August 25, 2019

When Too Much Management is a Problem

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A talk by Jim Beers at the Big Game Management SYMPOSIUM

Cranbrook, British Columbia

13 April 2019

Comments and Observations Concerning Predators, Prey & Modernity A Solution

This is a talk I would like to give in the following locations.

–       Scotland (where a proposal to introduce wolves into a massive land enclosure is under consideration);

–       Finland (where Finns are forced to confront and control Russian wolves using EU rules and restrictions);

–       France, Germany, Spain and Italy (where growing wolf densities are causing increasing livestock losses, game and hunting declines, and human safety concerns, all ignored by EU rulers in Brussels);

–       Each of The Lower 48 States of the US (where wolves are or will eventually occur and those similarly enduring federal grizzly bears or excessive and unmanaged cougar populations and their effects):

–       The Provinces of Canada (where wolves, grizzly bears, black bears and/or cougars are always seen as “too few” by urban voters, and “too many” by rural residents living with these large predators and their effects)

There are also other places where I would like to share what I am about to say such as Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, India, and Africa where their problems with the death, carnage and economic losses wrought by uncontrolled large predator populations from Nile crocodiles to wolves in settled landscapes.  There are 2 reasons that explain why I refer to these locations as “other places”.

1.    The remedies I want to suggest are unrealistic where local rural people cannot be authorized year after year to control large predators and their impacts due to autocratic rulers, weapon restrictions, limited hunting and other animal control programs, United Nations’ rules concerning trophy shipping and restrictions on animal parts that make non-resident hunting problematic, and particularly governments that are vulnerable to anti-hunting and anti-wildlife management foreign political money-lobbying such as Kenya..

2.    Disarmed rural residents, although they have other means of control, cannot have serious annual, much less persistent, impacts on large predator densities nor can they long be exposed to these predators unarmed when attempting controls without incurring serious injuries and deaths.

The Problem

Large Predators chase, attack, wound, kill, and eat Big Game animals, cattle, sheep, dogs, humans and any other live meat they encounter and find to be vulnerable.  Most Large Predators range over wide areas.  They eat and probe dead, dying and often infected animals. They are exposed to and spread a litany of diseases and infections that kill and disable humans, Big Game animals, other wildlife, cattle, sheep, dogs, and other animals.

When large predators attack or kill humans, Local Communities (and not far-off politicians, bureaucrats or environmentalists) know what the problem is and take every allowable solution, and some that are not allowed, to solve “The Problem”.  In effect, far-away rulers are both physically and responsibility-wise, as well as unaccountable for the long list of abuses, dangers and costs of both equating and raising the political priority of such Large Predators above the status and needs of the rural people forced to live with and amongst increasingly dense and widespread Large Predators.

When Large Predators kill cows, calves, sheep, lambs, dogs, and other domestic animals; their rural owners are simply victims and depending on the location and mood of officials, there may or may not be an effective but temporary solution offered to the victimized owner.  Otherwise, those harmed are told to suck it up or go elsewhere (something hoped for by radical organizations and government agencies eager to purchase (at reduced prices), ease or otherwise control rural lands and people.

When Large Predators kill Big Game the situation changes dramatically.  First, there is no owner to note the kill, nor is there anyone to demand retribution, compensation or a solution to avoid this in the future. 

Second, there is no running documentation about how many or what kind (calf, pregnant cow, fawn, old male, young male, etc.) was killed: therefore there is no estimate of what percent of the herd or its reproductive capacity was killed last year, the year before or how reproduction is and has been affected. Pro-Predator experts and bureaucrats can blame climate change or claim that there is some sort of new disease (how does the layman dispute this?)  but you can bet it is almost certainly wolf or grizzly/black or cougar predation, or all four if their numbers have been increasing and you increasingly see them pursuing game animals into towns where Big Game seeks safety, or simply encounter them prowling about residences or towns in search of food, or hunters no longer reporting finding game animals.  Like other wildlife, the more often you see large predators as you drive about, the more abundant large predators are becoming and the more Big Game it takes to support the larger predator populations. Wolves are the most likely perpetrators of the majority of Big Game declines in North America and other places like Russia and Europe. Big Game reductions are invariably accompanied by domestic livestock depredation and dog deaths because wolves are usually the most broadly impactful and effective predators due to their pack behavior, large roaming habits, and adaptability that makes them constant evaders of controls and, collectively, they have a larger demand for meat than either cougars or grizzly or black bears due to their size, numbers and their opportunistic habit of killing more than they eat as they do with sheep and cattle when they are unprotected much like the behavior of domestic free-roaming dogs.

