24 Oct 2008, 10:40am
Cougars Deer, Elk, Bison Homo sapiens Wolves
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Beware of “Natural” Wildlife Management

by Dr. Valerius Geist, posted by Tom Remington at the excellent Black Bear Blog, February 24, 2008 [here]

Dr. Valerius Geist, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Science at the University of Calgary in Alberta, is a renowned expert in wildlife management and conservation practices. In addition to teaching, writing about, and lecturing on the subjects, Dr. Geist has performed years of in-the-field research on big game species. He has authored 16 books, seven documentary films and contributed 40 entries to various encyclopedias.

The management of reintroduced wolves is not merely a matter of wildlife management but a clash of deeply held values. It could be called a rural versus urban clash in which some ecologically based philosophies, if one can call them such, are fostered on the country at large by urban based nature “protectors.”

They proclaim two myths as self evident or as scientific “truths” to the general public: that predators in general and wolves in particular are an “ecological good” no matter how many; and that “wilderness” is the “natural” pre-Columbian state of North America, then presided over by noble natives who selflessly maintained its ecological integrity which ecologically insensitive Europeans subsequently destroyed. In addition, they operate on the assumption that wildlife is a free gift of Nature, a gift of God, and not a resource painfully restored by human hand over the last 80 years in North America.

The wildlife we currently enjoy is not wildlife that was left over from the past, but wildlife restored by a continental system of wildlife conservation that arose after its near destruction a century ago. It is one of the great cultural achievements of North Americans in the 20th Century, the greatest environmental success story of that century, and a highly successful system of sustained development of a natural resource.

Since wildlife was financed on a “user pays” basis, the restoration fell on the fraction of North Americans who hunt. The rest of society got a free ride in their enjoyment of wildlife as an important component of the high quality of life we enjoy.

Few North Americans are aware of the excellence of the wildlife conservation system developed here by the dedicated public-spirited efforts of three generations of their ancestors. Unfortunately, this ignorance extends to professional wildlife biologists as well. Americans are, after all, not keen on history, following Henry Ford in considering it more or less bunk.

I cannot go into great detail here concerning why predators in low abundance are a benefit to wildlife populations, but are also capable of severely depleting such with unfortunate and unexpected consequences. It’s analogous to sugar: a little in the coffee is great but ingested by the pound it becomes a significant health hazard.

Put another way, if someone proclaimed that deer, as predators of plants, eat only the sick and decrepit plants, sparing the vigorous growing ones in order to insure the health and well being of the range, that individual would not be taken too seriously. Moreover wolves, as Siberian immigrants unlike mountain lions or coyotes, are not expected to be co-adapted with North American species and can be incredibly efficient in removing other species.

For instance, wolves that entered Vancouver Island in the early 1970s are spread across the island now. The deer kill by hunters has plummeted from about 25,000 to less than 4,000 today. Deer are found in reasonable abundance only where they live in suburbs and cities juxtaposed to human beings.

Blacktailed and mule deer are notoriously susceptible to pack hunting wolves. It is ironic that wildlife biologists who reported the severe depletion of deer by wolves on Vancouver Island were not considered quite professional by some academic biologists. Ingrained beliefs can be hard to challenge, no matter what the facts.

Now to the wilderness as an argument for letting nature (and wolves) run its course, unimpeded by interfering human hands. The argument is that wolves must be introduced in a hands-off fashion so as to restore aboriginal pre-Columbian wilderness ecosystems.

Current research indicates that pre-Columbian North America was a well settled, quite severely exploited land, with native people practicing highly skilled horticulture. The latter is a development to escape starvation brought on by food shortages in native ecosystems.

Instead of maintaining wilderness, native people manipulated the land to make it yield sustenance, no different from people on other continents. When European diseases devastated native tribes rapidly in the 16’ Century, thus lifting the heavy hand of red man off the land, “wilderness” was the result.

