and other endemic species. What sets Nutria apart from other herbivorous species is the thoroughness of their eating habits. Rather than eating just the leaves off a plant, Nutria devour every morsel down to the root, making it impossible for regrowth to occur. This habit efficiently decimates entire dwellings for other animals in the area.
First imported into the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1880s for their pelts, they were released, like the pythons, after the fur trade crashed. Since then, thousands have been killed, but their populations remain stable. Like other invasive species, they come with a unique challenge: they breed all year long. Female Nutria are almost always pregnant for the entirety of their lifespan, which can be anywhere from 6 to 12 years. In recent years, Louisiana has promoted full-blown Nutria recipe contests to combat the rapidly multiplying rodents. California, Texas, and Maryland are amongst other states competing against Nutria to keep their land in good condition.
The Future for Invasive Species
Invasive animal species have been outbreeding and outwitting humans for decades. Sometimes they hitch a ride on a ship, or plane, from the other side of the world. Or maybe they were brought to the US intentionally, and then escaped from their enclosures, or worse, set free to wreak havoc. Invasive species eat and breed uncontrollably. They inhabit spaces not meant for their presence. They generally lack natural predators. All factors considered, the only responsible and ethical course of action is to humanely depopulate invasive species to preserve American ecosystems for future generations.
So, what can conservationists do? Ignoring the
problem will only make the situation worsen. Spreading poison is a non-starter
due to collateral damage to native flora and fauna. Introducing other species,
like using wolves to kill the Nutria, would lead to a wolf infestation – and
then we would need tigers to kill the wolves, and then there would be a tiger
problem. Perhaps the best solution is to use advanced technology, products like
Digisight Ultra to address this issue quickly, humanely, and above all,