View Full Version : Critters, Population Dynamics and Morals

Art Eatman
April 26, 2002, 05:47 PM
Cato hit on some good beginnings in another thread. Thought I'd amplify.

I've made the point, occasionally, that a Birder can get a big thrill from just observing a member of a rare and endangered species. OTOH, a hunter needs a healthy population in any game species, in order that there be a surplus from which he can take an animal.

(I define "surplus" in this context to mean that amount of a species over and above some basis required for safe and healthy continuation of that species.)

To a great extent, large predators and homo sap don't co-exist, which is why there are more of us than of them. We're better killers than they are. Absent "natural" predators (a misnomer if ever I heard one.), then homo sap is stuck with the job of controlling wildlife populations among certain species. In North America this includes mostly deer, certain waterfowl, and such as prairie dogs. (I'm generalizing, okay? :) ) Most other species won't overpopulate their habitat.

Does this seem like reasonable background?

Let's work this over, first, before going on to PDogs in particular, okay?


April 26, 2002, 06:29 PM
Most other species won't overpopulate their habitat Most.
Then we have the ones that seem overly dense because the habitat shrank around them untill their existance becomes marginal.

And the critters that seem to ignore the encrochments of man and continue to spread, through and around urban areas. Such as the armadillo, opossums all the way to Minnesota, wild turkeys all over etc.

Lot of subject under that title Art.

Sam, confused as a cockroach in a ro om wi th str obe li ght.

Art Eatman
April 26, 2002, 07:01 PM
No argument, Sam, but it's a lot easier, overall, if we sorta key on certain species. Otherwise, we'd have more words than "Gone With The Wind" or "Atlas Shrugged". :)


April 27, 2002, 12:49 AM
Or Moby Richard ? The paucity of white cetacions is notable.

Art Eatman
April 27, 2002, 10:50 AM
"Paucity". You been playin' in the dictionary again? I sorta favor "dearth", myownself. But "paucity" is good.

One of the hardest things to get across to non-hunters around the U.S. is that no game species is suffering as a result of hunting. Most game species populations are on the rise, as a result of hunters' efforts and money.

Try to make city folks understand that the mortality rate among dove and quail, with no hunting at all, is around 80% each year. With hunting, it's around 80%, each year.

And hunters are the only group whose efforts result in improvements to habitat and thus the gross populations. Almost all other "we love wildlife" groups spend their money on advertising for more money, or for lobbying against hunting--which actually hurts the health of species.


April 27, 2002, 03:16 PM
Prime example.....ALL of the Elk in Arizona are here as a result of massive effforts by Sportsmen/Hunters.

All of the Ring Neck Pheasant in the Americas are here for the same reason.

Many species of game fish the same.

Introduction and management. Population control. Increasing the overall health of the species.

Hunter bucks and concern at work.


Art Eatman
April 28, 2002, 09:56 AM
What got me thinking about all this was Cato's comment, "We Europeans killed all wolves, bears, coyotes, eagles, etc. (E)nvy the USA for their great nature and hope that you aren't as stupid!"

Of course, during the 18th and 19th centuries, we indeed were that stupid. Meat-hunting caused most of our problems. First was the almost unheard of freedom for "peasants" to hunt; next was purely the need for protein. The demise of the Passenger Pigeon and the dramatic reduction in waterfowl numbers in the northeastern U.S. came from meat-hunting, as example.

(The near-demise of the bison was deliberate federal policy, to destroy the main food supply of the Plains Indians.)

Raising livestock, even today, means some degree of protection from predators. Nationwide, we're in a reasonable balance, seems like. We could probably enlarge the grizzly population in the lower 48 states, but that would mean more hazard to people as well as livestock. Re-introduction of wolves isn't likely to be as large a problem as some ranchers claim. The problem there, of course, is that the pro-wolf people include too many who seem to think that all ranching is inherently evil.

All in all, though, it took a century to recreate reasonably healthy populations of certain species. Deer, turkey and eagle come readily to mind. Plus others, of course.