Far from being the natural state of the land, wilderness is an artifact of European colonization. The ecology of North America was not “natural” in pre-Columbian days. Not only because of agriculture and skillful landscape manipulation by fire, but also because native people had all but destroyed the mega fauna in colonizing the continent.

The lesson from this is that we need not be slaves to some pre-Columbian fiction but may do just as pre-Columbian natives did - generate our own land use and conservation practices in which the maintenance of bio-diversity is the only bottom line requirement. Yes it is quite all right to have areas with minimum predation to raise bountiful wildlife for broad public use.

Not less management as wilderness proponents proclaim, but more management is the more desirable state of affairs.

To let predation go unchecked, “letting it be management,” is bound to diminish much more than the game herds that were built up from next to nothing over the past 80 years. It risks our public system of wildlife conservation and the great Public Good that flows from it.

As game herds drop so do license sales and revenue to game departments. The public guardians of wildlife have less and less wherewithal to do their job, and ultimately have no job.

Despite all the controversies about public wildlife management, it is on the whole infinitely superior to private management of wildlife for the marketplace. Superior in conservation achievements and far superior in economic returns or as a creator of wealth or employment.

There is little doubt that with the loss of significant public participation in the harvest of wildlife, most public land will lose its political clientèle and, as sure as the sun will rise, will slide into defacto private ownership. There will be little wolf conservation under private condition, or cougars, grizzly bears, etc.

Letting predators run down game herds will indirectly weaken the framework of wildlife conservation. Together with other opponents of public wildlife such as game farming and the anti-hunting and animal rights movements, this may succeed in destroying the greatest environmental success of the past century - the return of American wildlife.

It would be replaced by a mixture of European, South African and shooting preserve type wildlife management - if one can call it such.

Note: Tom Remington’s Black Bear Blog [here] features the latest news, events, and politics effecting the sports of hunting, fishing, and all outdoor activities in North America.

23 Oct 2008, 3:58pm
Deer, Elk, Bison Homo sapiens Wolves
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A History of the Failed “Natural Regulation” Theory Re Wolves and Ungulates

In our last post we preened about publishing at W.I.S.E. Parks Canada extraordinary manager Dr. Cliff White’s review of Utah State extraordinary wildlife biologist Dr. Fred Wagner’s ground-breaking and award-winning book, Yellowstone’s Destabilized Effects, Science, and Policy Conflict.

In that book Dr. Wagner de-mythologizes the failed ecological theory of “Natural Regulation.” Today we posted at the W.I.S.E. Colloquium: Wildlife Sciences [here] another nail in the Natural Regulation coffin, an expert history by George Dovel, publisher of the Outdoorsman, entitled, The Truth about Our Wildlife Managers’ Plan to Restore “Native” Ecosystems.

In his essay Mr. Dovel explores the sad history of Natural Regulation as applied to wolves, moose, deer, and elk. The theory arose in the dreamily fatuous early days of ecological science and was adopted by managers at Yellowstone National Park, with disastrous consequences. The Preface to Mr. Dovel’s excellent history:

In 1935 when Cambridge University botanist Arthur Tansley invented the term “ecosystem” in a paper he authored, he was attempting to define the system that is formed from the relationship between each unique environment and all the living organisms it contains.

Ecologists concluded that these individual systems evolved naturally to produce an optimum balance of plants, herbivores that ate the plants, and carnivores that ate the herbivores. Many accepted this “food chain” theory as a permanent state of natural regulation and a theory was advanced that certain “key” species of plants and animals were largely responsible for maintaining these “healthy” ecosystems.

But subsequent archaeological excavations or core samples of the buried layers of periods in time revealed that these “perfected” ecosystems were actually in a continuing state of change which could be caused by changes in weather, climate or various organisms. They concluded that parasites or other organisms that were not included in their food chain charts often caused radical population changes in one or more of the keystone species.

This essay is a must-read for those interested in wildlife. We cannot depend on Mother Nature to equilibrate wildlife populations, or vegetation types (like forests) either, for that matter. Mother Nature doesn’t work that way.

