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Do you think that the long term ecological damage caused by exterminating predators or holding them well below their natural pop

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  • #16
    ishawooa's question->

    "I would like to hear your opinion concerning the hundred years or so following the systematic and purposeful process to totally eliminate the gray wolf from the western United States"

    "This same time span demonstrated a tremendous growth in numbers of all known herds of big game"
    -I agree, though more big game is not necessarily a good thing. (see post above)

    "Never did they reach the point beyond what the forests and plains could support as far as I can determine"
    -On this point I respectfully disagree, again see post above.

    "Certainly conservation was improved during this period, game and fish regulations developed and enforced"
    -again, I agree

    "as well as other efforts to assist the survival of the varied wildlife of the region"

    -Herein lies another problem. You see, it is easy to demonize the wolves because they kill calves and reduce survival rates. The thing is, this is how things are supposed to work, its a good thing, NOT a bad thing.

    The shape and size of the elk population is supposed to be determined by natural selection. Cows/claves that aren't smart or fast enough to evade the predators are SUPPOSED to die. This is how the genetic makeup of the herd is determined. Over large time spans this will dramatically change the genetic makeup of the herd.

    Instead of the worst individuals being removed from the gene pool, hunters often remove the best individuals. Granted, the effects will be subtle at fist, but if we are talking about long term policies we honestly have to worry that by decreasing predation and increasing hunting we are destroying the genetic health of the species. This goes for many other species like whitetails and mule deer too.



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    • #17
      There are really two questions here

      1) Does the lack of predators harm the environment?
      -and-
      2) Is this harm justified by increased hunting opportunities or marginal gains in the "safety" of the wilderness?

      I guess it is possible to agree with me on the first point but disagree with me on the second point.

      In which case, we don't really have a factual argument here, just a difference in opinion on long-term priorities.

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      • #18
        ...I feel like I just wrote a book

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        • #19
          Ken thanks for the information. I will locate and examine the entire paper as I immediately note several deficiencies in logic, obvious forfeiture of well known research data in addition to one possible violation of federally enforced regulations regarding the sampling process. I don't know who Beschta is at this moment but I can assure you that the Park Service takes a dim view of how their trees are damaged unless they choose to burn them. Maybe he somehow obtained special permission as that is a distinct, but unlikely, possibility. I know the gentleman who was the chief ranger of YP in the late nineties and early portion of this century so perhaps he will remember Beschta. Again I certainly appreciate you pointing out this paper and will get back with my impression for what its worth. By the way this herd is hunted whenever it leaves the Park normally through Jones or Red Creek over Stonecup Pass. In the seventies and eighties it produced some of the finest trophy bulls of North America, today I refuse to hunt that herd since it has been devastated by wolves. This band of elk doe not need additional cropping by hunters such as me which is the original intent of the wolf advocates. They were and are successful, the elk and the hunters are the victims. Again the wolves are just being wolves. An excellent choice if one feels the need to enlist the services of an efficient killing apparatus. In the last ten years I have seen one deer in either of the aforementioned drainages. Prior to the early nineties this was a decent location for exceptional mule deer. Even the coyotes that we used to know by name and location have vanished. Its difficult to take a step without placing one's foot on a wolf track. Hence my insistance for proper management of all species both native and alien.

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          • #20
            ishawooa-

            How do you respond to the genetic health problem?

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            • #21
              Also, please share the:

              "several deficiencies in logic, obvious forfeiture of well known research data in addition to one possible violation of federally enforced regulations regarding the sampling process"

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              • #22
                No. Seriously. Why not?

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                • #23
                  Obviously having them in urban areas is bad news, but there are plenty of places that aren't so urban where they used to live. It's pretty interesting to see how things are going with the bears up in Anchorage, though.

                  For people that complain about bears or wolves or cougars, I say to them leave the West. That's their territory, it's where they live. So if you don't want to live with big predators, move out of big predator country.

                  Do the people that live in Africa that get their pets or livestock eaten by leopards or lions or hyenas go and exterminate or decimate lions and leopards and hyenas? No, they don't. So why do we get to exterminate wolves just for our convenience and ease of living?

