Nature Noted

Notes on a changing Nature

Location: Bellville, Texas, United States

I never would have predicted this one

Sunday, May 01, 2005

MMMMM, Bacon.

Not often you can start a post by quoting Homer Simpson, so might as well take advantage of it. Actually the headlines being used are, Conservationists Kill Wild Pigs and California sends in guns to slaughter 3,000 pigs - and restore and Island's pig eradication program irks some activists. It's all over a plan by the Nature Conservancy and the National Park service to save one native species on Santa Cruz Island, California by killing a non-native one. Here's how the AP story starts...
Norm Macdonald rises each morning with the sun, grabs his .223-caliber rifle and slips into the passenger seat of a tiny, doorless helicopter for another day of shooting pigs.
   As the chopper skims over rugged terrain, Macdonald scans dozens of simple fence traps he's set up for the thousands of wild swine that have overrun this Southern California island.
   When there are pigs in the traps - and there always are - Macdonald leans out and pumps two bullets into each animal: One for the heart and one for the head.
   Each pig's death brings conservationists one step closer to their goal of saving the tiny Santa Cruz fox, an endangered species found only on this 96-square-mile island off Santa Barbara.
   Experts believe it's the best way to mend the island's delicate ecological web, which was torn when domesticated pigs escaped from now-abandoned ranches as early as the 1850s.
   The killings have angered animal rights groups and forced the National Park Service and The Nature Conservancy, which co-own the island, to answer why groups dedicated to protecting animals are instead paying $5 million to kill them.

It's a call that land trusts make everywhere. Restore the land to its original state. Pull up the non-native species, replace the natural balance. Tom Anderson over at Sphere has been following similar efforts in Connecticut to control deer and canadian geese. Sometimes those responsible for culling the herd use scientific reasons, sometimes aesthetic. I understand the rational, and I'm not necessarily against it. But sometimes I wonder if the restoration is artificial... trying to restore land to a point just before the white folks showed up.... like that's the only marker that counts. Isn't the world a constant competition between the ones that are here, and the ones that are moving in? I guess that is the essence of the word "conservation". And I guess that's what conservationists are supposed to do. And I know that the big difference is that most of the invaders got here by either hitching a ride with humans, or their populations have exploded because we wiped out their natural predators. But it still seems very Don Quixote. Even if Don now uses a rifle instead of a lance.


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