Instead, history teaches us, it has been the keystone predator and torch-bearing species, Homo sapiens, that has been responsible for wildlife populations and vegetative conditions across North America during the entire Holocene.

And we still are. We cannot defer that responsibility to a mythical Balance of Nature because it doesn’t exist and has never existed. We are the Caretakers of Nature, like it or not. Human beings determine the rise and fall of wildlife populations, either actively or passively, and passive management often results in extreme fluctuations, environmental damage, and local extirpation of animal species and vegetation types.

It would be nice if Mother Nature was a self-regulating equilibrium machine, but She isn’t. Chaotic change is natural, not balance. It’s a jungle out there. The hands-off approach fails in theory and practice. Intelligent human stewardship is best for all lifeforms.

This is an age-old lesson, learned again and again by humanity. Sadly, in some circles, the lesson has to be learned again for the umpteenth time. Happily for us, our best experts are up to the task and gently (or not so gently) are reminding us, again, of what’s what in the world we live in.

Kudos to those experts. Please read George Dovel’s lovely essay [here]. And, if you wish to be Part of the Solution, consider subscribing to the Outdoorsman.

A donation in any amount will help support the circulation of facts in this unique publication and a donation of $25 or more will pay the cost of receiving The Outdoorsman by U.S. mail for one year. Please print your name and correct mailing address on the coupon below and add additional names on a separate sheet of paper. Mail to:

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21 Oct 2008, 4:14pm
Deer, Elk, Bison Homo sapiens
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The “Natural Regulation” Debacle at Yellowstone NP

W.I.S.E. is pleased and honored to present a review of Dr. Fred Wagner’s excellent book, Yellowstone’s Destabilized Effects, Science, and Policy Conflict, in our Wildlife Sciences Colloquium [here].

Fred Wagner is former associate dean of the Natural Resources Dept. at Utah State University. The review was written by Cliff White of Parks Canada, Banff, Alberta. Both men are world-recognized environmental scientists, managers, and greatly accomplished experts.

From Cliff White’s (also excellent) review:

For those unfamiliar with the Yellowstone situation, removal of native peoples from the park in the 1800s and reduction in large carnivores in the early 1900s provided favorable conditions for the population of elk (Cervus elaphus), a generalist herbivore, to increase dramatically. After government biologists observed the effects of high densities of elk on soil and vegetation in the 1920s, park rangers routinely culled the herd for over 4 decades. In the 1960s, recreational game hunters lobbied to take over the cull. Given the potential political incompatibility of sport hunting with conservation in one of the world’s premier national parks, the federal government made the decision to cease elk culling. Park managers and senior scientists then carefully selected a generation of researchers to evaluate the revised policy. The result was a new paradigm of “natural regulation” that was underlain by 4 key hypotheses:

1) long-term human hunting, gathering and burning had not substantially influenced the ecosystems of North America’s Rocky Mountains;

2) ungulate populations in Yellowstone were, over the long term, generally high;

3) carnivore predation was a “non-essential adjunct” having minimal influence on elk numbers; and

4) high elk numbers would not cause major changes in plant communities, ungulate guilds, and other long-term ecosystem states and processes.

Although the natural regulation paradigm seems rather farfetched today, remember that it was born in the 1960s, a time of antiestablishment flower children, when wilderness was untrammeled by Native Americans, when biologist and author Farley Mowat’s wolves subsisted on mice (Mowat 1963), and the only “good fires” were caused by lightning. Moreover, an excellent argument can be made that ecological science needs large “control ecosystems” with minimal
human influences.

In the 40 or so years since the implementation of the national regulation policy, both the National Park Service and outside institutions conducted many ecological studies. These culminated in 1997 with a congressionally mandated review by the National Research Council. It is this wealth of research and documentation that Fred Wagner uses to evaluate changes over time in the Yellowstone ecosystem. He provides meticulous summaries of research in chapters on each of several different vegetation communities, the ungulate guild, riparian systems, soil erosion dynamics, bioenergetics, biogeochemistry and syntheses for the “weight of evidence” on the primary drivers of ecological change. This background allows readers to develop their own understanding on the results of this textbook case of applied ecological science.

