Sunday, May 30, 2010
Does hunting Carnivores in a localized region effectively achieve population reductions of targeted animals--in this study...Cougars?
Hugh Robinson and his team at the LARGE CARNIVORE LABORATORY at Washington State University conducted a 2001-2005 study in Northern Washington State to determine if focused and intensive(hunting with hounds as well as 2 cat bag limit per hunter) would achieve stated objectives of reducing Cougar populations. Study area was bounded in the North by the Canadian border and to the East and West by the Columbia and Kettle Rivers.
Increased Human/Cougar confrontations and hunter pressure to increase deer, elk and moose populations has had Washington State Fish & Wildlife personnel experimenting with intensive hunting methods(use of hounds to tree Lions) as well as expanded bag limits and season length.
Robinson and his team actually concluded that localized hunting pressure(regions that are <1000 square km) can actually generate the reverse of the desired goal(reducing Cougars) if in fact there are adjacent source regions where other Cougars can emigrate from(and thus immigrate into the "sink/kill zone")
Just as in hunted Coyote populations, the killing of resident Cougars leads to younger animals immigrating into the human hunted region to fill the temporary "sink/empty land". These young recruits(mostly males but also a % of females) take up the "slack" and start re-populating the kill zone(Cougars can breed year round-like humans and female Cougars can go into heat from age 2 onward).
Depending on the supply of prey available to Cougars(and for that matter any Carnivore), the kill zone(sink region) can fill back up with Cougars quickly..............creating a more densly populated condition than what existed prior to initiation of the hunting directive.
This expanded population will be younger in age than before(e.g 4 year average age versus more established populations being able to live up to 12 years--up to 7 years of age recorded in the study attached) and thus likely to get into more trouble with humans due to their adolescent (risk taking) behaviors.
What then tends to happen is that us humans call for even more hunting("the sledgehammer approach") to mitigate what is perceived as an out-of-control and runaway Cougar population.
The authors postulate that prey density(how many deer, elk and moose are available in a region) is the best indicator of how dense a Cougar population will exist in a given region and that a "bottom up"(reduce the ungulate density) approach rather than a "top down"(reduce the carnivore density) approach would be the optimum strategy in reducing human/cougar(and in my opinion), human/wolf...............human/coyote and human/bear conflicts across this land of ours.....helping to restore the balance..............helping to get previously denuded tree and shrub species to regenerate..........wetlands to see beaver populations again..............restoring a fuller and more expansive populations of the widest array of living things............Fish and Wildlife stop bending to the will of a few "SHOOTERS"...........the true HUNTERS in any locale want a challenge when in the woods.................not big deer parks that have out-of-control deer and elk population densities.
Posted by Rick Meril at 12:50 PM