Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hunting the Foreigners

Greg Mousely minking, June 2003

The latest news from Scientific American is that non-native wildlife in Europe wreaks $16 billion a year in damage.

Not said:  Foreign fauna provides considerable sport in the UK and across Europe.

Among the introductions to the U.K.:
  • The Brown or Norwegian Rat, which arrived around 1720.
  • The Grey Squirrel which arrived around 1870.
  • The Sika Deer which arrived around 1870.
  • The Chinese Muntjac Deer which arrived around 1940.
  • The Mink, which was released around 1950.
  • The Rabbit which was introduced by the Romans (or perhaps the Normans) around 1000.
  • Fallow Deer which were introduced by the Normans around 1200.
  • The Muskrat which was introduced around 1927.
  • The Red-necked Wallaby which was introduced around 1940 (and is uncommon)
  • The Coypu or Nutria, which was introduced around 1944 and wiped out by 1988.

In the U.S., most of the animals we commonly hunt and fish are native, with the exception of pheasants, some species of grouse, brown trout, and (of course) almost all the red fox.

The brown or "Norwegian" rat provides terrier sport for some folks, as does the nutria in areas where better quarry is scarce on the ground.

The raccoon can be thought of as a recently introduced species west of Ohio, and north of the Southern Great Lakes.

Many of our most common urban birds are foreign, including starlings, english sparrows, and the common pigeon (aka the Rock Dove).

Our hedgerow are choked with foreign invasive plant species, such as honeysuckle, kudzu and, of course, multiflora rose. This last plant was widely planted after the Great Depression in order to slow erosion in the South, but it also naturalized from abandoned gardens (multiflora rose is the root stock that most of our ornamental roses are grafted on to).

The dandelion is an immigrant ("dent de lion" means "teeth of the lion" and refers to the serrated edges of the leaves) as is Tumble Weed (aka Russian thistle) and, of course, the wild horse and mule.

Our forests, of course, have been decimated by invasive species from the chestnut blight which wiped out our most magnificent Eastern timber and mast-food tree, to dogwood blight which is now doing the same to our most beautiful native flowering tree.

The gypsy moth was introduced to this country by a Frenchman trying to start a silkworm industry, while the newly introduced ash borer beetle may decimate one of our very best sources of clear hardwood.

All in all, relatively few introduced mammals have "made it" in America, as compared to the U.K., and many of the plants, bugs, birds and pestilents that have made it over here have had an entirely negative impact.

1 comment:

Rick said...

Don't forget the mustang and the longhorn, both of which were brought over by the Spanish in the 16th century. One might say they set the tone for life in the Southwest, according to a country music station I've tuned into once or twice.