                  We as humans don't have the right to completely change ecosystems to our liking. The predators have every right to be around as we do. If we have a problem with the local predators, it is not our prerogative to exterminate them. We can only leave or just deal with it.

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                  • #24
                    Ken I always make a point to read your blog entries as they consistently are intellectually stated, filled with zeal and enthusiasm, and appear to attempt to make a meaningful point. I looked over Beschta's entire paper and if I take it literally as you did it would seem to be qualitatively valid. As I mentioned earlier I was somewhat skeptical about the portion you issued which triggered a bit of followup among park authorities both past and present, a couple university biologists, as well as other wildlife managers in several capacities, "behind the scenes and beyond the paper" if you will. What they told me in a nutshell without inclusion of bulky detail includes the following in no particular order:
                    No accounting for cycles of weather, fauna or flora, fire, etc other than assumptions regarding wolves absence.
                    The wolves were never eradicated from YNP, their numbers were at or below what advocates assumed should be correct.
                    YNP is an "artificial environment" in that man has "mucked it up for over a century".
                    Tremendous increase of human encroachment in the Lamar Valley with accompanying pollutions in the last century.
                    Elk prefer grass over saplings, there is no documented shortage of grass even during the sixties and more recently the warm winters.
                    There are other micro ecosystems similiar to the Lamar Valley throughout the west, some of which have never sustained wolf or elk populations, which exhibit the same characteristics as Bob noted as well as a tremendous number of these sites in Canada where both species live in considerable numbers that show no sapling damage although not all have been studied by any means. A more necessary tree study would have been the beetle destruction of the white bark pines but that was not one of Bob's specialities.
                    I could go on for a considerable time but you get my drift. Actually I once met either Billy or Bob in YNP, the occassion were so unremarkable that I fail to remember if it was Riddle or Beschta. Regardless I remember a talking to who appeared to be a genuine and dedicated researcher of trees, not wolves. The Park actually allowed this study for reasons other than you would think hence Bob was able to damage some timber that would probably have you and me charged with a federal crime. Since he was working somewhat under a "publish or perish" direction he caved in to the wolf advocates since they were at the point of needing assistance from any source. Their "great experiment of the 20th century" was successful from the wolf standpoint but elk calf recruitment was failing miserably so it appeared that general opinion of the knowledgeable public was not in their favor. Wolfers embraced validity from any source so presentations were made to gullible audiences lacking the data to understand the total impact of a poor decision gone bad, particularily to those willing to accept the information without question. The usual opinion of local people who are involved in ecological impact studies is that the collected data of Bob's paper in its best known interpretations is flawed by people other than the author and they tend to include many questionable assumptions to gain their goal. I do not mean to discredit Bob in any way as I understand the "cruel pinch of want" as O'Connor used to say and realize that he needed income and a moment of fame is always enjoyable. Bob's conclusions were based on what he believed he understood from findings he believed he discovered. For that effort I applaud him plus his willingness to share his work and attempt to offer some validity to a difficult and probably unsolvable dilemma which once again was created by the involvement of man intruding into the unknown. I won't bore you further with this commentary but feel free to write you comebacks. The truth of it is simply this, I am opposed to an excessive quantity of high end predators which are so poorly managed to the point that the environment and particularily the elk herds suffer devastation simply for the purpose of allowing a smile on the lips of the anti-hunters and well meaning but incorrect biologists. Your opinion just like mine does not matter one whit in this entire situation as no one cares what we say except the two of us. Thanks for taking the time to read this rambling and keep writing those blog entries as you certainly are a credit to this site. As the many bumper stickers in the west say "Welcome to Wyoming, now take a wolf and go home".

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                    • #25
                      OK but there is practically no such thing as an excessive quantity of high end predators. When they start to get overpopulated, they get self regulated by their prey species.

                      The only reason you see an excess is your strong bias as a guy that wants to shoot elk. There has been no devastation of the elk herd. Just a reduction in size.

                      You say that wolves can't be everywhere just because some people want them there now, well elk can't be everywhere just because you want them everywhere.

                      I would like to see more deer in the old VT deer woods back east, because there aren't nearly as many as there used to be, but I'm not about to go demand that something needs to change so there are more. It's not all about the deer. There are other species that are flourishing now. Just because there are less of my chosen prey doesn't mean the ecosystem has been devastated. It's just different.

