Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hunting Invasive Species

© 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
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Doug, the hawk wrangler over at Harris' Hawk Blog, wrote up a post on invasive species, and the double standard upon which management issues are decided. (Forget about science based wildlife management!) He finished up with an open question:
"Think about the double standard. Should we be hunting pythons in Florida? Horses in Virginia? Nutria in Louisiana? Red fox, donkey, sparrow, starling, wild pig?" Python Season

I got to thinking about what Doug said. Personally I am all for hunting anything that doesn't belong on our native soil. The question becomes fraught with problems though, when you plug in the economic or political factor.

Take horses for instance. Out west there are areas where they have eaten themselves, and everything else that lives in their range, out of fodder. During the mid-nineties wild horses on the White Sands missile range died when there range became over grazed and water holes dried up.

"The BLM's current estimate is that there are 37,000 wild horses and burros on public lands in the West, about half of them in Nevada. (Opponents of the roundup believe it's more like 15,000.) However, nearly that many, 34,000, are kept in government-run corrals and pastures. Already this year, the BLM has spent $50 million to manage the wild horses in the West; last year, it was $36
million. As the numbers increase, so do the costs." BLM Report 12/09

I wonder how much forage 60,000 horses are consuming that would otherwise be feeding mule deer, antelope, and elk?

But the urban people and congress would never permit the eradication of the wild mustangs of the West. Never mind that the horse is domestic animal bred for human use; never mind that it just doesn't belong in the environment; and never mind that it is livestock and should be managed as livestock not as scenery!

That's just one species, a cute, romantic, and familiar one.  But there others that aren't as cute or cuddly.  Take the Gambian Pouch Rat now found on Grassy Key here in my home state.

Image Credit: WikiPedia
These omnivorous rodents will eat almost anything and compete for food with many species including endangered species like the Silver Rice Rat and the Florida Wood Rat. They carry diseases like monkey pox . The greatest threat, and the one people are hard at work trying to prevent, is their arrival at Key Largo. From there, it is a an easy jump to the Florida Everglades. If you think pythons and boas are bad, imagine nine pound rats. Having said all that, they are good for two things: Eating if you're hungry enough, and sniffing out land mines. Seriously, see HeroRAT.

Again, here is a species that was illegally released into the wild by an irresponsible and undoubtedly brainless individual. My suggestion is to allow the use of powerful air-rifles and 22 rimfires within the confines of Grassy Key for the sole purpose of killing those danged Pouch Rats.

Green Iguanas, Komodo Dragons, Nile Monitors, all of these reptiles are now have breeding populations in South Florida. Rhesus Monkeys have a breeding population in Silver River State Park and Morgan Island in South Carolina. Lionfish, native to the South Pacific are now in US Atlantic tropical waters.

I have a personal like for house cats. But many years ago a big female cat we had came home with a bright red Cardinal in her jaws. Poor Bubby was just a little fellow and saw the blood thirsty feline carrying her prize first. He chased that cat down and made her drop the songbird, but it was too late for the Cardinal. Bubby came to us bawling his bright blue eyes out, tears cutting tracks on his dusty face, the songbird in the open palms of his hands.

After a suitable service for the bird, we talked about the predator-prey relationship. I explained how cats have never lost their affinity for hunting and killing even though they have been "domesticated" almost as long as dogs.

After that though, I have forbidden the keeping of outside cats. The few we had on the hacienda were already neutered or spayed, and I was vigilant to try to secure them in the evenings.

Some of my neighbors were not very responsible though. One in particular had over thirty adult cats around their home, so many in fact that their borderline simpleton kids crudely joked about running them over every time they backed out of the ramshackle pole-barn garage.

I ran a series of Hav-A-Hart traps too keep the burgeoning population of cats down. The biggest problem was the possums and raccoons I regularly caught. But after several months, and dozens of trips to the local humane society, I had made a sizable dent in the feral cat population.

All of these animals, both wild and feral are potentially disruptive to the environment and destructive to our native fauna. As far as being vectors for diseases, I am not as concerned about that as I am with the destruction of our plants and animals. Most of the diseases that we can catch from any animal are treatable. (Well, most are See: Monkey Business.) Extinct on the other hand, isn't!