And more to do!


April 28, 2002, 12:04 PM
There is quite a bit of applicable discussion on this thread. http://www.thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=111085


Art Eatman
April 28, 2002, 12:43 PM
Yeah, browsed through that one. Again, it's a case of some folks don't have the knowledge to understand the dynamics of a system--the interactions of local people with wildlife, and the animals' needs as to habitat.

I still believe the worst enemies of wildlife were the author of "Bambi"--Felix Salter--and Walt Disney. Unintended consequences, of course. But when you attribute human emotions to animals, and try too hard to anthromorphize animals' behavior, "true believers" get in the way of reality. Witness PETA, for instance.


April 28, 2002, 02:34 PM
Hey, Ishmael, regarding those cetaceans, do the white ones taste any differently from the regular ones?

Is this a private conversation, or can others take part? :)
Interesting topic. I come from a European country where we still have wolf, bear, eagles etc, although it was a close call for some species. Wolf in particular was hunted to near extinction, resulting in an explosion in moose populations. My late grandfather told me that seeing a moose was something to talk about at the beginning of the last century. Today hunting quotas in that part of the country is roughly one moose per 100 acres of forest. Practically all of this is "peasant" hunting, there has never been any other kind in this country. BTW, recent studies of Norwegian wolves fitted with radio collars and GPS recievers show that they kill twice as many moose as previously found in North American studies.

But looking at the title, population dynamics and morals, I feel like going back to the previously mentioned cetaceans. The official position of the Norwegian government, regardless of political shade, is one of "sustainable harvest" of natural resources. This includes at present the management of the minke whale population off our coast. This seems to upset a lot of people, except of course Green Peace, who uses it for every cent it's worth: "They are murdering the Whale-god, send us money!" Africans I have met are aware of this, when discussing wildlife management they will tell a Norwegian that "the elephant is the whale of Africa" - threatened in some places, plentiful in other. (And of course there are some 200 species of whale, not "the Whale" of the "environmental" organizations.) Seals are somewhat the same, I believe I can actually get arrested if I travel to the US wearing a seal-skin coat. Seals will definitely overpopulate, the result being depletion of fish stocks, then starvation and disease in the seal population. Is it immoral to kill animals with big, black eyes?

I believe in healthy populations of all species (biological diversity, I think is the current political term), and I was delighted when biologists recently found wolf-poop a mile from where I live - less than 20 miles from downtown Oslo. That means there is still some wilderness left out there. But we still need to manage some game populations, anything else would be immoral.

And if you're interested in a real big game gun, check this out. :D
Still made by Raufoss, the same company that makes the multipurpose .50 BMG round.

Art Eatman
April 28, 2002, 02:51 PM
:D Any number can play!

At the time of the colonization of North America, hunting in England was pretty much restricted to the Upper Classes. I have read that part of the disgruntlement which led to the French Revolution was the effort on the part of the nobility to restrict hunting from the peasantry...

"Is it immoral to kill animals with big, black eyes?" Nope. Very much Politically Incorrect, of course. Sorta reinforces my comments about emotion vs. rational thought and knowledge.

:), Art

April 28, 2002, 03:51 PM
"sustainable harvest" Key.
Thank you Ultima Thule.
Flashback to a different continent.

"Honey, come quick, there's a moose in the hoose."
"Don't you mean a mouse dear ?"
"No honey, a big honkin MOOOSE."


April 28, 2002, 05:17 PM
Sam, are you confusing my accent with someone else's?

Largest number of moose observed at the same time on the sundeck of my parents' house is three. My mother is a bit uncomfortable at the thought of running into any of them at night. She nearly had a heart attack last autumn, coming home from work late at night. She was walking towards the door and looking in her purse for her keys at the same time when she suddenly walked face first into something very large, warm and furry. Turned out one of the neighbour's horses was AWOL, leaning against the front door to get shelter from the rain. :D

April 30, 2002, 03:28 PM
Hunters take the flak for too many things.