Third, there is nothing you can document or resolve about big game predation unlike human or domestic animal predation where you can take some intermittently effective precautions like keeping domestic prey of family members under increased protection and scaring off predators when seen.  Killing many of the large predators and reducing their densities locally to first recover the Big Game populations and then to maintain the animals on which they prey is the only answer to recovering declining or disappearing Big Game populations.  Dense or increasing wolf populations invariably mean more depredation and fewer of the prey animals.  Wolf impacts on Big Game are directly proportional to their numbers and the availability of Big Game animals where they cohabit.  When large predators reach certain densities, especially as in the settled landscapes they are now re-invading under government force and protection, anyone maintaining that Big Game animals are not the #1 source of protein for uncontrolled large predators, especially wolves, is simply lying to you.  Further, in settled landscapes, large predators will, when uncontrolled amongst abundant food sources, increase their densities until the total food supply dwindles as it did on Isle Royale island in Lake Superior where as I speak government bureaucrats are releasing wolves that all but became extinct after they caused the moose population (their only food source on the island) to crash.  The difference on the mainland (of North America and Europe et al) is that when the wolves kill nearly all the moose (or elk or caribou) hunting seasons are reduced and then closed down (forever?) as happened with moose in Minnesota.  This eliminates a major component of rural economies and rural lifestyles without any relief because when, for instance, the moose are made rare or exterminated the wolves and cougars and bears shift to deer, cows, elk, sheep, fawns, caribou, bucks, does, remaining moose, kids (human) and other fallback food sources like garbage cans and dogs (when not in heat) to both maintain and increase their numbers. They then maintain and increase their numbers and their ancillary effects on man, the economy and “the environment” proliferate accordingly.

You should beware of anyone concluding that any of this is the result of too little management of wildlife.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Worldwide, wildlife has been bombarded with “more” management with more hidden agendas and government abuse being steered by private and anonymous organizations and wealthy donors, than at any time in human history.

The last hundred years have seen wildlife management on a Power “Escalator” throughout the world. Beginning in the 1960’s, Local communities saw their ability to control  their “ecosystem” for their own benefit no longer protected by State, Provincial or national (in Europe) governments.  Increasingly central governments, government alliances and international authorities began to assume all authority and jurisdiction over all subsidiary jurisdictions and communities below them. State, Provincial, and other secondary (to national) government political authorities submitted to this takeover with a promise of central government funding and a “holistic” approach to a worldwide “ecosystem” in which all species were treated “equally” in a one-world governmental approach.  Not mentioned was the inarguable opposition these emerging superpowers had toward the use and management of renewable natural resources such as forestry, grazing and hunting that they were simultaneously assuming.  For instance, as forcibly-imposed Large Predators populations were being justified as “necessary” and “harmless”; the accumulation of fire-fuel for catastrophic forest fires and the closure of access to public lands to create a “native ecosystem” of “wilderness” was dismissed as  a “natural” “wilderness”-type habitat so imagined by urban voters, rich radical organizations, wealthy individuals, lobbyists and politicians influenced by votes and contributions.

In the 1960’s, in the US and elsewhere, national governments began seizing the authority and jurisdiction over wildlife held by State, Provincial and secondary national political entities.  They did this not only because they and their new laws said they could but, more importantly, they did this to curry favor with an emerging (in Western Nations) faction of radical organizations that wanted to “save” wildlife, forests and grasslands; to stop the “killing” (i.e. hunting and eating) of animals; to do away with guns and gun usage worldwide; to make rural precincts little more than central-government-controlled nature areas with minimal and strictly dictated human occupancy and activity.  The “mother’s milk” for all this was money-making environmental organizations contributing money and votes to agreeable politicians as the public began to be propagandized through the schools and the media. For instance, “studies” popped up everywhere that “proved” grazing should be eliminated, tree-cutting was immoral; livestock should be banned, meat eating “destroyed the environment”, animal ownership was akin to slavery, former concepts of property and freedom must be replaced; and – of interest to us – predators don’t limit other wildlife and animals, and no matter their offense or impacts predators should not be hurt because, like so many social theories extant today, the offending animal is the “real” victim and the human or property or community that suffered is the “real” perpetrator and must either change or be forced to change what he, she or it did (if still alive) to cause the incident.