I strongly urge anyone with the ability and temperament to hunt, trap, or otherwise destroy invasive non-native species do so where it is legal to do so, and in a legal manner. In other words, don't bust out the unplugged 12 gauge Browning Auto 5 and shoot at the English sparrows on the bird feeder! Use good sense...

everyone knows a side by side 28 is better...

Albert A Rasch
Member: Bagram Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles


steveo_uk said...

you so need to get into falconry ! Get a kestrel or a Coopers Hawk and watch the feathers fly

Tovar Cerulli said...

Great and thought-provoking post, Albert. Aggressively invasive species can indeed wreak havoc, while other "non-native" species can naturalize into local systems without too much disruption. As you suggest, though, mentioning mustangs, it gets complicated!

And there's the question of how--and when in history--to anchor "nativeness." Go back 20,000 years and I don't believe there were humans in the Americas. I'd have to check some of my references, but I don't think there were ungulates here then either!

Murphyfish said...

Hi Albert,
Having been ‘off the scene’ for a few days and I was just playing catch up and moving up the list of my favourite bloggers when I came across this post of yours. A very thought provoking piece (I expect nothing less from your good self) which got me thinking. Looking at ‘introduced’ species and the rights or wrongs of past introductions is indeed a bit of a mine field, for instance the common carp was introduced in this country way back in the fourteenth century by monks arriving from Europe (fish on Friday?) and are now considered a natural British inhabitant. In reality they have all but taken over the niche filled by other species such as tench and compete on many levels with other fish for food having a wide and varied diet. If it was suggested that these fish were to be eradicated then there would be uproar by the majority of the angling community with the view that they have been around for eons (not withstanding the huge investment that commercial fisheries and angling centres have in this fish!) and that they are now a native species. On the flip side there are now a few reports of breeding pairs of Eagle Owls filtering through from various parts of the country and their presence is been looked upon with something akin to dread in some quarters, probably due to the fact that they are a somewhat capable predator more than able of taking out a red fox (or fluffy Fido for that matter). They were last reported in this country at about the same time as carp were introduced but have reintroduced themselves with no apparent aid from humans. But even now there is a debate as to whether they are a natural species here? So the debate over ‘natural’ species is a can of worms which can trundle on for as long as man interferes with animal populations, personally I’d prefer Eagle Owls to carp any day of the week, but that’s just me. Sorry for the long winded comment, I’ll keep em short in sweet in the future.

shari said...


X-JTF2 said...

Hunting Wild Horses? any horse my friend should be left alone! bottom Line is you best not be hunting them, you want to hunt something you should go on a safari! the wild Horses should not have people like you making decisions on their behalf! they were here before us, You are in no ethical position to PLAY GOD! you are nothing. you are weak.... extremely primitive in your thoughts! you are just like the type that shot the Buffalo, just for the sake of shooting and watching something DIE,I personally think people like you are losers.. end of discussion

Terry said...

Hmmm... the white man is not native to this continent, when is the season open on him? Talk about an invasive & aggressive species... ie: the american bison, the wolf, destruction of habitat, pollution, etc.

Also, Shari is quite right. How can anyone complain about the low population of federally protected mustangs when public lands cattle outnumber them at least 150 to 1? Then you have domestic sheep on public lands infecting bighorn sheep populations with disease......

Keep in mind public lands cattle ranching only makes up less than 3% of the nation's beef production. Hardly worth it compared to the damage they do to both the land and water. The more mustangs removed, the more cattle replace them.

Also, there are peer reviewed scientific proof & fossils that show the horse fully evolved on this continent and is a reintroduced native species. Unlike other species who migrated to this continent over the Bering Straits, but are considered native.

Terry said...

Interesting post, murphyfish, it's like the sport fish in the Colorado River, none are native. But fishing is good for the economy and so are the fishing tournaments, so they make sure there are good numbers of them to fish. They've been trying to establish the endangered native fish in the Colorado. As far as the carp go in the Colorado, last summer a koi disease appeared and killed off carp from Lake Mead to the Parker strip, they say 10,000 of them died in Lake Havasu alone. There were huge dead fish floating everywhere. Fish and Game or the BLM are suspected of introducing the koi disease into the waters.

Uncle Rob said...

