A series of hunting misfortunes: Southern Fried Science Book Club, week 2

Jackson Landers does not like the USDA. Twice now, we’ve encountered government oversight in invasive game management, and twice we’ve seen nothing but hard criticism coming from the author. On one hand, I can see where he’s coming from. Government oversight can be frustrating. Bureaucracies are slow to act and often stifled by their own size and internal politics. But some of it, particularly as he tries to hunt pigs in coastal Virginia, seems to be due to his own poor planning–bringing the wrong firearm, for example–or failing to understand the totality of the management effort, focusing instead on what would work well for eradicating pigs from the island, without considering the overall consequences of that eradication process. Longitudinal studies are a good thing, especially when examining a major ecologic regime shift, invasive or not.

Landers, incidentally, also has an article up on Slate about killing pigs to save the environment. I do not disagree.

This was, unfortunately, a hapless chapter. Landers didn’t manage to bag any wild hogs himself and his sole victory was over a lone armadillo that he chased through the brush. Armadillos are also experiencing range expansion and 9-banded armadillos have been introduced to many new territories. Again we find an example of someone in Florida releasing captive non-native animals–this time thanks to a zoo in the early 20th century. Though, it should be noted that range expansion due to climate change and habitat destruction is a much different phenomenon than species invasion. Range expansion general involves shifts in entire ecosystems, whereas species invasions involve the introduction of single new species to native ecosystems.

By the time the chapter ended, I was much more interested in hearing more about Kiera Butler’s experience joining him on a pig hunt in Georgia. Fortunately, that entire storyline, from Butler’s perspective, is up on Mother JonesFeral Pig Diaries Day 1: Moonshine and Teen Swine.

Overall, this was a bit of a lackluster chapter, with lots of waiting around and complaining about government oversight. For a chapter on pigs, I wanted to hear a lot more about how they cooked them–and, no mention of the superiority of Carolina Eastern Barbecue? Really?!

Join us next week, for the all fish (and shellfish) festival of Lionfish, European Green Crabs, and Asian Carp!