Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Comfort Zone

“Push your limits… get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It reminds ourselves that we are living.” –Michele Valentine-

Most of the time, one can only learn when they push the boundaries of their comfort zone. I found this to be especially true this week while working with the “hog team” here at Buffalo National River. The “hog team” is a team that specializes in controlling the wild hog population along the river and its surrounding areas.

A fully assembled hog trap
When I was told I would be working with the hog team, I expected it to be a group of at least ten individuals, but I was surprised to find out that at Buffalo, the “hog team” is a team of one… one very hardworking individual, Ray Benjamin. As the hog team, Ray is tasked with setting up and monitoring hog traps. The hog traps consist of 12 large panels and a sophisticated gate that is deployed by text when hogs are sighted on an attached camera. Once the hogs are trapped, Ray is tasked with humanely killing them. Now let me stop there. This is the part of the job description that made me very uncomfortable. Let me explain further…

A hog skull being cleaned to be used
for interpretive purposes
I have never hunted anything in my life, nor was I ever a huge fan of recreational hunting. With that being said, I was still excited to push myself out of my comfort zone and work with Ray, so I could learn more about why recreational hunting and hunting in general is necessary. Ray explained to me how he treats all animals with respect and is able to take the life of an animal in a humane manner where suffering is minimal. He further explained how detrimental hogs are to the ecosystem and how they proliferate at a dangerously high rate as a species and this is why the Park Service, an organization tasked with protecting and conserving said ecosystem, employs individuals to maintain certain populations of threatening/invasive animals.

I have really gained an appreciation and understanding of the work that Ray does for the Park Service in service of its mission this week. This week really pushed me out of my comfort zone and because of that, I can honestly say I have both grown and learned a great deal from the experience.


  1. Another well-written blog, Shauni. I'm glad your experiences from this past week have given you a new perspective and appreciation for this particular aspect of park and wildlife management. I trust they will help to make you a more well-rounded and solid ranger once you officially don the "Green and Gray." -- Kevin

  2. Why thank you sir! Every week has been a great learning experience!