Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Predator "Control"; An Ecologist's Perspective

Whether or not you agree that aerial hunting of wolves could be justified in order to increase game populations, the problem remains that there is no scientific basis linking decreased predator population with increased game population. It is an old debate in ecology: whether population is regulated "top down"(by predators), "bottom up" (by net primary productivity) or intrinsically(e.g social limitations on territory). And it is important to point out that the differential equations modeling population do not respond to the simple logic of arithmetic, ie subtracting predators = adding prey. For example, it could be (and studies, in Alaska have shown) that wolves prey primarily on the sick and weak and do not affect carrying capacity. In fact, they might as well increase prey population as decrease it (e.g. by selecting for stronger individuals or culling diseased individuals).

Scientifically speaking, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's euphemistically named “Wildlife Services” has about as much scientific basis as a modern day witch hunt, or a plan to limit vampires by destroying bats. It is based instead on fear, prejudice, and ignorance. Wildlife Services is a rogue government agency killing and poisoning native animals in complete disregard of any scientific management purpose. [See an in-depth assessment of the agency done by Wild Earth Guaridans.]

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