Tackling Invasive Animal Species in North America

Dealing with North America’s invasive animal species can eliminate an environmental hazard while putting food on our plates.


| April 2014



Armadillos are one of many invasive species.

If left unchecked, invasive animal species – like the armadillo – severely threaten the habitats and lives of plant and animal species native to North America.

Photo by Fotolia/Steve Byland

North America is under attack! Invasive animal species such as armadillos, Asian carp and many others are devouring native plants and animals, pushing some to the brink of extinction. Jackson Landers is trying to help eliminate the problem. Eating Aliens (Storey Publishing, 2012) is his tale of hunting and eating 14 destructive animal species. In the following excerpt from the Introduction, Landers suggests that eating invasive animal species not only spices up our dinner plates, but helps the environment.

This book can be purchased from the GRIT store: Eating Aliens

Introducing Invasive Animal Species

The nature I see around my home in Virginia is not particularly natural. Sure, I can stand in a field, surrounded by plants, without a building in sight. Birds sing and insects buzz through the air. Upon close inspection, though, it becomes clear that most of these creatures don’t actually belong here. 

Dandelions, brought to America by European colonists who grew the plant in gardens as a vegetable, sprout everywhere. They’re visited by European honeybees, which are (as their name indicates) also nonnative. Crabgrass, tree of paradise, the Japanese beetle, and the Asian lady beetle are everywhere, and they’re all invaders. In the trees, imported starlings and sparrows congregate in vast flocks, denying nesting cavities to our native bluebirds and purple martins.

Beyond my own backyard, North America is besieged by bigger creatures that were introduced in folly. Across California and much of the South, feral swine root up large areas of ground, transforming the habitat and causing erosion. They eat native salamanders and the eggs of ground-nesting birds. Asian carp, some coming in at more than fifty pounds, eat up to forty percent of their body weight in plant matter every day. Long stretches of the Missouri River are now populated almost exclusively by invasive carp, and the native fish are pushed closer and closer to extinction.

Florida may be past all hope, with the Everglades riddled with some two hundred thousand reticulated pythons eating their way through what was once a delicately balanced ecosystem. In many parts of the state, iguanas up to six feet long devour every plant in sight. With no local predators adapted to eating them, they reproduce unchecked. Nile monitor lizards, often five feet long, hunt along suburban Florida canals, preying on household pets and whatever other small animals venture too close.





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