It doesn't take much effort to find references about "the white devil hunting the buffalo to extinction". But the truth is, Brucellosis killed the largest portion, by far.

Art Eatman
May 1, 2002, 08:22 AM
Pigshooter, I won't argue against brucellosis, but stories of the final days of the great herds don't mention disease. We do know that the hide-hunters' efforts were supported and at least partially subsidized by the government.

The use of the word "hunter" in "buffalo hunter" has carried forward to this day, even there is no relationship whatsoever as to motivation and behavior. That was killing for money, on the part of the shooters. There was no "hunting" as we know it today in a world of free-ranging deer and coyotes. We live in a world of limits, seasons and multitudes of other regulations. These restrictions, largely instituted by the hunting fraternity, have contributed greatly to our present abundance of game.


Dave B
May 1, 2002, 01:52 PM
Pigshooter, can you post a reference to your claim:

But the truth is, Brucellosis killed the largest portion, by far.


May 2, 2002, 09:06 PM
in the olde daze the Canadian Geese were harrassed out of populated areas

now they are permitted to breed & return unmolested to any patch of grass.
I saw a pair looking for a nest site near a highway in central PA last weekend

100 years ago they would have been a quick lunch to a fox or a coyote

now they are overpopulating to vermin status

last summer i saw a pathetic sight
a goose had been hit in the central thru lanes of I-270
its mate was wandering the lanes honking

a goose strike at 65 MPH is a Darwin moment


Art Eatman
May 2, 2002, 09:32 PM
dZ, that's why I made my comment about Salter and Disney. The sort of thinking they've engendered--an unintended consequence--has led to the emotions which then lead to unrealistic laws and ordinances concerning wildlife.

Among other bits and pieces, geese in some locales have adopted power-plant cooling-water ponds as winter habitat and resist continuing southern migration. A local city then passes an ordinance forbidding "harassment" of these darling creatures, and they transmogrify into "feathered rats".

It's reminiscent of the use of the Marine Mammal anti-harassment law, used in San Francisco to justify not running sea lions from marinas. This rendered some marinas useless and the lions destroyed boats by climbing aboard as "sundeck" sites. The intent of the law, of course, was to protect animals in their normal habitat--which didn't at all faze either the various animal-rights groups or their tame judge.


Freedom in theSkies
May 2, 2002, 10:18 PM
In the arctic nesting grounds of the Snow Goose, Greater Canada Goose and Lesser Canada Goose, they have absolutely destroyed their own habitat. The numbers are so great now, that they are causing damage to the tundra that will take up to a hundred years to come back, if left alone. Could this be due to the natural predator populations decreasing? Or could it be something as simple as the price of steel shotshells?- Possibly a contributing factor?

Art Eatman
May 2, 2002, 11:32 PM
Freedom, didn't this problem begin some ten years or so back? I sorta remember some articles about the problem.

Probably the most objective information could be supplied by Ducks Unlimited. Their efforts, their biologists, spend the most time in such "looking at". IMO, the USF&WS should be knowledgeable, but they've become so politicized I don't trust their objectivity.


El Loco Lobo
May 3, 2002, 01:51 AM
The hunted population of the animals may not be as numerous as they were in the "glory days", but the human population has increased and taken over the original habitats. The need for using the animals for primary food source, shelter is also not as big of an issue either.
Elk & buffalo have been pushed into areas that we have decided not to populated yet. Yellowstone is a great example. When the herds became to large for the park, instead of letting hunts go on in a National Park, hay is brought in to feed in the winter. Forcing the animals into a set area increasing the numbers infected with brucilosis making a dying herd.
Then some desk jockey got this hair balled idea to buy wolves from Canada and introduce them back into this area. many have already been destroyed for killing domestic live stock.
With proper use of human predators the herds could be brought back to healthy numbers and the Canadians can have the wolves back (if they really want them). You bet put in quotas,I not for full out eradication of every game animal, but lets get these herds healthy for our kids and grand kids. Trying to tell my kids what animal acts like with chronic wasting disease is something I don't want to do!
As for gophers, or p-dogs if all of us shot one each day for the rest of our lives we might dent there population so lets shot 2:D