As a matter of fact, guess what two wildlife species came across the land bridge from Eurasia to North America, LONG AFTER the indigenous modern horse Equus Caballus was already here raising families? How about Elk and Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep? Might as well get rid of those two johnny-come-latelys too.

And maybe you didn't know this: horses are not ruminants; and for that reason they pass much of the seed of the native forage they consume. The seed comes out in a ready made fertilized mulch with a high water content that we call horse manure. Horses are one of nature's best reseeders of native forage plants in the interior West. You might want to study down on some of this s - - -, podnah. There are a lot more reasons horses belong on the range besides this one too, although this is one of the best.

Barbara said...

And I would like to say that 20,000
years ago there were herds of wild horses all over North America including Canada and down into South America in fact they had spread all over the planet.

thetruthis said...

You need to learn to move your fingers and sound out the words so you can actually learn to read. The wild horses not indigenous to the BLM land that is rightfully theres? How about you take your great big rifle and go shoot some of the cows that those rich old ranchers lease on the BLM land that you pay taxes on? Those rich ranchers are just getting richer and using saps like you to take "pot shots" at horses who hurt no one. Now I wouldn't expect you to understand all of this, since your mentality as stated in such a long winded drawn out drama fest of rifle toting, self indulgent, animal cruelty a** like you ... yep shoot first and ask questions later. After I read your completely asinine "thought provoking" (cough, sputter) rationalization of a "bad" "bad" cat hunting by its own innate instinct and how upset you were that poor Bubba cried about the bird, but somehow you have named yourself the judge and jury with the rifle of course, of which animals should kill which animals. Carry on, but please don't procreate.

Barbara said...

To thetruthis,
Why are you attacking me, all I said was 20,000 years ago there were wild horses all over the planet which is true according to the fossil record.
I don't recall mentioning ranchers or cows.

Tovar Cerulli said...

A lot of invective here of late, but good points, too, including those on carp and cattle.

Apologies for my offhand references. In replying to your mention of mustangs, Albert, I was thinking of the "modern horse," introduced by Europeans thousands of years after the Americas' "ancient horses" were gone. And in referring to a time before "ungulates" were here, I wasn't thinking of those ancient horses but of animals such as elk (which likely migrated into the Americas some 100,000 years ago, not 20,000).

My intent was to raise the question of who and what is "native" and where in time and space we anchor that notion.

Albert A Rasch said...

Hey "Thetruthis:"

The truth is that you're one of those folks that like to spout off at the mouth anonymously. You say very little of value, and you throw insults around like there are no repercussions. Oh that's right you big fat coward, there aren't any because you're anonymous! Same goes for you X-JTF2. If you losers want to discuss things, man up and show us who you are and what you're about!

Shari, please don't yell on my blog. I don't much like cattle where I would prefer buffalo, but that what this nation wants, burgers.


Good and informative information. Only 3% ? Interesting.

How to Support Animal Rights Groups

radianman said...

Living in Bermuda, a tiny oceanic island which has had the majority of it's native and endemic flora and fauna eradicated by invasive species, I have to agree with your conclusion. Now we have Lionfish on our reef that have come North from Florida in the Gulf Stream. It only required a few introduced species to decimate Australia flora and fauna.

I disagree with you about horses because the horse actually evolved on the grasslands of North America and later became extinct: the Spanish did not intoduce the horse to North America, they re-introduced it. Having said that, there are 2 factors to bear in mind:

1. The domesticated feral horses running wild in the Americas are physiologically different from the original wild horse, and may have a different impact on their environment.

2. The wild horse co-existed on the American grasslands alongside a great number of (now extinct) large predators that kept it's numbers in check.

In the absence of it's attendant predators, the horse population should be managed, bearing in mind that we cannot even control the human population. Ultimately, the real problem here is the human species. The problem with these invasive species began with irresponsible human importers and owners and also with the cultural and political environment which allowed them to obtain these animals in the first place.

The United States is one of the few nations where private individuals may keep large wild predators in their homes along with belt-fed machine guns and artillery weapons. I am as fascinated by such things as anyone else, but consequences of permitting citizens to own such things should be blatantly obvious to all.

Albert A Rasch said...


It is obvious... Freedom.

Best regards,