1 May 2010, 9:42pm
Bears Coyotes Deer, Elk, Bison Wildlife Agencies Wolves
by admin

Maine: Spiraling Toward A Predator Pit

by Tom Remington, Black Bear Blog, April 28, 2010 [here]

A predator pit is created when deer populations (speaking of Maine’s deer management problem) have been reduced for various reasons and existing key predators, like coyote, bear and bobcat, can drive those numbers even further into an abyss, perhaps prohibiting a regrowth of the herd.

Admitting you got a predator pit might be as difficult as admitting you’re an alcoholic or a habitual drug user. It seems these days wildlife managers aren’t interested in admitting that predators can be a problem. I have written on this blog before that under ideal conditions, Maine pays little attention to the coyote, bear, bobcat or any other predator that might feast on a whitetail deer, adult or fawn. When populations, such as deer, get out of skew, an abundance of predators can and will create a predator pit, something that can never end and that is a very serious condition.

Before we look into what leads to a predator pit, we must first examine the problem that exists where wildlife managers fail to admit predators can be a problem. Dr. Charles Kay, perhaps the top wildlife ecologist in the U.S. today and an Adjunct Assistant Professor and a Senior Research Scientist at Utah State University, wrote in Petersen’s Hunting Magazine, in August 1993, that research indicated that predators limit ungulate (hoofed animals) populations.

Research in Alaska, British Columbia, Yukon, Alberta and other Canadian Provinces indicates that wolves and other predators, more often than not, limit ungulates.

Further, Mark Hebblewhite, University of Montana, College of Forestry and Conservation, in a 10-year study called, “Predator-Prey Management in the National Park Context: Lessons from a Transboundary Wolf, Elk, Moose and Caribou System“, examines how predators, mainly wolves, affect ungulate herds in and near the Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. Hebblewhite warns wildlife mangers of the troubles attempting to manage predators in order to sustain an ungulate population as a food source, i.e. for hunting purposes.

Based on experiences in BNP, I show that wildlife managers face tough choices ahead and must come to terms with the truth that maintaining prewolf ungulate harvest regimes may be a fantasy in postwolf landscapes and, moreover, may be incompatible with ecosystem management.

Hebblewhite refers to “prewolf” and “postwolf” but we can certainly ascertain that coyotes, bears and other large predators can have effects on ungulate populations, especially if allowed to grow in numbers too great and/or other conditions on the ground have greatly reduced deer numbers, i.e. weather, hunting, disease, predation, etc..

George Dovel, Editor of The Outdoorsman, sums up in the Feb-April 2010 Edition, Bulletin Number 38, this same Hebblewhite 10-year study by listing 10 conclusions the study provided.

1. Wolves destroyed 90% of the elk population.
2. Elk slaughter by wolves increased in proportion to the severity of the winters.
3. 60% of the elk that were part-time residents stopped migrating to Banff after wolves arrived.
4. Wolves destroyed 56% of moose populations and nearly eliminated calf recruitment.
5. Wolves decimated woodland caribou, driving numerous herds to extinction.
6. Wolves stole 57% of prey kills by grizzlies.
7. Any attempt to manage ungulates anywhere near pre-wolf numbers is “a fantasy.”
8. Increasing quality habitat for elk in 77.22 square miles caused more – not fewer – elk to be killed by wolves.
9. To begin replenishing ungulate populations, wolf numbers need to be reduced every year by at least 70%. The reduction has to last until the ungulates recover and must reoccur if ungulates decline.
10. Sportsman wolf hunts utilized to control wolf populations are never effective.

Readers may want to refer back to these 10 conclusions later on as there are many things that have been determined here that can be carried to predator management in Maine’s Predator Pit. … [more]



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