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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, March 25, 2018

Co-author of THE LANDSCAPE OF FEAR ecological paradigm(being a 20 year ecperienced carnivore biologist by training and former hunter with rural roots), our good friend John Laundre is back with us today with his always passionate, highly logical and fact filled opining on the #1 Wildllife Mangement question we face today in America--"WHY DO HUNTERS THINK THEY ARE MORE ENTITLED THAN WILD PREDATORS TO KILL DEER AND ELK?"

Why do hunters think they are more entitled than wild predators to kill deer and elk?

by: John Laundre

If you ask most big game hunters how they feel about large predators such as wolves and pumas, they will be more than eager to express their loathing of these species. They describe them as wanton killers, as "weeds in the garden", as "decimating" deer and elk populations.

Should we be hunting Pumas?,,,,,,,,,,,Should
we be hunting them with dogs?

 Since pretty much ALL the science shows and common-sense dictates, that 1) predators are not wanton killers, 2) are not weeds in an ecological garden,and 3) cannot kill all their prey, what is the REAL reason hunters hate wolves and pumas? That real reason is that hunters feel wolves and pumas are killing deer that they, the hunters, are more entitled to. To hunters the math is simple: every deer or elk a predator kills is one less out there for them to killSo wolves and pumas are bad…period.

Basically, then, the whole problem hunters have with large predators is that they somehow think that they, the humans, are more "entitled" to kill deer and elk than the predators. Let's analyze this concept of supposed entitlement to wild deer and elk by hunters and ask the question: Do hunters have more "right" to the deer and elk than wolves and pumas?

First let's look at it on a need basis. Who NEEDS to kill deer and elk more… predators or hunters? Let's see, if a wolf or a puma does not kill deer or elk, it…DIESTheir family dies! I would propose that is a pretty strong justification for need on the part of the predators. In fact, they can be considered to be the only true "subsistence hunters". On that basis alone, it would seem that wolves and pumas are "entitled" to their fair share of the elk and deer out there!

How about the hunters? In speaking of entitlement out of necessity, we need to ask: Do hunters truly NEED that deer, that elkWe constantly hear about how hunting provides needed meat on the table. As if, indeed by not getting that deer or elk, a hunter and his family will go hungry.  What happens to a hunter and his family if he does not bag a deer or an elk? Will they starve? Will they at least experience hunger? How about even a tummy rumble? I doubt it! They will just go to the local grocery store!

Considering that over 50% of the big game hunters in the U.S. make over $50 thousand dollars a year (, it can be argued that for most big game hunters, they don't NEED to kill a deer or elkThey CAN go to the grocery store and that extra 20 (deer) to 150 (elk) pounds of meat can easily be replaced by beef, pork, or chicken. And, I might add, at a much cheaper price! At an average expense of $1,500 to hunt, deer meat runs around $30 a lb and even elk meat is over $10 a lb, iF the hunter is successful. 

If not, then that is $1,500 spent for…nothing! IF feeding your family is of importance, that fifteen hundred dollars can buy a lot more chicken! Also, considering that over 50% of the hunters are over 45 years old, it can be argued that they don't need the meat to feed their children, most of whom would be grown and on their own! Consequently, for a majority of the big game hunters in the U.S., that meat is not a necessity but a luxury. The myth of subsistence hunting in the U.S. is just that…a myth.

Admittedly, approximately 8% of the big game hunters (0.4% of total U.S. population) make less than $20,000 a year. Surely, it can be argued that maybe, just maybe, those extra pounds of deer or elk meat might come in handy. Again, IF they bag that deer or elk. It could be argued then that wolves and pumas are reducing the chances of these hunters getting that deer or elk, those extra pounds of meat. However, I argue that these hunters are not competing with wolves and pumas for that meat but with the other +50% of the hunters that DON'T need the meat! It is these over 6 million hunters that are reducing the chances of hunters that might truly need the meat from getting a deer or elk.