Wagner clearly shows that most studies did not support the hypotheses of natural regulation. In cases where studies did seem to support a hypothesis, methods and results were suspect. The elk population clearly grew beyond predictions, some plants and animals began to disappear, and the importance of Yellowstone’s lost predators and Native Americans should have become undeniable. However, faced with these incongruities, park managers still supported the natural regulation policy. Some researchers closely affiliated with management then began to invoke climate change as a potential factor for observed ecosystem degradation, but the evidence for this was similarly tenuous. On the basis of the almost overwhelming evidence, Wagner concludes that much of the park-sponsored science on the natural regulation paradigm “missed the mark” and that “Yellowstone has been badly served by science.”

3 May 2008, 6:21pm
Deer, Elk, Bison Homo sapiens
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The Gardner Files

Bud Sonnetag writes:

This is to inform you of a new website now on line by Cliff Gardner, a life long Nevadan who has spent many years of his life documenting game management throughout Nevada and the western states and it’s affects on hunters, cattlemen, grazing rights and private property owners. You’ll be amazed at what Mr. Gardner has compiled for our use to benefit each of us in our fields of expertise. I invite everyone to look it over and appreciate it’s professionalism and use it in your future research and understanding of our American history.

The Gardner Files are [here]. W.I.S.E. linked to them two months ago in our Colloquia Rural Culture and Wildlife Sciences. We have posted two sampling from Cliff’s copious archives: Cattle and Wildlife on the Arizona Strip [here] and The Destruction of the Sheldon [here]. We plan to add more gems from The Gardner Files to the W.I.S.E. Library in the future.

Bit by bit Cliff is placing his archives online, with the help of his wife and daughter. They include wildlife science and ranching reports, government documents, and oral histories collected from Nevada ranchers and pioneers from as far back as 1850.

The Gardner Files are a treasure trove and a gold mine of information. Happy prospecting!

30 Apr 2008, 10:26am
Deer, Elk, Bison Wolves
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North Fork Clearwater Wolf Kill

The conservation group that photographed the Orogrande Slaughter [here] has done the same in the North Fork of the Clearwater River in North Central Idaho.

The Idaho Fish and game had closed the road in February and March to keep snowmobilers from harassing and causing undue stress and trauma to the wintering elk caught in very deep snow. IFG did not, however, prevent wolves from slaughtering elk and whatever else they could find.

In April, on the first day that the Idaho Fish and Game gave the green light to the Clearwater National Forest to re-open the road, the conservation team was on the ground taking pictures and documenting the wolf predation. Special thanks go to Lewis and Sharon Turcott and others for their incredible efforts providing these pictures to the public.

Warning: the photographs are graphic. The North Fork Clearwater Wolf Kill is [here]

12 Apr 2008, 8:34pm
Deer, Elk, Bison Wolves
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Idaho Fish & Game investigate Mullan wolf kill

By TY HAMPTON, Shoshone News Press [here]

SHOSHONE COUNTY - Nearly a week after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ruled to remove gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains from the federal endangered species list, Idaho Fish and Game confirmed that at least five elk carcasses found over the past month in the Mullan area are thought to be wolf kill.

Wallace Fish and Game Conservation Officer Josh Stanley reported that three carcasses were found along a popular snowmobile path up Dead Man’s Gulch with two others near the fish hatchery, all killed by wolves. An additional two elk fatalities are in question.

Stanley said wolf tracks were discovered near the recently found carcasses with similar wounds that indicated death by wolf rather than mountain lion.

“We are just now beginning to see wolves visually in the Mullan area,” Stanley said. “And what we’ve found is just what we can see. There is no telling what has occurred up in the mountains.”