By 1970, the radical agendas and (now) wealthy and influential organizations had enlisted many “scientists”, wealthy supporters, and an assortment of fellow travelers in the broad “environmental”/animal “rights” movement. Hidden agendas emerged in an explosion of new wildlife laws that were ultimately anti-gun, anti-tradition, and anti-Lower-Level-government movements identifying themselves with the wildlife concepts of “Native” Species and “Native” Ecosystems as morally imperative and the animals = human philosophy began ascending throughout Western civilization.  The combined monetary and political clout with the many hidden agendas outgrew the ability of national governments to speedily fulfill their dreams so they lobbied and even bribed many national representatives to the United Nations to offer Conventions and Treaties (not in the US sense of a Treaty being Ratified by the Senate and signed by the President but in the sense of a sort of “high-end” International Agreement between any signatory nation and anywhere from a few to over a hundred countries, some that no more intended to or were capable of enforcing them to others like the US that jails, fines, demeans and takes rights away for lifetimes to enforce them.  Some national governments like Kenya were bribed to be used as misleading propaganda of how untouched predator and prey populations would self-regulate satisfactorily in settled landscapes without human intervention. 

Thus was born, to the great enthusiasm of UN advocates, the road from the UN as arbiter of international disputes (to avoid wars), to the UN as the up and coming “World Government” so loved by the organizations and agendas calved by the successful wildlife power take-over.  Treaties and Conventions sprouted like poppies after a rain.  Suddenly the UN (and its biggest supporter, the US government) was protecting (i.e. “saving” as in no use) “Endangered Species”, Marine Mammals, High Seas Fisheries, Polar Bears, Birds “in Danger”, Whales, “Nature Protection, the “Human Environment”, and Heritage Areas et al.  Nations, like the US, followed the lead and passed laws setting aside land areas, proposing wildlife “corridors” (to be expanded later), claims to “all waters”, rules to block pipelines and destroy dams, claims to disgorge the National Treasury of billions to manage the fish and non-game resources in states and to employ scientists and bureaucrats to justify their new rules using draconian measures and punishments. 

This period (1970’s & 80’s) was to the environmental enthusiasts, their lawyers and cooperating bureaucrats and scientists like what the wolves must have felt like when released on Isle Royale island in Lake Superior amidst a dense moose herd that they must have thought (which they are incapable of but humor me) would last forever.  Somewhat, also, like the circumstances the first U-Boat commanders encountered in unprotected US coastal waters at the beginning of WWII that caused them to call them “The Happy Time”. All three such periods made their human perpetrators giddy with what they imagined would last forever.  It wasn’t the wolves’ new home, or the new laws protecting animals, or the shipping destruction of the U-Boats: it was unfettered POWER they expected to grow over more and more things.  One of those things was centralized regulatory Power over rural people and rural communities. There was no better social weapon up to that point to subdue rural people than protecting the predators and making wildlife and livestock and dogs merely governmental items allowed only if the government needed anything from rural people, otherwise the “protection of predators”, the existence of any use of any renewable natural resource, and the very fate of rural people and rural economies was to be a political fantasy plaything for urban voters.

All of which has brought us here, today in Cranbrook, British Columbia.  Like thousands of Europeans living with and struggling with wolves; millions of Americans perplexed about the wolf dilemma foisted on them; and Canadians asking, “why must we endure all these Large Predators”,  “what recourse have we?” and “how can we restore robust Big Game populations and Big Game Hunting?”: we are in search of a workable soulution.

The Problem common to all is too many conflicting agendas controlling too many government (UN, Brussels, Ottawa, Washington, Provincial, State, European capitals) powers, while employing manufactured science, half-truths and all too-willing politicians doing their bidding for money and votes.

The common justification for attaining or preserving a “balanced” or “natural” ecosystem is a chimera in this modern world of massive transportation; comprehensive development; and the worldwide spread of plants, animals and dangerous diseases and infections.  “Balance” lies in the eye of the beholder, and “natural” is a human construct be it uncontrolled wolves in Asia due to government neglect and citizen powerlessness or American, Canadian and European government faux “feelings” for predators and use of jail and fines to enforce intolerable conditions on Local communities with little political power in order to please urban supporters.  In fact “Too Much Management” leads to “No Management” because the underlying agenda(s) are not “scientific” but social constructs and impositions, all on different timetables as a result of diverse political powers.

