What do 16,000 dead iguanas smell like? Southern Fried Science Book Club Week 1

The first thing you notice after reading a couple of chapters of Eating Aliens is that this book is much more about hunting invasive species than about why they’re invasive in the first place. For me, I like that. I’ve spent a large chunk of my career exploring the issues surrounding species invasions, and it’s great to get what is essentially a field report from those working on the front lines. I love meeting the people who run these eradication campaigns, and the politics involved in effective invasive species management. This is my kind of invasive species book.

This first thing that captured my attention in the first two chapters was how radically different the approaches to black spiny-tailed iguanas and green iguanas were. Both are invasive. Both came in through the exotic pet trade. Black spiny-tailed iguanas are omnivores, they get into peoples trash, go after rodents, tear up gardens, and are generally a pest. They’re also only invasive in a relatively small area. People view them as pests and the initial response was a grassroots effort, only later supplanted by the USDA. In contrast, green iguanas are vegetarian, more widely distributed across Florida, and more personable. People don’t view them with the same level of ire and many appreciate their presence, as destructive to the habitat as it really is. It’s harder to hunt out invasive when people don’t view them as pests, and one of the big problems is that, as eradication campaigns become more effective, the invasive populations go down and people begin valuing the invasives due to their rarity. It’s a brutal feedback loop.

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