The fact that the world is going to s**t sucks for several reasons, the first being that the world is, well, going to s**t. The second is that most of the things you can do to help save it are totally boring -- seriously, when was the last time your buddy screamed “That’s how we do!!!” as you sorted recyclables?
Turns out, however, there are a bunch of adrenaline-pumping ways to save the Earth. And many of them -- including these five -- involve killing/capturing creatures in the name of conservation; animals that are overpopulating/destroying their habitats and generally wreaking havoc on ecosystems they shouldn't even be living in. Also, they're creatures that can kill you, or at least or inflict enough pain to make you say f**k repeatedly until the venom wears off, so you really won't feel that bad. And, remember, it's for science.
Spear a lionfish
The environmental problem: Originally from the Indo-Pacific, lionfish are decimating native reef fish populations from Florida to the Carolinas thanks to the 18 venomous spikes that protrude from their fins. In their new East Coast environs, they have no natural predators, eat a lot of baby fish, and compete with native species like grouper and snapper. No bueno.
What you can do: Take a Lionfish Eradication Course with the Islamorada Dive Center in the Florida Keys. Owner Eric Billips teaches you spearing techniques above the water (he likes using a simple 3ft sling spear) and how not to get stung (“It’s awful,” says Billips), before taking you scuba diving at lionfish hotspots on the reef to let you have at it. Dives occur between 70 and 100ft, and you could nab 20 fish or more in a single morning.
Once back on shore, Billips teaches you how to filet the delicious fish safely (he says they taste like hog snapper) or suggests taking the filets to a handful of local restaurants (such at Oltremare or Shula’s 2) where they’ll cook them up for you that night. Once you learn the ropes, you can enter lionfish tournaments put on by Reef.org and save the world one delicious filet at a time.
Manhandle a Burmese python
The environmental problem: Burmese pythons, unleashed on South Florida by pet owners who realized that snakes still get freakin' big in captivity, can kill and eat 6ft alligators, which also means they can pretty much kill and eat a 6ft bro. They also gorge on rabbits, raccoons, opossums, bobcats, domestic cats, and neighborhood dogs. The National Park Services says there may be as many as 100,000 of these mother effers lurking in South Florida, and just last month a researcher yanked an 18ft 3in, 150lb monster out of the grass in the Everglades.
What you can do: The Florida Wildlife Commission just announced that it will hold its second Python Challenge tournament this January, in the “sunning season,” when cold weather prompts the slithery beasts to come out of hiding and sunbathe. The tournament allows for shotguns and machetes, but you’re encouraged to catch snakes by hand and bring them in alive for study. Teams with the most snakes and biggest snake earn cash prizes. You can also just hunt pythons on your own with a proper license. Skin one and make a wallet out of it, and you can finally say, with all honesty, that you have a python in your pants.
Catch an Asian carp in mid-air
The environmental problem: Asian carp, filter feeders that eat up the plankton our native fish need for food, have become such a problem in sections of the Illinois River that schools of hundreds of fish (between 5 and 15lbs each) explode from the water when boats pass, giving passengers black eyes or broken noses. “They leave a mark!” says Betty DeFord, who got so pissed about these fish endangering her grandkids that she organized a tournament to get rid of them.
What you can do: Enter Betty’s crazy-ass Original Redneck Fishing Tournament in Bath, IL, this Labor Day weekend -- the only fishing event we know of where protective gear is recommended (so bring that lax helmet that saw absolutely no action senior year). Boats cruise slowly along the river, and when they hit a school, it’s like fish fireworks (watch a video here). Each team uses scoop nets to catch fish in mid-air (they caught 7,000 last year). The boat with the most fish wins a bit of money, and proceeds go homeless veterans in the area. Aside from the fish, there’s also live music, a costume contest, and a cornhole tournament.
Kill a feral hog… with a knife
The environmental problem: Feral pigs, often a genetic mélange of farm hogs gone wild and European wild boar imported for hunting, are prolific (a sow can produce more than 16 piglets a year!), smart, and highly destructive -- ripping up crops, golf courses, and suburban yards from Texas to Florida. Not to mention, they spread disease by wallowing/pooping in creeks you might skinny dip in. They also have knife-like teeth jutting out the side of their face and can run 30mph. With no wolves left to control them (where are the wolves?!?! -- oh that's right, we exterminated most of them. stupid. stupid.) the world needs you to step in.
What you can do: Hunting services such as Ron’s Guide Service outside Okeechobee, FL, offer some pretty insane ways to go after hogs. You can spot and stalk them, shoot from a blind or tree stand, or run them with dogs. Once the scent hounds have the animal cornered, guides send in "catch dogs" (usually a pit bull mix) to clamp onto the pig's nose. Then they send you in with a spear or a knife.
For a more thoughtful, cuisine-focused experience, check out Jesse Griffiths’ hunting classes in Austin. Griffiths, a chef, butcher, and author of Afield: A Chef’s Guide To Preparing Wild Game and Fish teaches hunting skills in the field, and guides you through the butchering/cooking of your quarry.
A word of caution: Some hunting operations, particularly those farther north, are partly to blame for the spread of hogs, as they’ve shipped pigs in specifically to hunt; make sure you’re going after feral hogs, not imported European wild boar stocked into a fenced-in property.
Hook a snakehead
The environmental problem: An invasive species, again from Asia (why the face, Asia?), these guys live in freshwater ponds and creeks from Florida up to New York and can wiggle across land to reach new waters. They compete with native species such as largemouth bass, have nasty teeth & a mean attitude, and can bite you hard enough to break a finger. Basically, they’re unwelcome, but they are delicious.
What you can do: Enter the annual spring Potomac Snakehead Tournament and kill as many of these guys as possible. You can use rod & reel or even bow & arrow, and the tournament usually has a guest chef on hand to cook up tastings of the catch. You can also hire a professional guide such as Potomac Bass And Snakehead or National Bass to teach you the ins and outs of snakehead killing -- where to fish, what to use, and how to not get bit. Again, snakeheads have a bad temper, which makes for awesome surface strikes -- like Air Jaws on the Potomac. Or, if you'd rather just do your part by eating the fish, Baltimore's Alewife restaurant rocks delicious Southwest-style snakehead fishcakes with a warm corn and bacon salad.
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