The question then becomes, “How do you get around or manage all these political constructs to achieve a tolerable Local ecosystem in its broadest sense?”  The immediate subject before us is: 1.) How can we reduce Large Predator densities to levels that allow Big Game numbers to recover to levels desired by those living with them; and 2.) How can we maintain levels of prey and predators into the future for the benefit of Local communities recognizing the innate and laudable human concern to maintain both human and wild communities.  At no time in the history of the world was the challenge greater or the ability of modern society to solve it more available.  It is ironic that simultaneously, world governments and an abundance of hidden agendas have never been more determined and powerful to make wildlife merely a pawn in their struggle to dominate and control all persons, everywhere.

It is with this in mind that I have formulated a rationale and solution for your consideration.

Three States

I would like to tell you about three States in the United States; two have no wolves and one is the only one of the Lower 48 States that had a persistent wolf population when, in the 1970’s, the US federal government declared The Lower 48 States as the object of restoring wolves by the federal government that would release and protect them at all costs.  Why they were so designated when they were and still are ubiquitous throughout the Northern Hemisphere, I leave to your imagination but it is a fair subject for another examination.

South Dakota (Cougars)

When I retired to Minnesota in 2008, there was a controversy in South Dakota about an exploding cougar population.  Between wandering cougars from Montana and Wyoming, plus four large Indian Reservations and a major National Park (where hunting and control were problematic at best), plus a high cougar birthrate in an environment without competition and lots of food; combined with a State Wildlife Agency (like nearly every modern such agency) manned by wildlife “savers” and protectors that despise predator control; the cattle ranchers, residents and hunters.  Ranchers “West of The (i.e. Missouri) River” were being opposed at every turn by the wildlife agency opposed to “control” and “reduction” of the expanding cougar population that was creating a growing depredation problem.

The modern bureaucrats objected because cougars were, they said, only “returning Native species” and they were “Keystone” species that were “necessary” for a “balanced” ecosystem.  In short the ranchers were told to go away and leave it to the “professionals”.

I was invited to speak about this at a Conference sponsored by the ranchers in Rapid City. I told them it wasn’t a biology problem; it was a political problem.  Either they must control their bureaucrats and government or somebody else would and at that point the state bureaucrats were agents of radical agendas disguised as “science” and the good of the current precious species du jour.

The ranchers eventually exercised raw power in the South Dakota legislature and with the Governor who directed a reluctant agency to issue X number of permits annually to take cougars “West of the River”.  A couple of years went by and when it was clear that they were not reducing the cougar population to THE LEVELS AND IMPACTS DEEMED TOLERABLE TO THE “LOCAL” (I.E. WEST OF THE RIVER) COMMUNITIES, they requested an increase in permits and were rebuffed again so they went back to the legislature and both increased the number of permits available and established a system wherein ranchers can request so many permits for their ranch and then cat hunters pay the state for the permit and get it from the ranch they hunt.  The increase was necessary because overcoming the refuge-like-status on Indian Reservations and two Large National Parks, that were reservoirs and breeding locations for the cats, called for innovations, increased take authority and raw political power.

*Today the cougars and the ranchers are maintaining themselves harmoniously, so far as I know.

Minnesota (Wolves)

I am no fan of modern Minnesota wildlife management.  About 6 or 7 years ago on a farm in SW Minnesota in winter when there is nothing but a few farmsteads and a town or two for miles and miles in an endless ocean of fall-plowed (i.e. barren) soil; one of those (young male) South Dakota cougars ran into a culvert on the road into a Minnesota farmer’s home.  He saw it and in addition to his several children, he had some horses and probably the last time anyone had seen a cougar in that part of Minnesota was when William Howard Taft (1909 -1913) was in the White House.  So, not taking any chances with his horses or his kids he shot the cougar and called the State wildlife agency.

He was treated like John Dillinger.  The urban majority screamed and the papers dutifully called for the maximum penalty.  Professors warbled for weeks about the importance of “Native Species” and urban walkers in the Twin Cities began relating their joy at sightings of cougars in urban River Bottoms crisscrossed with asphalt walkways.  It was a disgraceful circus and somehow the farmer got off with a stiff fine, suspended jail time and a warning that if he ever violated these new laws protecting everything again he would be locked up and the key thrown away.

Today, Minnesota’s once-excellent walleye fishing is declining mainly due to uncontrolled Indian netting in all of the top walleye lakes.  The walleyes are sold to dealers in a quasi-legal “traditional” native take/commercial manner after a court refused to prosecute involved natives and then was forced to drop their case against non-native co-perpetrators.