May 3, 2002, 02:12 AM
C.R. Sam, Moby Richard! LOL:D

Art Eatman
May 3, 2002, 09:24 AM
Hokay. Brucellosis in the Yellowstone-area herd is well known. The near demise, however occurred in the late 1800s. By the 1890s-1910 period, the total non-Canadian bison population was allegedly down below 100. At the time of the War of Northern Aggression, they numbered in the millions, having ranged from east of the Mississippi into the Rockies; south into central Texas.

There are numerous small herds around the U.S.; these keep the gene pool adequately healthy because of inter-herd trades.

Separately, and finally addressing Cato's query about Prairie Dogs, the discovery of the interactions of dogs, owls and ferrets has reduced the official government policy of eradication by poisoning. The reproduction rate is too high for present hunting methods to affect the populations.


ballistic gelatin
May 3, 2002, 05:33 PM

Art Eatman
May 3, 2002, 09:47 PM
:D What, you want a *&$#% discourse on Alumgaters? Hokay.

Poaching for hides for shoes and purses was a degree of threat, but once the system of allowing only the purchase of hides with numbers stamped on them, available only through "channels", was instituted, poaching pretty much ceased.

As expected, we're now bum deep in gator poop.

Heck, they even have big--seriously big--gators on the Nueces River in Texas! Around Cotulla, which is a very arid area.

Gator tail tastes Serously Good. Chewy, though. Try 'em at Al T's Cafe at Winnie, Texas, at I-10.

:), Art

May 4, 2002, 01:52 PM
The PETA and Greenpeace people will never concede the fact that hunters are conservationists, and that we do so much more to help sustain populations than they ever do. It really chokes me that a small minority of these radicals can jeopardize our rights to hunt and fish. 'Catch and release fishing is cruel and psychologically traumitizing to those poor fish'.....reee-ally.

I have a good story from my neck of the woods, here in northern BC, Canada. Early 80's, Paul Watson and some other Greenpeace activists come to town in the dead of winter, -45 deg Celcius, to protest the wolf hunt. The local population of wolves is too great, so the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife is opening a hunt to check the numbers. With it being so damned cold, and not being the brightest people in the world, Paul and gang are NOT prepared for the weather. No helicopter company in town or surrounding areas will fly them out to the bush, for fear of being responsible for their freezing to death. Too bad they didn't. Anyways, they are forced to stay in town, and they protest in the town square. A local resident of Fort Nelson comes walking up to the protesters with a dead wolf draped over his shoulders, and proceeds to throw it at Paul Watson's feet. 'Here's your noble creature....' he says, or something to that effect, pointing out that the poor wolf is starving to death and is loosing half it's fur to disease.

Let the hunter manage his own affairs, and PETA can manage the food found in grocery stores. 'Poor chickens, forced to live like that....'

Dave B
May 7, 2002, 04:20 PM
Take the following as constructive comments from a lifelong hunter...

Many 'civilians' - not just PETA fundimentalists - are repulsed by hunting that is not specifically intended to put meat on somebody's table.

Prairie dog hunts, in which guys do the 'red mist' thing from 1/4 mile away, are a good example of the sort of spectacle guaranteed to piss off people who otherwise are fine with meat hunting. Any arguments made of the 'PD holes make cows break their legs' variety are seen as excuses for men to go out and exercise their manhood at the expense of small animals.

Please, think about this kind of stuff carefully. I can think of no moral justification for killing animals for enjoyment, and I'm a hunter. I believe that the africa 'kill an elephant/lion/baboon/etc cause it's cool' videos are a PR disaster waiting to happen: the sight of these animals dying, and of the clients celebrating, makes me real angry.

If we want to keep being able to hunt, I believe that we must find a way to minimize the slob hunting stuff, and reinforce hunting as a way to eat honestly, or to deal with real habitat issues. Hunting should not be excuse to kill things for our own pleasure.


