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Wildlife Management Prevents War

by Carolina Keegan, Associate Editor

Published: Friday, May 26, 2023

On That Note

Have you ever gone to war with an emu? I haven't. But, in 1932, Australia's farmers were forced to take up arms against the flightless birds because they were destroying too many crops. This fight eventually went down in history as The Great Emu War.

While I haven't been to war with an emu, my family has been forced to use guerrilla tactics against groundhogs. Yes, the overweight whistle pigs were ravaging our gardens, leaving our squash traumatized and our cucumbers tattered. After years of watching the "cute little ground squirrels," they had grown twice as big and about four times as brave. Yes, by mid-May in 2011, we realized something had to be done.

We waged a war on our property groundhogs until the summer of 2015, when we finally had them back under control. The rascals dug their trenches with easy access points to our sweetcorn, squash and cucumbers, resulting in half-eaten produce that my mama either had to disguise in casseroles or throw out.

Eventually, Dad became fed up and authorized my older brother to pull out the traps. And so began the four-year Garden War. One year, Dad almost blew up grandma's garden owl next door as the plastic Great Horned Owl had fallen and suspiciously resembled one of the mid-sized whistle pigs that had been eradicating our cucumbers. Luckily, she stopped him just in time, and the owl was reinstated as her garden's scare owl to help fend off unwanted squirrels.

In the worst year, we lost multiple vegetable harvests to the giant ground squirrels and approximately seven of them were buried behind the barn in our groundhog graveyard.

And how did the Great Emu War end? The farmers lost. That's right. The Australians, although armed with machine guns, lost to a hoard of flightless birds.

This is all to say that population control is important. We don't want any species to grow so much we have to declare a war against its population, and we especially don't want to hang our heads in shame as we admit defeat.

Ever since America was discovered, we have struggled to protect and manage plants and animals in the U.S. and in other parts of America. As some species become endangered or extinct, others boom in their absence, expediating the population growth at uncontrollable rates.

This tipping of the scales throws local ecosystems into disarray and can negatively affect farmers. An overpopulation of any animal can translate into crop destruction. Indiana's farmers do find big, flightless birds in their fields. Although hunting season recently ended, if they become a nuisance, the seed eater can be stopped with special permits.

On that note, keep an eye on your fields and count your unwanted visitors. There may be some fresh turkey available to you yet.

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