When a young Minnesota camper was sleeping just outside his tent in a federal campground one summer night a wolf grabbed him by the head and then was scared off.  Our erstwhile state wildlife bureaucrats claimed to have then killed that particular wolf and that an autopsy revealed that – are you ready for this – the wolf only attacked him because it had a “deformed brain”.  No other controls or precautions were taken.  Similar nonsense was used when two elderly ladies disappeared in an Idaho National Park and their bodies found far apart and reportedly chewed up by wolves.  On the Upper Peninsula of Michigan an elderly Wisconsin lady disappeared about 5 years ago behind her cabin one night and was found the next morning in pieces: no investigation was conducted, the bodies removed, autopsies were made remotely, results were sealed, and no one involved ever offered any explanation.  Quicker than you can say “Jack Robin”, everyone forgot.

About 4 years ago when a radio-collared wolf was shot on a Minnesota Indian Reservation, the federal and state officers descended to “recover the collar” and find the “killer”.  It turned out the killer was an Indian teenager, HHMMM!  The young man was not prosecuted.  If you or I had “vaccinated” that wolf we would have lost a lot of money and probably be hoping right now to see our family on Visiting Day next month.

That is Minnesota today; but it is revealing to wonder why Minnesota was the only one of The Lower 48 States to have an established resident wolf population when the federal government declared wolves “Endangered” in The Lower 48 States almost 50 years ago.  It is a story worth knowing when an urban relative or some young person home from college begins hyperventilating about how any wolf controls or any discussion of tolerable wolf population levels are as unacceptable as killing wolves “for sport” or with traps or from airplanes, etc. etc.

When Minnesota was first seen by European settlers bent on farming, logging, exploring and mining; wolves occurred statewide but sparsely in the Southern hills with wooded wetlands and stream edges or on the prairies in the western edges of the State.  The majority of wolves were in the Northern 1/3 of the state where thick woods, lakes and abundant Big Game animals supported a robust wolf population.  This area was and remains contiguous with the extensive woodlands bogs, muskeg and lakes of even more sparsely settled Eastern Ontario.  In fact they remain one big wolf habitat up to the waters of Hudson Bay.

By the early 1900’s Big Game (moose, caribou and deer) were getting harder to find in Minnesota.  One must assume that wolves (that were pretty much shot on sight or for their fur in those days of no regulation) were also not finding as much unprotected food or Big Game anymore and were similarly in decline.  State Game Laws were enacted through the early years of the 20th century to protect animals that were hunted or trapped in order to ensure their survival in perpetuity. Minnesota wolves were gradually protected and for many decades there was a season that was longer than Big Game Seasons but always overlapped Big Game hunting so that Big Game hunters killed wolves when they saw them in that thick Northern forest.  Additionally, wolves were known to cause problems like livestock depredation, reduce moose and other Big Game, and hang around homes and towns in the winter where human safety and dog safety were problems. Thus killing a wolf in a pasture or attacking your dog outside the “season” was either ignored or legitimized by broadly-written regulations and understanding Local law enforcement officers.  Up until the 1970’s and going back thousands of years, rural people understood that the more wolves in any neighborhood, meant more killed and eaten (by wolves) game animals, cows, calves, sheep, and lambs.  This, in turn meant less meat available for human consumption.  So the Minnesota wolf take seemed to be OK locally since they could kill dangerous or offending animals annually and when hunting.  What local communities in wolf country wanted and what “their” State provided in those days was a tolerable wolf presence and available moose hunting (that was closed recently due to too few moose coincidental with total wolf protection). Today the State ignores the local communities needs, caters to the federal government who caters to and supports UN meddling in wildlife, guns and other things while promising, dishonestly, what was already here in Minnesota.  The result roday is too many wolves, no more moose hunting, dead dogs, large cattle and sheep depredations, increased rural stress and rural economic stagnation.

Between Ontario wolves historically expanding into Minnesota and thick, wet forests that made Minnesota wolves less vulnerable to mounted hunters and technology like scopes, more accurate ammunition, and binoculars that enabled residents of other Lower 48 wolf states to exterminate wolves over the past century; wolves and men co-existed.  For over half a century a hit-or-miss control of Minnesota wolf harvests and depredation minimization kept wolves at levels tolerable to Local people and maintained a modest wolf population, something all the government programs claim to want but never seem to define oraccomplish.  It is a paradox of modern society that all these “save” this and that critter, when successful, transform the object of government might (like resident Canada geese and “Free-Roaming” buffalo) from “icons” into dangerous and infectious pests wherever they live.  Today wolves are very numerous pests that have eliminated moose hunting, kill high numbers of livestock, hybridize dogs and are hybridized by dogs, and make hunting with a dog (grouse, ducks) a dangerous affair for dogs and hunter.

