June 3, 2023

How Far Is Too Far?

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Put and take seems to be the rage these days. It used to be just for fishing where biologists opted to farm their own fish and put it into bodies of water and let fishermen take it out. This has since run over into other game species like elk, big horn sheep, antelope, pheasant and many other species.

We all have our opinions on this kind of wildlife science but at what point are we taking this kind of semi-wild, semi-farm-raised management too far?

In Wyoming for instance, there are places where the aspen trees are dying off and becoming overrun with conifers. Aspen is forage for elk and big horn sheep. When the aspen is gone and there are too many animals devouring the forage, starvation and disease sets in making for a not so pretty sight.

Nature also has a way of regenerating itself and evolving. Often times when wildlife devour the young aspen plants, this provides opportunity for the conifer trees to take root and take over aspen groves. In order to help counter this event, nearly a quarter million dollars is going to be spent in efforts to regenerate aspen growth for the wildlife. Much of this effort involves prescribed burns that will kill off the conifer and allow for new growth aspen to replace it, as well as harvesting of conifers and creating clearings.

My question is how far is too far? How far do we go to maintain our put and take wildlife? It’s not just hunters that are demanding the opportunity to hunt species like elk and big horn sheep. Recreationist of every kind want to see these animals too and obviously are willing to spend the money to make sure they can.

We will need to redefine wildlife. In how many years will there not be by definition, wild life in the forests. We are working toward becoming a very large semi-enclosed game farm by putting animals here and there and providing feed stations, etc. When there gets to be too many we move them to another location and start again. We now are manipulating the forests for the animals.

In the Rocky Mountain National Forest, there are too many elk. Officials there plan to slaughter thousands of the animals over the course of years because the elk are eating up everything in its path, even forcing other wild animals to go elsewhere for food and habitat.

The driving force behind all this doesn’t come from hunters because hunting is banned in Rocky Mountain National Park. The driving force comes from tourists demanding that they see elk and other wildlife while driving around in their hi-tech vehicles riding in comfort. This isn’t wildife. This is drive through zoos.

Where will it end or will it? The struggle to co-exist treads on some thin areas. Is what we are doing in our management plans for wildlife generated through guilt because we keep encroaching on the habit of these creatures? Or is it that we want our cake and eat it too?

Mother Nature is losing control and doesn’t have a lot to say these days except when she rains down her fury.

Tom Remington