Two-foot-long rodents called otters, which can grow up to 20 pounds, are the last threat to California's wetlands. But this is the good news: apparently they know very well in jambalaya. Then, naturally, I wanted to try a rodent grown in California for me.
These rodents the size of a South American raccoon have invaded all continents, except Antarctica, and have established a camp in at least 18 US states. UU Now, they have set their eyes on California. During the past year, more than 24 otters have been detected in California's wetlands for the first time since they were eradicated in the 1970s, according to The Sacramento Bee. Some were pregnant women, and others were just babies, a clear sign that they are multiplying.
This is worrisome, because the otters are known for the devastating swampy ecosystems: they cut down local vegetation, they destroy flood control by digging through the levees, and they push away native animals that do not breed so fast, such as muskrat rats and Beavers But I am higher up in the food chain than these hairy agents of destruction: could I save the environment by roasting some otter?
They look tasty enough. A website called Exotic Meat Market compares otter with dark turkey meat, and an otter has twice as many drumsticks. But it seems that finding the right recipe is key to making otters palatable, according to three filmmakers who tried otter for their documentary Rodents of unusual size. One of the filmmakers described the nutria sausage as a tasting "like a morgue," but the team agreed that the jambalaya otter is delicious, according to his article for BoingBoing.
Certainly there are many dishes that you could try. In Louisiana, where people are paid to catch otters on their land, the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries website includes a link to recipes for nutritious soups, salads and even nutria à l'orange. The slogan of the site: "I can not beat them, eat them!" It's a great idea, in theory. But at least in Louisiana, eating otter has not been enough to get rid of them. Nearly five million otters have been removed from the marshes and marshes of the state in the last 15 years. That's more rodent than I could eat, even if sometimes it was not funereal.
Since laws in California aim to prevent the introduction of invasive species like the otter in the first place, it is illegal to own, possess, transport or kill otters here. Of course, now that they are here, "that may be something we see on the road as a management tool," says Peter Tira, an information officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. "But at this moment, the laws forbid it."
So unless you plan a trip to Louisiana or run the risk of ordering meat by mail, you probably can not taste that otter à l'orange in the short term. I agree with that, because I discovered something else: otters have a parasite that causes something called "nutritive itching". Whatever the nutritive itching, it is something I am very happy never to experience.
If you see an otter in California, do not break the barbecue tongs. Submit it on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website, by sending an email to email@example.com, or by calling (866) 440-9530.