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                      • #26
                        Shane I appreciate your comments but please devote a reasonable amount of time to researching and developing factual statements rather than just throwing out opinions and unreasonable assumptions. By the way the gray wolf in Wyoming has no prey species.

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                        • #27
                          ishawooa-

                          Thank you for your respectful response.

                          What is your response to my point about the degradation of the herd's genetic health, especially if you are talking about applying this policy over decades or even centuries?

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                          • #28
                            So wolves eat nothing? Obviously the wolf eats more than one species, just as the lynx eats more than just snowshoes. The point I am making is that there is no such thing as an excessive apex predator population. Their population is only regulated by food sources (prey species). So to say that we need to or can manage the wolf population in a natural way is a little off.

                            Who managed wolf populations before we came with guns? No one. They were managed by themselves and their food sources (prey species). And everything was just dandy. So now, the fact that some find wolves to be inconvenient is not a good reason to have them gone, or at least at minimal numbers, yet again.

                            If we are talking about facts, show me an example of ecological/environmental devastation, or better yet, an example of elk (a wolf prey species) devastation. You simply can't, because there are still plenty of elk, and the ecosystem is chugging along just fine.

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                            • #29
                              Shane I apologize in that I was refering to the fact that there is no species to prey on the wolf. In my haste I apparently overlooked your argument as being the reverse concerning prey. Insofar as the decreased elk herd census, numbers are readily available although usually a bit skewed by both sides. Bear in mind that even the wolf advocates concede this point so we both are basically wasting our words. From a personal standpoint I have observed and counted as many as 40% calves in a given herd during the eighties and early nineties. After re-introduction of the wolves this percentage steadily decreased. Presently we are about 7 to 10%. I freely admit that I had rather kill a trophy bull than watch a wolf accomplish the same role. I have never killed a calf as I tend to think of myself as a trophy hunter but in reality I have never placed any animal that scored well into any book. The book does not matter to me so much as my personal goals. A hitch is that the wolves know no season and I must abide by stringent dates and times.
                              Ken again I am no biologist so I am assuming that you speak of a decline in the genetic makeup of each individual elk and its offspring signifying a weakness in the entire group which possibly would allow the progression of certain disease processes such as tuberculosis which we have witnessed in previous years. Perhaps CWD is another manifestation of this problem. Additionally genetics can contribute to malformation processes and degenerative conditions. Among other factors winter stress has long been a well documented area of concern to the extent that humans cannot even enter some winter elk bedding grounds. Unfortunately no one can stop the wolves. In one area of Wyoming back in the eighties we noticed variations in elk antlers which was deemed unacceptable such as never dropping one or both antlers, not divesting the antler of velvet, and other oddities. The state biologists recommendied changing the area from a general tag to limited draw. I suspected that this was a move in the wrong direction to improve the herd. As it turned out now, some twenty years later, this area produces some of the best "horns" available. Back to your question which I did intentionally omit as I needed to consider exactly what you were talking about so I would ask you for a precise definition of "genetic herd health". I will attempt to respond.
                              By the way please read page 25 of the June, 2009 FIELD & STREAM. I received my copy today and noticed the article THE OTHER DEER HUNTERS after reading Petzal's article on metrics from which I learned nothing but it was entertaining. If Bestul thinks he had a problem with coyotes vs deer he "ain't seen nothing yet" until he looks on the mountain to view what is left of the elk after the wolves pass through.
                              Shane and Ken I look forward to further conversation on this topic unless you fellows are weary of it. Again thanks to both of you for your contributions, I hope you don't find my responses terribly boring.

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                              • #30
                                Shane I forgot to mention that on May 20 the Wyoming Game and Fish intends to hold a public meeting in Cody. This generally means that everyone can complain about a change which is forthcoming and will take place regardless of public sentiment. In this case the content of the meeting will declare that the elk hunt areas nearby in Sunlight Basin and Crandall will most likely have the limited quota tags reduced from 250 licenses to 100. Archery hunters will be required to hunt only a a special season and not to continue throughout the general. The sole reason for this necessary decrease in available hunting permits is lack of calf recruitment due to wolf depredation. Check out the Wyoming Game and Fish web site for more details if you are interested.

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