Stanley said ever since the wolves were reintroduced to the region they have met, reproduced, and formed new packs in concentrated areas. He added that a pack has been known to travel between Mullan and St. Regis, Mont.

“That will only last for so long before we have a pack in Mullan,” Stanley said. “I really believe the Coeur d’Alene drainage will have its own pack soon if the trend continues.”

Stanley called the wolf kills a new and growing mortality source for elk in the area, citing winter conditions and the occasional mountain lion for the bulk of local elk fatalities.

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25 Mar 2008, 7:22pm
Cougars Deer, Elk, Bison Wolves
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OneCreek On Wolves and Cougars

The Idaho Statesman ran dueling reader’s opinion pieces about wolves this week. One was by Suzanne Asha Stone of Boise, the wolf conservation specialist for Defenders of Wildlife:

Forty years ago, there were no known wolf packs in the northern Rockies because people had driven them to near extinction in the region. Today, 1,500 wolves roam across Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Returning wolves to the wild has been a remarkable wildlife achievement, but this is a story whose next chapters are just now being written. The question is: Will this story have a happy ending? … [more]

The other was written by Nate Helm, executive director of Idaho’s chapter of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife.

Yes, it is time - time to remove the population of wolves living in Idaho from the endangered species list. Sportsmen in Idaho and across the West support the Department of Interior’s (DOI) recent proposal to delist wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

Wolves in Idaho are currently managed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In the case of wolves, the constitutional right given to all states, including Idaho, to manage her wildlife has been superseded by the ESA. The traditional managers of wildlife in Idaho - the citizens of the state, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission, and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game - have had little say. … [more]

Both opinion pieces drew a rash of comments. Most are typical Internet drivel, but one comment stood out head and shoulders above the rest. It was submitted by OneCreek, a pseudonym no doubt. I don’t have any idea who One Creek is, but his comment was so superb that I am posting in its entirety. Please enjoy, and hopefully learn:

Heck - This should have been a “Letter to the Editor”…

I am going to tread dangerously here, and make an assumption that most, if not all of the previous commentary has been penned by those who live and work in cities. Therefore, thoughts and commentary on the subject outside of that which reflects on certain legal perspectives is mostly little more than “abstract”, rather than objective.

I live and work in the North Fork Ranger District of the Salmon-Challis National Forest. Not only do I live in said District, but my property is totally surrounded by the National Forest. Residing here year-around since the year the wolves were established in the area, 1995, perhaps my observations should be of some consideration regarding this debate.

Living here as I do, observation of the natural world around me is secondhand practice. I see things that the casual visitor does not, and for that matter, even the dedicated hunter or the naturalist. By the time their observational talents begin to truly and measurably improve, they must leave for more civilized environs. Conversely, this grand landscape is my constant companion.

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16 Mar 2008, 2:57pm
Deer, Elk, Bison
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Brucellosis Infests Yellowstone Ungulates

Brucellosis is a bacterial disease carried by livestock and capable of infecting people. Tainted milk or meat causes undulant fever and inflammation of the joints, spinal column, and heart. Brucellosis was a serious problem prior to World War I, but antibiotics (Strain-19 vaccine) had largely eliminated the disease in U.S. livestock by 1997.

There is one spot where Brucellosis lingers: Yellowstone National Park. Bison and elk in YNP still carry the disease, and those migrating animals are still spreading it to ranches in Montana.

The YNP Brucellosis story has been artfully reported by journalist Dave Skinner in the Spring 2008 issue of Range Magazine. And Range editor C.J. Hadley has generously put the story, Buffaloed in Paradise, online for the free reading pleasure and education of the public [here].

Range Magazine consistently prints the stories most important to the rural West, written by the top journalists in the West, and is always ahead of the pack. Buffaloed in Paradise is no exception.

Skinner weaves a tale that includes the tragic but necessary destruction of entire cattle herds, the severe economic losses, and the suffering of ranch families unfortunate enough to be caught in the epidemic YNP has spread. He correctly identifies the scientifically absurd “natural regulation” policy that has led to much destruction of wildlife and vegetation in Yellowstone.