 If subsistence hunting is such an honored reason for hunting, then hunting should be put on a per need basis! There should be a split season, those hunters that need the meat the most get tohunt first! If they did that, there would be plenty of deer and elk for predators and those who hunters who really need the meat! The rest don't really have a claim on those deer and elk based on necessity and should be last in line. 

Another argument we hear is that hunting is this honored "tradition" that defines who we are, our "heritage", our relationship with nature, our relationship with family, blah blah blah. Having been raised on a farm and participated in big game hunting for many years I have hear all of those reasons.  Makes one believe that hunting must go way back in the history of the majority of big game hunters. Something  great, great grandpappy did! 

Just how far back does this hunting tradition run in the majority (94%) of the American hunters who are of European heritage? Surely it did not exist in Europe! There, only the privileged hunted (ironically, kind of like it is here today!) and it was obviously not for subsistence. The rest of the people, our ancestors, had the long tradition of eating domestic meat and even that not very often as meat in general was the food of the gentry.  

So much for the hunting tradition extending back to our European roots!

How about since colonization? Did it start then? Do we have a 400+ year tradition of hunting to fall back on? After all, did not our laws of wildlife belonging to all stem from those European abuses by the royalty? Admittedly, upon landing on shore, many colonialists initially relied on wild game. However, as it turns out, the reliance on wild ungulates actually did not persist long after colonization. For example, the first colony in Rhode Island, Providence, was established in 1636 and already by 1646, a mere 10 years later, they established the first closed season on deer in response to dwindling deer numbers. 

By the 1700's, the idea that hunting wildlife in the East provided any level of subsistence, let alone being part of an honored tradition was a myth. As we know, this pattern of overuse repeated itself all across the country with the hunting "tradition" not lasting more than 20 years in any location. If anything, this early "tradition" of hunting is more one of abuse and excess killing that not only decimated deer and elk populations but eliminated them! Is that the tradition hunters refer to…one of wanton killing, abuse and overuse? 

How about modern hunting, the one where abuse and excess should not exist, except of course for predators and "varmints"? That "tradition" in the Eastern U.S. did not rekindle until deer herds returned in the late 1970's, after a mere 400 years of the "tradition" of not hunting of ungulates!  Again, not much time to justify hunting as a long-standing hallowed tradition. The myth of hunting as an honored tradition among the majority of big game hunters in the U.S. today is just that…a myth.

Now the wolves and pumas. Let us see, these predators have been hunting deer and elk for subsistence, since…FOREVER!Their whole way of life, their survival is defined by hunting these animals. Hunting defines who they are, their relationship with nature! I would argue that as traditions go, predators have a greater claim on hunting as a hallowed, I dare say, necessary tradition than we humans. Who then should have more entitlement to those deer and elk?

Why else do hunters feel that they, more than wolves and pumas, are entitled to those deer and elk? Let's see oh yes, those billions of dollars hunters brag about spending in pursuit of their quarry!

 Citing economic benefits, trickle down theories etc. they tout that as reason alone entitling them to the majority of the elk and deer. For sure more than those wolves and pumas who pay nothing! They don't buy licenses, they don't buy guns, they don't stay in hotels, etc. etc. What a bunch of freeloaders! 

Hunters argue that money talks and so they have a greater right to deer and elk than those ne'er-do-well wolves and pumas!
But are wolves and pumas the freeloaders hunters accuse them of being? How much do wolves and pumas contribute to the economic wellbeing of an area? It is true they don't spend money out of their pockets…they don't have pockets! BUTother people do have pockets and do spend money because of wolves and pumas. The whole area of wildlife watching, people wanting to see wildlife ALIVE, greatly exceeds hunting on all levels(

 In 2016, big game hunters numbered 9.2 million, wildlife watchers 86 million, over 9 times more. Big game hunters spent $20.5 billion a year, wildlife watchers spent $75.9 billion, more than 3 times as much! Makes the money hunters spend sound like chump change! 