May 7, 2002, 10:25 PM
We each need to inform as many non-hunters as possible about the true value of hunting within the natural world. An un-informed majority can do a lot of damage in a democracy. Setting a good personal example is always the best first step as well as involving newer & younger hunters-to-be. Then read-up on the subject; history, philosophy, biology, ethics of hunting, etc. in order to be a convincing hunter/spokesman.

At the same time we also need to work on reining-in some of our hunting brethren, and it's not just the "slobs", whose damage to our image is obvious. When "trophies" are engineered via artificial insemination and selective breeding behind tall game-proof fencing, and then harvested under supplimental feeders from air-conditioned blinds - hunting as a tradition, is deminished. These "trophies" deserve no recognition.

Now, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is threatening wild game herds after jumping the fences of "deer & elk farms".

Art Eatman
May 8, 2002, 09:08 AM
Dave B: I follow your point about the "Red Mist". There are two problems, here.

As with pro sports in this country, Americans seem to always operate on the basis "If some is good, more is better." I don't care if it's football or NASCAR. For that matter, I've watched the unending sales pitches of "Our small car is bigger than their small car."

Thus we have the PD shooters hyping the Red Mist stuff, and working toward ever more accurate rifles to shoot more PDs at longer distances. This is followed by the "Look what I did!" pride of accomplishment.

Now, from a PR standpoint, it's bad. Which gets us back to modern America and "Perception is more important than fact."

I get irate every time I hear this "the cow steps in the hole" nonsense. But what do I know? I've only been around cows since 1940, so maybe I've got much yet to learn. The fact is that PDs eat a lot of grass. Or alfalfa. This does not help a rancher or farmer when its time to pay his ad valorem taxes or the loan at the bank.

The government has poisoned prairie dogs by tens of millions. The PD Shooter can barely keep up with the reproduction rate, if that.

I realize that in modern America, it's merely abstract to folks if farmers and ranchers go broke. After all, bread comes from the grocery; who needs wheat fields? Alfalfa hay for Ms. Yuppy's horse comes from the feed store--who needs a farmer who'd kill a prairie dog? And there are jillions of ranches in areas besides PD country.

So let's recognize the perception problem, and not join the folks in assuming that Red Mist is anything more than maybe just a touch of "bad manners".


Art Eatman
May 8, 2002, 09:13 AM
BluRidgDav: As one who began hunting "chee-chee"birds with a Daisy Red Ryder in 1940, I'm uncomfortable with the idea of the "game farm" and stylized "hunting". My problem is that I really hate to say "No!" to folks who do their thing on their own property. I guess my limit would be to not acknowlege the validity of B&C points to "created" trophy animals.

Except as we come to your final "...Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is threatening wild game herds after jumping the fences of "deer & elk farms"."

I know this is suspected. Do you have any definitive proof that this is the case?


May 8, 2002, 09:50 AM
As Art mentioned earlier.
"Bambi" will haunt us forever.
Locusts, rats, mice etc are fair game for control.

Deer, prarie dogs etc are "cute" and therefore off limits to the PC.

Good deeds by hunters go largly unnoticed. Bad impressions spread rapidly.


May 9, 2002, 03:08 PM
Urban deer are a good example of what happens when you remove predators and prevent hunting. A local suburb has experienced some 700 car/deer collisions per year. That's 700 deer dead or injured, and about a million dollars worth of damage to cars.

And this isn't a BIG suburb!

But will the tree-huggers even consider hunting? No way, no how. After all the deer were here first, and having people shoot them - or even bowhunt - isn't NATURAL. So they propose things like deer contraception. (Hmmm . . . One buck, one doe, one condom . . . )

One of these tree-huggers really got upset when I told her that if she wants the deer population managed by nature, we'll have to reintroduce mountain lions, bears, wolves, and Indians into her back yard. ;)

Art Eatman
May 9, 2002, 08:42 PM
HankB, just explain to your tree-huggers that you hunt because you're a natural-food freak.

:D, Art