by Judd Cooney - Thursday, September 29, 2016
Controlling and managing game populations by natural diversity involving predators such as bears, wolves and coyotes is a pipe dream of anti-hunters who seek to remove humans from the wildlife management equation. In reality, it’s pure hogwash at best and a disaster looking for a place to happen at worst.
Alaska is a prime example. As reported by NRAHLF.org in August, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), under the auspices of Director Dan Ashe, eliminated predator management on all 77 million acres of the state's National Refuge lands. Ashe's diatribe against the predator management practices of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and his accolades for HSUS President Wayne Pacelle leave little doubt about his liberal tendencies. His stand on this issue clearly shows he is against controlling predators for the sake of other game populations. Ashe stated succinctly that natural diversity would maintain the balance of the wildlife populations on these lands.
I have wolf hunted over a large portion of Alaska and have seen firsthand the total annihilation of an area's entire moose population by a single wolf pack. After eating on a single moose carcass, the pack simply moved to another area for a killing spree. I recently moved to Idaho and am hearing from those who witnessed the results of the ill-conceived Northern Rockies wolf transplant that has virtually wiped out the moose population in many areas and drastically reduced elk populations. Such irrefutable evidence indicates that Director Ashe’s natural-diversity concept of game management and his stand against certain methods of take regarding predators is the road to drastic population decimation for many big-game species.
The time worn assumption spouted by anti’s that predators only kill the sick and weak is true only in that the predators run a healthy critter until it’s sick and weak—and then kill it.
Hunters have expressed concern that in some cases state agencies seem to downplay predator problems and their impact on game populations from pheasants, small game and waterfowl to antelope, deer, elk and moose simply to avoid conflict with the misinformed but zealous animaniacs. However, these agencies have little control over the decision-making process once these issues become ballot initiatives. In several instances such as in Colorado and Arizona, the anti’s shoved through initiatives on the voter ballots to ban trapping of all kinds on public lands in Arizona and statewide in Colorado along with spring bear hunting, baiting and hunting with hounds. Now these same agencies must address the concern over plummeting deer and antelope populations and rising bear numbers. The resulting increase in bear complaints and bear-human encounters further resulted in a substantial increase in the number of these game animals that must be killed by state employees all being paid to do the job hunters would do for free. All this to avoid conflict with emotion-driven souls who are ready to rant and rave in protection of the WFC’s (Warm Fuzzy Critters) but don’t contribute a dime to the state’s game management agencies. Sound game management? "The time worn assumption by anti's that predators only kill the sick and weak is true only in that the predators run a healthy critter until it's sick and weak—and then kill it."
On a more personal level, predator management can be very beneficial in managing a hunter's own hunting areas. One of the fastest growing and expanding predator populations across the country having a major impact on big and small game populations alike—as well as impacting the quality of the effectiveness of the hunt itself—is the coyote.
Coyotes are resilient critters. Long gone are the days when man has any semblance of complete coyote control. Prior to the Environmental Protection Agency banning virtually all chemical predator-control substances in 1972, and the equally inefficient U.S. government eliminating its predator control program, most western states had coyotes and other predators fairly controlled. The result? Big game populations were at all-time highs. Since the chemical-control ban, coyote populations have skyrocketed, resulting in these tenacious canines increasing their populations and expanding their range eastward at a phenomenal rate, much to the detriment of big and small game species and less dominant predators in many areas.
The fact is that sport hunting or fur hunting coyotes makes little if any dent in overall populations even in a small area. Combined hunting and trapping can be far more effective where these methods can be intensely applied.
One study showed that in order to impact a coyote population, 70 percent of it must be taken out each year for five consecutive years—an almost impossible task with the methods allowed in today's politically-correct world. States that have set coyote hunting and trapping seasons in some cases actually may help their populations to expand compared to states that permit controlling predators year round, impacting even more game.
Contrary to what many outdoorsmen believe, winter is far less deadly for prey species than spring when canines are raising and feeding pups. Their kills are mainly the young-of-the-year. In one study on antelope predation by coyotes, the pre-control fawn recruitment was on the order of 12 fawns per hundred does. After intensive coyote trapping and aerial gunning during the winter and spring, the fawn recruitment rate jumped to 72 fawns per 100 does.
Several recent studies have shown that whitetail deer fawn recruitment rates jumped 150 to 200 percent when coyotes were all but eliminated from an area during the spring fawning season—by far the best time to hammer the coyote population.
Spring and summer coyote hunting goes against the grain of many predator hunters out for the challenge or prime fur, but is the most effective time to control coyote population increases. In many areas it’s virtually impossible to get predator-hunting permission during big game seasons when farm and ranch owners or lessee’s are immersed in hunting big game on their properties. With this in mind, smart predator hunters can greatly extend their predator hunting opportunities by using their hunting and/or trapping skills as public relations tools to get permission to hunt predators on such land during the off-season. Offering to help landowners or lessees to better manage and maintain maximum game numbers on their properties through effective game management-oriented predator control is a win-win situation for everyone.
Become an effective game manager by becoming a better predator. Hunt smart and hunt more!
E-mail your comments/questions about this site to:
Get the NRA Hunters' Leadership Forum newsletter for at-a-glance access to all the latest news about the legislative challenges hunters face—delivered directly to your Inbox.