Wrangling Invasive Species in Cajun Tennis Shoes

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Guest Blogger

If I were to tell you there’s a rodeo for hunting invasive species, or that I feed my dog treats made of swamp rats, you’d probably think I have my Cajun tennis shoes (shrimp boots) on too tight. But if you go to just one of these events, you’d immediately see the innovation and creativity that is put into eradicating and raising awareness of invasive species…and that my boots fit just fine.

Rio Grande Cichlids, Nutria Rats, and Lionfish are among an already too long and growing list of invasive species that now call the Gulf Coast home. If these species don’t sound familiar, think Kudzu – the vine that ate the south. These unwelcome visitors, introduced accidentally or purposely, out-compete native species for space and resources. But the Gulf Coast is not the only area fighting invasive species; The West Coast of North America is currently grappling with debris from the Japanese tsunami and the hitchhiking creatures washing up with it.

As invasive species do what they do best, invade, the general public is joining the fight – along with governmental agencies, scientists, and environmentalists – to raise awareness of the need to remove these species and keep them from being introduced in the first place. Well, now that you’ve been through Invasive Species 101, here’s your prize: an explanation of the events I mentioned earlier.

Both Righteous Fur and Marsh Dog received a small grant from the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program to kick-start their projects, both of which have taken off. Nutriapalooza is a fashion show featuring nutria rat fur put on by Righteous Fur, whose tagline is “Save Our Wetlands: Wear More Nutria.” Their goal is to help control a destructive invasive species, raise public awareness about the need to restore the vanishing coast, and provide a stylish, eco-friendly alternative to traditional fur. But before you say “Eww! Fur!!” I encourage you to keep an open mind and visit their website.

Marsh Dog is an innovative market-based approach to solve the invasive nutria problem with dog biscuits made from nutria meat. Marsh Dog says “Owners can treat their dogs to an all-natural, sustainable treat that tastes good and does good while helping to support the fight to conserve…coastal wetlands.” My pound puppy loves them.

The Nutria Rodeo is an event created by Sassafras Louisiana to help put a dent in the nutria rat population. (Yes, there is a nutria rat hunting season in Louisiana). The organization is meant to bring the youth together in the restoration and preservation of Louisiana. Yes, you read that right, youth lead by other youths. I’d bet my last crawfish one of these young adults will have an address at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington one day.

The Rio Grande Cichlid Rodeo is a fishing tournament organized by Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries designed to help reduce the number of invasive Rio Grande Cichlids in New Orleans.

While these are a few of my favorite events in Louisiana, there are probably events like these near you. I encourage you to participate in something local and to learn what you can do about the growing threat of tsunami debris.

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