Wild boars — or wild pigs, or, if you’re from Arkansas, Razorbacks — are multiplying rapidly across the United States and causing a lot of problems. They now do over $1.5 billion of damage to crops, forests, and neighborhoods each year, up from $800 million a year in 2000. Once confined to the South, they are now in 35 states, including Hawaii (they apparently are real good swimmers), where they are the main cause of damage to forests. They eat and trample crops, and by tearing up grass and other surface plants as they root for food, they add to erosion. For those of you who don’t subscribe to the Journal of Applied Ecology, Jon Breul, our Senior Environmental Consultant, shared a brief clip from the Weather Channel for broadcasting during gaps between derechos, snow, thunderstorms, and polar vortices.
And wild boars are mean. They eat everything from worms and grubs to small mammals. When I was on bivouac during basic training, a fellow soldier — Price, a real big guy from rural Mississippi — got up in the middle of the night and found himself face to face with a big old boar. He wisely yelled (something that I cannot repeat, this being a family blog), and even more wisely ran away from the boar. The boar, startled by this screaming 6’5″, 250-pound human, high-tailed it in the opposite direction. Between Price and the boar, they knocked down about half of our tents and stepped on a bunch of innocent soldiers.
Today there are about 6 million wild boars in the United States. To many concerned about the environment, they are a large, looming threat, sort of like Price. But, as Rahm Emmanuel once observed, “Every ******* cri*******sis ******* is a ********* oppor*******tunity.” Or, since things aren’t going real well for Rahm right now, better to state it in my terms: “Barbecue.”
To me, six million wild boars is not a problem. It is a feast. The best way to deal with invasive species is to eat them. That’s true not only of wild boars, but of the snakehead fish that are choking the Potomac River, blue catfish that are overwhelming the Chesapeake Bay, the lion fish in Florida, the 100-pound Asian catfish that jump into fishing boats in the Midwest, and the bullfrogs that apparently have hopped across the Rockies and are now all over the West Coast: their legs are delicious, especially with a meuniere sauce, fried, or with Emeril’s sauce piquante.
Here in DC, local restaurants serve snakehead and, especially, blue catfish. I have not had any, but they get good reviews. I don’t know about carp, though. My friends John Tierney and Roy Crandall used to fish for and eat carp — and Helen and Corinne also ate it more than once — and they claimed to like it. But it’s still carp.
In 2010 an Asian Carp Marketing Summit (here’s their report) addressed the problems of getting people to eat carp. Among their ideas were, mirabile dictu, getting government support; and renaming the fish. The EPA nixed the renaming idea, however. I really can’t think why the EPA has a role in the names of fish species. It makes sense for a consumer protection agency to be involved. Unlike other fish renaming efforts, such as changing dolphin to mahi-mahi so that people wouldn’t think they were eating Flipper, changing the name of carp to, I don’t know, Baconfish, in an effort to fool consumers into thinking they were buying something that actually tastes good.
The goal of eating invasive species, of course, is to reduce their number so that they are no longer a problem for the environment — at least until they become endangered species and we get to start all over from the other end.