Haughty NPS managers have for decades ignored science in favor of superstition and pre-Darwinian bogosities in their mismanagement of America’s flagship National Park. The results of their Disney-esque foppery include the million-acre 1988 Yellowstone Fire, destruction of the prairies and forests of Yellowstone, and the infection of cattle ranches 100 miles or more from the Park.

YNP has also been the staging center for “reintroduction” of wolves that have wandered across four or five states and caused massive livestock and wildlife losses. Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho state governments are up in arms over the problems caused and emanating from the most mismanaged Park in America today (that’s saying a lot because parks like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite are in terrible shape).

From Buffaloed in Paradise:

Yet something rings especially false about NPS’s obstinacy: its natural regulation policy implies that native species and their interactions reign supreme. Brucella abortus, however, is neither native nor natural. It’s a virulent infectious organism, native to the Levantine regions of the eastern Mediterranean, where its debilitating effects on both livestock and humans likely had a major role in establishing Hebrew kosher and Islamic halal rules concerning meat and milk.

One would expect the Park Service to spare no effort in banishing an exotic disease from its natural realm, but instead the park deliberately and nonsensically quit managing the disease-40 years ago.

For the entire article and more from Range Magazine, see [here].

14 Mar 2008, 9:44am
Deer, Elk, Bison Wolves
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The Orogrande Slaughter

The pictures in the linked report were taken during 4 separate trips within just an 11-day period from 2-28-2008 through 3-9-2008. The location of the elk predation by wolves was along a small section of road at Orogrande Creek, which empties into the North Fork of the Clearwater River in North Central Idaho. This small section of this huge country is indicative of how severe the predation has been this winter as elk have been trapped by deep snow and are easily killed by wolves.

Warning: the pictures are graphic and gruesome.

The Orogrande Slaughter is [here].

5 Mar 2008, 2:29pm
Bears Deer, Elk, Bison Wolves
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Important Facts about Alaskan Wildlife and Predator Control

Originally posted at Alaskans for Professional Wildlife Management [here] and Wolf Crossing [here]

* Wild game is an important food source for many Alaskans and the goal of predator control is to reduce wolf and bear populations in order to increase the number moose and caribou available to be used as food by people

* In much of Alaska, predators keep moose and caribou populations below what their habitats could support

* There are up to 11,000 wolves, 30,000 grizzly and over 100,000 black bears in Alaska

* Wolves and bears may kill up to 80% of the moose or caribou that die each year

* The goal of predator control is to sustain healthy caribou and moose populations AND healthy wolf and bear populations

* In control areas, predator numbers may be reduced, but are never completely eliminated

* There is no indication that predator control permanently damages wolf or bear populations

* There are only five current wolf control programs in place, covering only 9% of Alaska

* Predator control is not hunting; it is a wildlife management tool only used to reduce excessive predator populations. As a result, the rules of fair chase do not apply

* When properly conducted, predator control programs have successfully increased moose and caribou populations

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4 Mar 2008, 11:46am
Deer, Elk, Bison
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Lochsa River Elk Report

by Steve Alder, Chairman of the Clearwater Chapter of Sportsman for Fish and Wildlife Idaho

I just returned from looking for elk in the Lochsa River (unit 12, Lolo zone) and in my opinion there aren’t enough elk to support 10 wolves, let alone the proposed 500+ wolves the enviros want in this area, due to the severe winter this year and let alone the predation.

I filmed this trip and the snow is still 5-7 feet deep in the upper 40 miles of the Lochsa. We will lose almost all of our elk in this region even without the help of the wolves, just as we did in the winter of 96-97.

We saw elk below Fish Creek in the lower section of the Lochsa, but the numbers are in single digits compared to the thousands of elk that were there prior to the Fall of 1996. Saw a few whitetail deer standing next to the river dying and a moose that was in the river that I didn’t quite capture on film.