Yet, the lesson from the first 2/3 of the last century wherein Local and loosely controlled harvests maintained a wolf population tolerable to Locals and a source of pride and awe to urban dwellers; is forgotten, ignored and dismissed as “cruel” and not “scientific”.

* In truth it (pre-ESA wolf management in Minnesota) was good for the Local communities, good for Big Game and Big Game hunting, good for livestock, and good for the rural Minnesota economy.

Virginia (Deer)

I was a Virginian for over 30 years of my long life.  When I first went deer hunting there I was stunned and perplexed by the apparent blizzard of deer hunting regulations.  The last thing I wanted as a wildlife worker was to get caught shooting or transporting an illegal deer.

I have copies of the current regulations here for anyone wanting to see them after the talk.  The length of seasons, the numbers and kinds of deer allowed, the guns allowed or prohibited, the use of dogs, the ammunition allowed were apparently set by the Counties and enforced by the State.  Once I caught on, I was amazed at how efficiently for both hunters and deer, the system worked.

Western Virginia (mostly wooded hills, valleys and less dense deer populations had more similar seasons, harvest periods, rifle areas, bag limits, and no deer hunting with dogs.  N to S Central Virginia had more differences between Counties in guns (rifles, black powder, balls, shot, slugs; seasons, bag limits on certain days, and make-up of the bag (young bucks, does, and on certain days) and hunting with dogs was more common..  Eastern Virginia with its thick forests, wetlands and farms had the most variety and changed the most regarding dogs, guns, ammunition, season lengths, and bag limits. Regulations could be adjusted annually as  more homes were built or crop damage increased or the majority of hunters in the County wanted to shift from all the venison they could get to bigger bucks or shorter seasons or only certain days of the week. NOTE to readers – it worked.  Deer numbers persisted, farm damage was minimized, Local deer herds were managed for big bucks or lots of deer or were reduced or grown in ac cord with the wishes of the Local Counties (i.e. communities).  Counties where wealthy government retirees were building retirement homes shifted to buckshot or eliminated dog packs for hunting. Other Counties that were growing more soybeans were pressured (by residents) to reduce the deer herd.  

One morning at O400 I stopped at a Burger King on the Eastern Shore of Virginia with two friends for breakfast.  We were hunting snow geese and ducks in picked cornfields and had to set out several hundred decoys by a half hour before sunrise. Three pickups with North Carolina plates pulled in with six guys in camouflage and dog kennels in the back of their trucks.  When I asked them what they were doing, they smiled and said a Local farmer was paying them to run their dogs in his woodlands and reduce the number of deer there to reduce the damage to his crops from too many deer that even the Local hunters were unable to reduce.  The farmer had gotten a handful of permits for them to cover just about any deer they could kill.  This was truly wildlife management by Local residents for the good of both wildlife and people. Had this option not been available, how soon would it be before Local residents would have taken action to kill all the deer; or have stopped agriculture and agriculture business had disappeared?  How soon before another section of the US would have been a dark shadow on a nighttime satellite photo like Venezuela or North Korea?

*The last I heard the rural folks of Virginia and their deer were doing just fine!

The Solution

If these three examples tell us anything; it is that wildlife management has become a human political constructregulating wildlife primarily on behalf of political and conflicting agendas.  This is done by governments that “manage” wildlife 1) on behalf of Local communities (i.e. Virginia & deer); 2) in response to political pressure (i.e. South Dakota and Cougars); or 3) whichever way the political winds are blowing (i.e. Minnesota’ successful historic approach to wolves before the federal seizure of States Rights over wolves and then its Quisling-like cooperation with federal overseers excusing the wolf debacle that has evolved from that fateful moment.  Conclusion; he that controls the government authority over wildlife, controls rural people.

