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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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Sunday, February 15, 2015

One of the best things about Posting in the COYOTES, WOLVES AND COUGARS FOREVER BLOGSITE is the insightful information coming forth from you readers..............Many of you know George Wuerthner,(Ecologist, Photographer/Author and Project Director for the Foundation for Deep Ecology) and have learned much from him on an array of topics ranging from Wolf trophic cascades to Cattle upending our western rangelands....................After reading my Sunday 2/15/15 Post on Interpreting Lewis & Clark's observations of the wildlife they encountered as a way of determining human population impact on animal populations, George contacted me and provided a "food for thought" primer on how prior to the horse being introduced into the Americas by the Spanish around AD 1500, human impact on wildlife populations was likely very localized in its impact.................George starts his note to me saying: "Think about the problem of transport back prior to the horse"............ "Do you backpack a bison kill back to a camp 50 miles away?"............ "Of course not"............ "You don't hunt 50 miles away from the village because you couldn't possibly use the kill"................

From: George Wuerthner ;
Date: February 15, 2015 at 10:12:52 AM PST
To: "Meril, Rick" ;;
Subject: Wildlife Abundance


I think the Ripple paper is accurate in a broad sweeping way, but it and others like it may still give the wrong impression about wildlife abundance. I have read many, many, many, early historical accounts of wildlife in the West and elsewhere. I think the impact of Native Americans on wildlife, particularly prior to the horse, was localized--in much the same way that wolf impacts are localized. And like wolf packs there are buffers as they mention in their piece where there is less killing of wildlife. 

Think about the problem of transport back prior to the horse. Do you backpack a bison kill back to a camp 50 miles away? Of course not. You don't hunt 50 miles away from the village because you couldn't possibly use the kill. 

But places where there were alternative "prey" like the Columbia River supported dense populations of Indians and there was likely more hunting pressure. 

On the other hand, Lewis and Clark did kill elk while camped on the coast, but one has to be careful about drawing conclusions and comparing wildlife on the coast with other regions. First of all Lewis and Clark did not hunt elk that much even on the plains because they could kill bison. And if you have ever hunted in the coastal forests, your visibility is significantly reduced. You could be 100 yards from an elk and never know it, but on the open terrain of the plains you could see animals miles away

You also have to keep in mind season of travel. Depending on where one might be, you might see or not see wildlife. For instance, I am in the process of reading Raynold's 1858 journal of travels to the headwaters of the Yellowstone. for the first 300 miles of their journey across South Dakota, they did not see a single bison. Then they got to the Black Hills and suddenly they saw many herds. Why? Well they were commenting on how dry the plains were due to drought. The bison had moved to the Black Hills because they were higher, moister and had grass. Had you just read or cited the first part of Raynold's journel, and especially if you did not account for the drought, you would be concluding Indians must have killed off the bison. 

Finally back to Lewis and Clark. Citing the lack of game they killed while encamped on the coast has other explanations that must be considered. It was winter with short days and rainy weather. Just not the kind of weather for hunting. So effort was reduced. 

So I caution drawing too many conclusions just from the Lewis and Clark journals. I did an analysis of all the journals I could find for Oregon prior to the opening o fthe Oregon Trail in 1841 and there are conflicting accounts of both abundance and lack of game. 

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