We checked the Lower Selway River and it didn’t have such deep snow. The few elk left are looking good. I question whether we have enough elk from Challis north to I-90 in our Idaho DPS to sustain Nadeau’s 500-700 wolves that he’s hoping to retain, cuddle, and manage in the proposed Idaho Wolf Plan.

I’ve decided to take a full day each week to personally get in the air or on the ground and monitor, document, and film what is really going on. I will be joining my 75 year old father who has been hiking this country a full day each week for the past 25 years. There is not a ridgetop along the Lochsa he hasn’t explored. Even if we don’t accomplish anything, I will get in shape and will feel like I’ve contributed something to the cause!

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3 Mar 2008, 9:11pm
Deer, Elk, Bison Wolves
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Pronghorns and Wolves

The Far Left leaning Missoulian published a cheesy science report on pronghorn antelope in Yellowstone [here].

BILLINGS - More gray wolves mean more pronghorn antelope in the Yellowstone area, according to researchers who say the region’s rebounding wolf population is killing and scaring off coyotes that otherwise prey on pronghorn.

The researchers said that during a three-year study, pronghorn fawns were three times more likely to survive in areas dominated by wolves versus those ruled by coyotes. That’s because wolves favor larger prey, such as elk or cattle, and generally leave pronghorn alone.

The findings appear in the latest issue of the journal Ecology.

The “science” reported by the Missoulian here is a little twisted. Yes, wolves generally prefer larger prey, when they can get it. And no, coyotes generally do not predate elk. But the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem is so messed up that strange things happen there.

A super-abundance of wolves has been decimating what used to be a super-abundance of elk. Historically both species were rare in Yellowstone due to anthropogenic predation over thousands of years. Lewis and Clark encountered few of either when they traversed the Yellowstone in the early 1800’s (actually just Clark and a few of the Corps of Discovery-Lewis and the rest went another way).

In the absence of human predation the elk populations rebounded, or as biologists say, irrupted. Then wolves were reintroduced in the 1990’s and their population irrupted. Carnage has ensued.

Today the Yellowstone elk are in serious decline due to wolf predation. The Northern Yellowstone elk herd is at record low population numbers and may be extirpated in the next year or two by a burgeoning number of wolves at record high counts.

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16 Feb 2008, 10:09am
Deer, Elk, Bison
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The Truth About Predators and Nevada Deer

by Mike Laughlin of Hunter’s Alert [here]

Note: the essay is in rebuttal to an article which appeared in the Reno Gazette Journal [see here]

I read with interest the article in the Reno Gazette Journal, January 25, 2008, concerning Nevada’s declining deer population.

I do not know whom the NDOW expert, Biologist Mike Cox is, but he is a long way from knowing or telling the “real story” of what went on during the big deer years in Nevada. If he thinks that the main reason for the decline of Nevada deer herds is the overall condition of habitat, he either does not know what he is talking about or he is creating “smoke and mirrors” for NDOW.

I ran the operational Predatory Animal Control program throughout the State of Nevada for the U. S Fish & Wildlife Program, during the 1970s and 80s, as the Assistant State Supervisor. I believe I have on-the-ground and in-the-air understanding of what went on during the big deer years in Nevada. There were three full-time Government Mountain Lion Hunters employed year-around hunting lions. Coyote and mountain lion numbers were kept under control. Deer tags, for Nevada hunters, were unlimited in number and were available for over-the-counter purchase at hunting-license dealers statewide.

In 1972, a big change occurred in the Animal Damage Control business throughout the west. President Richard Nixon banned the use of toxicants in the government control program by executive order (he was soliciting the environmental vote that was just starting to emerge). With the loss of toxicants and nothing to replace it with but a few trappers, coyote numbers began to rise dramatically. Throughout the state of Nevada, deer numbers fell to 96,000 by 1976. Predation upon livestock by predators was a serious problem. In the late 70s, political pressure by the livestock industry and their representatives in Washington, D.C. brought about a dramatic increase in the Federal budget for Animal Damage Control.

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