I suggest an approach that leads to returning control of certain resident wildlife (not migratory birds covered by Treaties or fish or marine mammals covered by international agreements et al) to Local governments under the umbrella of Provincial, State or National governments. “Control” and management, meaning the setting of hunting and trapping seasons; the setting of annual bag or season limits; the methods of taking wildlife; and the conditions under which depredations and human safety are to be avoided and how handled when they occur.  For instance, reducing the numbers and densities of certain Large Predators for a certain period to encourage population increases in prey species like ungulates that provide meat and sport plus sightings for tourist appeal; and then maintaining sustainable populations of both for the foreseeable future by providing regulations that maintain a reasonable balance between predators and prey AS DESIRED AND DETERMINED BY LOCAL RESIDENTS.

This means that States, Provinces and National governments make available the authority over harvest and control of certain wildlife to Local jurisdictions that choose to exercise it.  This would be the Counties (in the US and certain Canadian Provinces) and Districts, Counties, or Regional governments in parts of Canada and the National Sub-units like “States” within the Nations of the European Union. The degree to which First People or Native Americans and their land in North America might be included or otherwise treated in such an approach would vary by area and by Treaty provisions.  Other anomalies such as “Endangered” Declarations and UN “Mandates” would involve Local governments, hopefully, as full partners in deliberations with the State, Provincial and National governments as Local governments request to be heard.  In other words, State, Provincial and National governments in Europe would allow and implement the will of Local communities to live with, enjoy and utilize wildlife in harmony with all members and activities of those communities.  There is no better guarantor of the value and sustainability of wildlife than that those living with it value and enjoy it.  Wildlife is neither a religious requirement nor a toy to be tinkered with from afar by people and entities that neither respect nor show concern for the rural people their mandates affect.

When State, Provincial, Federal or International experts like bureaucrats, “scientists” and environmental ideologues protest that the Local people, i.e. you that are “uneducated” in the subtle nuances of “ecosystems” remember the words of one of my favorite philosophers G. K. Chesterton.  He once wrote in the New Witness, “Without education, we are in grave danger of taking the educated seriously.”  Taking too much nonsense seriously has helped get us into this mess we are in today.

How It Would Work

In the US, Counties are the Local governments that oversee all of the land and represents the Local communities within the State. There are only a few exceptions like a handful of federal enclaves such as defense installations and one or two National Parks that were set aside before statehood and therefore are outside State and County government wildlife authority.  All the rest of the land area’s resident wildlife that are hunted, trapped or that cause certain kinds of depredations and trouble for humans comes under State wildlife management authority.  County or District management of certain wildlife programs in their County, like deer in Virginia works like certain necessary weed control under County authority, works.  County or Local governments can and should notify landowners when weeds must be controlled and if they refuse to act, the County simply hires a contractor to control the weeds and then bills the landowner and if they do not pay the County, a lien is placed on the property and the owner goes into court to pay the bill, plus court costs and a fine.  Similarly Counties could direct predator control on private properties where owners intend to make predator “refuges” while respecting Native Treaty Land and central government enclaves like South Dakota ranchers and hunters did.  Local insights and the protection of their desires by the State or Provincial governments can and has preserved Predators (like the wolves of Minnesota pre-Endangered Species Act) and Prey (like Minnesota moose hunting, until protected and more numerous wolves decimated the moose herd while the State and federal government wildlife agencies looked away, “scientists” and radicals told Mother Goose stories about what was happening, and the anti-hunting crowd cheered).

Rural people of any State could band together politically and enlist suburban and urban support where possible to pass State legislation that regarding all resident and non-resident hunting and trapping seasons, limits, annual limits, methods of take, justified circumstances for preventing depredations, protecting property or avoiding human danger within the Local jurisdiction shall be established by the lead elected official in each County wishing to exercise that option.  This is done by having the top elected official submit to the Wildlife Agency Director, the new regulations by a certain date like 3 months before state regulations are published and distributed in writing for the upcoming year.  If the proposed wildlife management regime is not received by the State Wildlife Director by say, March 1, it shall be established that the State agency will set and promulgate the wildlife management regime for that County for the upcoming year. The State government shall enforce and promulgate the wildlife regime of each County equally.

Bargaining this approach into reality might only call for Counties to have such power over say; wolves, cougars, coyotes, moose, elk, caribou and deer.  Leaving the birds like grouse, the management-sensitive trophy animals like mountain sheep, and the rabbits to State authority.

It might involve explaining to urban cousins how now they can finally establish their own wildlife ecosystem where bears, wolves and cougars can live with and “control” the moose, elk and deer in their urban or suburban areas as one big ecosystem.

