Did you know the “wild hogs” in North America were planted here by Europeans intended to be a food source for future settlers? That’s right, we basically left the gate open on the fence so the hogs could fend for themselves until such a time that we needed them to eat.
I hunt feral pigs along the Savannah River, a location that had Spanish hogs (Sus Scrofa) planted there in 1520 by Lucas Vazquez de Ayllon. There were of course many other releases over many voyages, but I like to think that the DNA strain of these animals could go back almost to the discovery of the new world itself.
In retrospect it’s easy to see all of the damage done by releases of non-native species of different types on different continents. Just look at the feral cats and feral rabbits of Australia as a simple example. Our feral hogs have contributed to the extinction of ground nesting birds, and are currently one of the biggest threats to the eggs of sea turtles.
This is probably a good time to mention Conservation Status. If we look at the wikipedia pages for these two animals we will notice a big difference between them. The Green Sea Turtle is listed as being Critically Endangered, while the Wild Hog is listed as Least Concern. Often I’ll hear non-hunters say something like “all of God’s creatures deserve to live.” I think it’s a beautiful sentiment in principle. On the other hand, does that one hog get to eat those 200 eggs and not only kill 200 turtles before they hatch, but also push an entire species closer to extinction? While we estimate that hogs are responsible for 1.5 Billion dollars of damage in the USA every year, I don’t think that comes close to the real cost when we look at destruction of native flora and fauna.
Considering that I am not a vegetarian, I consider my choice to hunt destructive feral animals and to eat their meat as the highest possible good. I’ve had some wonderful debates with people who identify as vegan anti-hunters, and even they are quick to understand the seriousness of this particular problem.
As with all things that pull at our heart strings, discussions go downhill when we start talking about animals that we consider “cute”. Let’s consider the Black Bear. Here is an animal that many consider cute, or to have human-like traits, but it is also listed as Least Concern. There is no chance that black bears are going to go extinct, their range is actually increasing in size at a startling rate. Bear hunters sometimes get a dose of anti-hunter hate for the idea of killing one of them. I suspect they don’t know enough to consider that mature male bears can kill a dozen cute little baby bears each year. Why would a bear do that? Research has shown that sows can go into heat immediately after losing their last cub. It appears that male bears will kill cubs just to have more opportunities to have sex with their mothers. I’ve never pursued bears as quarry before, but after what I’ve read on this subject, and after having eaten a good deal of wonderful bear meat, I could see hunting for mature male bears someday.
It’s easy for me to come to the conclusion that hunting feral animals is both good for the environment and for my own sustenance. It’s also easy to see where selectively harvesting animals in the Least Concern category can also be beneficial for far more than just my own selfish interests. So where does one draw the line? Clearly I’d never hunt a rhinoceros. Would I hunt something that was Vulnerable? Near Threatened? By understanding that Near Threatened is really just a category for a species in decline, the answer is no. Least Concern is a broad category that includes animals expanding at a rate that could make them a concern in the opposite direction!!!
I believe as an educated and aware hunter I can make both a positive impact on the ecosystems that I hunt in, and I can nurture my body at the same time. Wild animals do not get injected with hormones or other chemicals. They do not get penned up and force fed genetically modified foods. The quality of the meat available for those who are willing to work very hard for it far surpasses the very best meat commercially available at any price point.
Humans are not outside the food chain, and some of our rash decisions have had massive negative impacts on the natural world. We must do our best to live well in this integrated world.