And what are they watching? Over 26 million of them go to watch large mammals! This means that almost 3 times as many people want to see large mammals alive as those who want to kill them! And what are their favorite large mammals to watch? Hands down, people who want to see large mammals want to see large predators! The added revenue to the Yellowstone National Park area because people wanted to come and see and hear wolves greatly exceeded what hunters spent trying to kill elk and deer in surrounding areas

 So, wolves and pumas may not spend money but DO bring in money, a lot more than hunting! And maintaining healthy populations of both, by not killing them, more than justifies their "entitlement" of the elk and deer out there! Again, let the money talk and the myth that big game hunters are THE major economic driver in rural areas is just that…a myth.

Lastly, hunters, for some reason that escapes me, really believe they know best when it comes to "managing" elk and deer populations! The greatest myth they perpetuate is that somehow one needs to be able to hunt a species to best manage it. What do they base this on? The fact that they helped bring back deer and elk populations from past abuse, not from predators but from…human hunters! Why? So they could kill them! 

The reasoning goes that to best manage elk and deer we need to manage their numbers to provide enough animals for hunters to kill so that hunting can be used to manages their numbers so there are enough for hunters to kill, etc. etc. etc. What has this type of circular self-interested management brought us? As, according to hunters, the more deer and elk the better, it has lead to managing for excess.

 For example, there is no doubt we have too many deer in the Eastern U.S., as a result of managing for human hunting. There is no doubt that we are well on our way to excess numbers of elk in the East for the same reasons. There is no doubt that managing for hunting to use hunting as a management tool is destroying the Eastern ecosystem. Thus, the myth that hunting is the best way to manage deer and elk populations is just that…a myth. 

How should deer and elk populations be managed? Considering that probably 99% of other wildlife populations, from butterflies to mice are NOT managed by humans for humans to hunt to manage them for hunting and that those species are doing fine,we need to ask just how are these other species so well managed? The obvious answer is…by predators! 

As we now abundantly know from science, predators ARE the regulators of ecosystems. They are the shepherds that keep prey populations from excess. They are the gardeners that keep prey in their ecological row. But because they are pure subsistence hunters, their numbers are also kept in check by a feedback system that has been honed over eons of co-existence. Any predator or prey that becomes too efficient in either killing prey or surviving predator doomed that relationship to extinction eons ago. This produces the ECOLOGICAL balance necessary to manage not just elk and deer but whole ecosystems. THAT is how nature works!

Specifically, how good are wolves and pumas at regarding elk and deer? Again, considering that they have coexisted for eons and where humans have not interfered, are ecologically stable,they are pretty good at itThere are many examples but I will give just one here…Yellowstone National Park. Almost everyone agreed, except hunters of course, there were too many elk in Yellowstone before wolves were brought back. With wolves present, there are now thousands less elk in the Park. Now hunters would argue: Ah Hah! that reduction indicates reintroducing wolves was a disaster…based on their perspective of excess. As if a LOT fewer elk to keep them from destroying the Park was a bad thing!  Is it a disaster? Are all the elk gone now from the Park? No, they are still there, just not as many!

 Wolves have reduced elk numbers through a variety of ways to an ecologically sustainable level. Is that not what we, except for hunters, wanted? Through an ecological lens, the reintroduction of wolves not only in Yellowstone but across the West is a resounding success! A success repeating itself as wolf populations spread. Based on this and the many other examples,I argue that on sound ecological management principles alone, wolves and pumas do a better job at managing deer and elk and thus are more entitled to their prey, than human hunters are!

I could go on and on but hopefully you see my point. Hunters are NOT more entitled than wolves and pumas to deer and elk! We have been able to support ourselves without subsistence hunting for survival for most of the 400+ years humans of European ancestry have been hereConsequently, we really don't NEED to kill elk and deer. This does not argue that we should no longer hunt them but should recognize that human hunting today is a luxury and as such, has the lowest entitlement to deer and elk. Additionally, managing deer and elk primarily for human hunting is ecologically wrong and, as it turns out, economically short-sighted!

