“Wanted” posters as an “invasive” species trope have arisen with the policing of species we think don’t belong in our ecosystems. Print media customarily disseminates information about “Top 5 most wanted” lists – not only for criminals, but now for species that State natural resource agencies regulate for control and eradication.

Wanted posters became a tool as early as the 1700s for slavers to track down Black people who had liberated themselves from enslavement. Harriet Tubman was even pictured on a Wanted poster. As photography and printing methods evolved, law enforcement officials starting posting “Wanted Dead or Alive” posters advertising bounties and soliciting public cooperation, help and even participation to apprehend alleged criminals.

As propaganda, British newspapers created a poster for Adolf Hitler in 1939 and the same tactics were used for Osama Bin Laden. “Invasive” species tracking via smarthphone app, distribution of Wanted posters and Most Wanted Lists is all eerily aligned with law enforcement and propaganda that signals plants, insects, and fungi are a danger to society, entry of foreign invaders along with likelihood of capture – even enabling “see ’em, squash ’em” vigilantism.

The “invasive” species Wanted posters exhibit a similar design:

  • A clearly visible “WANTED” headline on top
  • A picture of the (un)wanted pest substituted for the image of the outlaw, gang or mug shot
  • A bounty in notoriously missing compared to the traditional Wanted poster although economic security, health and safety, and renewed abundance of “native” species are often named as intangible rewards.
  • Often listed is the harm the species has purportedly caused, such a “tree-killing” or “destroying ecoystems” in the place of human crimes like robbery or arson.
  • “Dead or Alive” occupies the bottom line. Facetious versions add “Preferably Dead.”

Reference:
Ferranti, Seth (2016). “The History of the Most Wanted Poster.” Huffington Post. December 14.

This Day in History Class (2021). “The FBI releases its first ‘Ten Most Wanted Fugitives’ list – March 14th, 1950.” iHeartPodcasts. March 14.

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