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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

George Wuerthner trying to get ranchers to open up their mind to the fact that it might be economically profitable for them to do a course correct about coexisting with Wolves,..............In Georges's own words---"there is compelling evidence that the killing of wolves and other top predators is one of main reasons coyote numbers have exploded across the West"............ "There are good ecological reasons for this"........... "Basically wolves and to a lesser degree, mountain lions, kill coyotes"........... "This has been demonstrated time and again"............... "If you have an ecologically effective wolf population, you will have far fewer coyotes"

Are Ranchers Stupid?

by  ; 

Are ranchers stupid? You might think so if you watch their behavior towards predators. For decades ranchers have declared war on coyotes. Despite their best efforts, coyotes not only survive, but thrive. Even with taxpayer subsidies to America's welfare ranchers in the form of Animal Damage Control agents, and the slaughter of tens of thousands of coyotes annually at taxpayer expense, the coyote continues to expand its range and numbers across the land.

Ranchers are not known for being overly enlightened when it comes to ecological concepts, but one would think if one's bottom line were being impacted, one would act in one's self interest. Unfortunately for most ranchers, the operating mode is doing what your grand pappy did. If your dad and your grand pa killed coyotes, then who are you to question such policies?

Yet there is compelling evidence that the killing of wolves and other top predators is one of main reasons coyote numbers have exploded across the West. There are good ecological reasons for this. Basically wolves, and to a lesser degree, mountain lions, kill coyotes. This has been demonstrated time and again. If you have an ecologically effective wolf population, you will have far fewer coyotes. And coyotes avoid areas with high wolf activity. For any geographic area, due to social interactions between wolf packs that limits wolf numbers, there will be far fewer wolves than coyotes per acre.  While ranchers will still lose some animals to wolves, the losses are far lower than the losses to coyotes.
In a typical year Montana livestock producers report 18,000 animals lost to predators—primarily coyotes, while the losses to wolves are a fraction of this number—typically under a few hundred animals at most.
This ecological fact of life even affects wildlife. For instance, in areas with substantial wolf activity, there are fewer losses of pronghorn and deer fawns to coyotes. Throughout the West we see state legislators (often ranchers—which explain the situation) and some hunters demanding that more coyotes be killed to jump start mule deer populations that are currently in decline. The presumption is that if you kill enough coyotes, you'll see mule deer herds expand.
Utah, never known for its progressive politics, recently enacted a bounty on coyotes in hopes of reducing losses of mule deer fawn to predators. The same legislators are adamantly opposed to restoration of wolves to the state. These Utah legislators would do well to read a few papers on coyote-wolf interactions.

Unfortunately many hunters also demonstrate an ignorance of wolf ungulate ecology. There is growing evidence that wolves by removing weak and sick animals, improves the overall health of prey species like elk and deer. There is even some tantalizing new research that suggests wolf predation can INCREASE elk numbers. Certainly the fact that most western states report elk management units at or above objectives suggests that wolf predation isn't causing a huge decline in ungulates across these states.
With the delisting of wolves from the Endangered Species Act, western state wildlife agencies are aggressively killing wolves. It is not a stretch to suggest that these agencies are indirectly harming their state's livestock industries by killing wolves, thereby reducing the one effective control on coyote populations.
In any case, the ecological term for this phenomenon is meso predator release. In other words, without top predators, populations of mid size predators like coyotes expand. A recent paper by William Ripple goes into great detail about this meso predator release summarizing the research that has been done for decades on these observed relationships between wolves and coyotes.

The conclusion of dozens of scientific studies is that the best way to reduce predator losses is to reestablish ecologically effective populations of wolves. Ecologically effective means more than token populations just barely large enough to avoid relisting under the ESA as some states have for goals, rather it means promoting wolf recovery across the state.
Of course, if ranchers are really stupid, I won't expect them to change. I like to think that ranchers are as smart as the next guy, but they sure haven't demonstrated that when it comes to dealing with predators. In reality, ranchers should be the strongest advocates for wolf restoration, but I'm not holding my breath waiting to see them change.

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