 We should manage deer and elk for ecological stability. Managing for excess to provide luxury hunting opportunities to less than 5% of the U.S. population does NOT maintain, but actually disrupts, that ecological stabilityOn the other handpredators, who do need to subsistence hunt and have evolved stable relationships with their prey, are the best adapted at maintaining an ecological balance of predator AND prey

 Because of the important role they playin that balance, wolves and pumas have the highest entitlement to deer and elk so they can do their job! As such, a certain percent of deer and elk populations should be dedicated to supporting these traditional subsistence hunters, the predators, as an investment in ecosystem stability. What is left can then be allocated to the luxury hunters…humans

The Landscape of Fear: Ecological Implications of Being Afraid 

John W. Laundré*,1, Lucina Hernández1 and William J. Ripple2 

1 Department of Biological Sciences, SUNY Oswego, Oswego, NY 13126, USA 2 Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, College of Forestry, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA 


"Predation risk" and "fear" are concepts well established in animal behavior literature. We expand these concepts to develop the model of the "landscape of fear". 

The landscape of fear represents relative levels of predation risk as peaks and valleys that reflect the level of fear of predation a prey experiences in different parts of its area of use. We provide observations in support of this model regarding changes in predation risk with respect to habitat types, and terrain characteristics.

 We postulate that animals have the ability to learn and can respond to differing levels of predation risk. We propose that the landscape of fear can be quantified with the use of well documented existing methods such as givingup densities, vigilance observations, and foraging surveys of plants. We conclude that the landscape of fear is a useful visual model and has the potential to become a unifying ecological concept.

Phantoms of the Prairie
The Return of Cougars to the Midwest;
“The return of the American lion to the Great 
Plains and Midwest is 
a riveting tale. With the eye of a detective, the 
mind of a trained 
scientist, and the heartfelt passion of a 
conservationist, cougar 
biologist John Laundré deftly sets its stage, 
giving voice to this
 fascinating—and absolutely necessary—
predator. The successful 
return of this long lost species to Middle 
America, and hopefully
 beyond, will be tribute not just to the cat’s
 remarkable adaptability 
and resiliency, but to human tolerance and
 understanding as well.”
—Jay Tischendorf, veterinarian, founder and 
director of the American 
Ecological Research Institute

Last seen in the 1880s, cougars (also known
 as pumas or mountain lions)
 are making a return to the plains regions of 
the Midwest. Their comeback, 
heralded by wildlife enthusiasts, has brought 
concern and questions to many 
regarding the possibility of having these large 
predators in our midst once
 more. Will the people of the region make 
room for cougars? Can they survive
 the highly altered landscape of the Midwest? 
Is there a future for these 
intrepid pioneers if they head even farther east?

Using GIS technology, and historical data,
 among many other methods, 
Phantoms of the Prairie takes readers on a
 virtual journey, showing how 
the cougar might move over the landscape 
with minimal human contact. 
Drawing on his years of research on cougars, 
John W. Laundré offers 
an overview of what might be regarding the
 return of cougars to their
 ancestral prairie homeland.

John W. LaundréJohn W. Laundré has
studied cougars for more
than twenty years in both
 the United States and Mexico.
As vice president of the
Cougar Rewilding Foundation,
he advocates the return of
cougars to their former territorial range. 

“Dr. John Laundré has tackled 
an extremely timely and 
complicated subject. His 
assessment of cougar re-
 into the Midwestern and 
eastern United States is based
 latest research, as well as his 
own biological expertise and
 long field experience. Once
 he spells out the biological
however, Laundré boldly 
speculates regarding the
 future of 
and human responses to
 this amazing current
 His commentary will
 alternately please and 
rankle readers.”
—Harley Shaw, author of Soul 
Among Lions and Stalking the Big Bird

“Professional wildlife 
biologists, naturalists, 
as well as hunters,
 trappers, and wildlife
 enthusiasts will be 
interested in 
Phantoms of the Prairie.”
—Adrian Wydeven, mammal
 ecologist for the State of 

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