Deer and hog hunting has value but requires regulation
Jamaicans don’t routinely think about such things, but much, if not most, of the flora and fauna we see around us — and take for granted — are not endemic to Jamaica.
Highly valued fruit trees such as mango, citrus, breadfruit, otaheite apple, banana, coconut, and a host of others all came from elsewhere over the last 500 years.
The same is true for most vegetables and other domestic crops, including yam and even cassava — the latter originating on the American continental mainland, probably brought here by the Tainos or their predecessors.
Our main sources of meat, including cattle, poultry, goats, and pigs first came from Europe, brought by Spanish colonisers some time after the arrival of Christopher Columbus and his crew in the 1490s.
Also, there are the harmful species, flora and fauna, referred to as invasives, which even to this day are brought in, sometimes by accident, all too often deliberately.
Surely none of our recognised invasive species has been more harmful than the mongoose.
Historians say the rapidly reproducing predator was first brought to Jamaica in the 1870s by a planter to control rats and snakes on his sugar plantation.
The mongoose, in a relatively short period, multiplied beyond measure and spread to all sections of Jamaica.
It is blamed for the extinction or near-extinction of at least two species of ground nesting birds, as well as several animal types including the galliwasp and endemic snakes. It is said to have come within a whisker of eliminating the Jamaican iguana before scientists intervened. Today, anecdotal evidence suggests it poses a real and present danger to ground lizards, frogs, toads, et al.
Now we hear that another invasive species, the white-tailed deer — which has been in the wild in sections of mountainous north-eastern Jamaica since the late 1980s posing a major nuisance for farmers — is becoming a much bigger problem because of rapidly increasing numbers.
Like wild hogs which have roamed the Jamaican wild since the time of the Spanish, the extremely elusive deer are hunted by trappers and licensed gun holders using shotguns and rifles.
Wild hog hunting has long been an economic activity in the Blue Mountains. Increasingly, that is also the case for deer hunters.
We are told that jerked wild hog meat is now being sold for $3,600 per pound and more. Uncooked deer meat now goes for in excess of $2,000 per pound — and disappears like ‘hot bread’, we hear.
Obviously, at such prices, and with such demand, hunting will only increase, which should have the positive effect of slowing the rate of increase of the invasive animals.
However, apart from the Firearm Licensing Authority, which issues gun permits, there appears to be little or no regulation governing the hunting of wild hogs and deer. That’s unlike bird shooters, for example, who operate within the shadow of the Wild Life Protection Act regulated by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA).
We shudder to think of all that can go wrong with unregulated gun holders walking the bush firing at highly elusive wild animals. Unlike birds, high up in trees and in flight, such shooting inevitably occurs at ground level.
The authorities should act with speed, we think.