A Referendum may be a more appropriate path to establishing such a system.  Simply demonstrating how an overwhelming majority of committed rural voting precincts vote for it may itself be worth trying and as on official display of the confidence and satisfaction among rural people with the status quo.  Lobbying suburban, urban and certain distinct groups could make a victory surprisingly likely.

State or Provincial wildlife agencies would remain at current levels but would recognize their new responsibility and role to nurture, protect and cooperate with their new partners (rural jurisdictions) within their purview by enforcing, attaining and protecting the wildlife presence and mix desired by the Local communities.

Local governments should not see an increased workload or the need for money.  If the way things are going is satisfactory to any rural County (or other appropriate Sun-Unit) simply let the State or Province continue to do as they are doing.  Whether you call it a “delegation” of authority or a “transfer” of certain powers or some other term appropriate to your situation, the result should be the same. If Local constituents are clamoring for change as to predators or prey presence, or the level of livestock and dog losses to predators, or there has been an attack or fear of an attack in the community and therefore wishes to reduce certain population levels of certain species:

1.    Let the concerned citizens meet and recommend what they want the wildlife regulations to look like.

2.    Listen to and encourage innovation (thinking “outside the box” about remedies) that might even spur business, the economy of the County, or even concoct methods of management heretofore untried or unknown.

3.    If there are concerns in your County, you will not have any trouble finding volunteers eager to write up suggestions, draft regulations and submissions or serve as contacts with State or Provincial wildlife employees.

4.    It is important that the lead County official is an Elected official, because if he won’t stand up when needed, you can replace him at the next election, as opposed some appointed and therefore unelected bureaucrat answerable to others but not some wildlife “expert” that believes he knows what’s best for the voters in the subject Local jurisdiction,

5.    If Districts (or Counties) are small, consider an informal arrangement with or amongst them where concerned rural residents agree on a common regulatory approach to shared issues that is simply copied and signed and submitted by the elected official in each unit of the compact.

6.    Considering the “buggered up” current state of wildlife “management”, recognizing things to be avoided and things that will likely work have been amply demonstrated.  Bold strokes like reducing predator densities for a period of years to encourage an ungulate increase and then maintaining the desired balance between the two in accord with Local wishes is possible.  The days of far-off “experts” and urban organizations telling you what you cannot do or what you must do would be minimized.  Only you know what wildlife costs and benefits fit your communities.

Wildlife management for desired human ends is not rocket science, especially after watching and comparing the swirl of agendas and catastrophes of the past century.  Unless you can regain authority over these matters you will continue to see rural precincts continue to decline in many ways as far-off politicians, bureaucrats, faux “scientists” and wealthy radical organizations impose all manner of agendas and requirements on you from afar through their hold on the oversight and management of the wild animals in YOUR midst.

Substitute “Province” for “State” (in Canada); and “National Government” for “State” in Europe.  Where Counties do not exist; substitute “District” or “Regional” or newly contrived units where appropriate or needed.  Where neither appropriate County, District, or Regional elected entities exist; consider establishing several to a dozen wildlife and habitat sections of the total area and having an appropriate elected Local official in one fulfill a collateral duty as the person named in the authorizing or establishing legislation devolving all or certain wildlife management to the lowest level where the decisions and the impacts serve the desires and need of those directly affected.

It should be clear to everyone by now that wildlife management and sustainable use is basically people management.  If rural people desire to take back control of the wildlife they live with, they must first retrieve the authority over setting the parameters governing the interface between the rural people and wildlife.  What I am suggesting is the only way I can see a possibility of doing that.

Thank you for listening and giving me the opportunity to make a suggestion that took me over twenty years to understand.  I am available for any questions either here or online.  I invite you to see the regulations for Virginia deer management I have with me and I have left a copy of this talk for copies and I have business cards with my email address for those that might like to receive a copy of this talk.

Jim Beers

Given @ the Cranbrook, British Columbia Big Game Symposium

13 April 2019

If you found this worthwhile, please share it with others.  Thanks.

Jim Beers is a retired US Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Biologist, Special Agent, Refuge Manager, Wetlands Biologist, and Congressional Fellow. He was stationed in North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York City, and Washington DC.  He also served as a US Navy Line Officer in the western Pacific and on Adak, Alaska in the Aleutian Islands.  He has worked for the Utah Fish & Game, Minneapolis Police Department, and as a Security Supervisor in Washington, DC.  He testified three times before Congress; twice regarding the theft by the US Fish & Wildlife Service of $45 to 60 Million from State fish and wildlife funds and once in opposition to expanding Federal Invasive Species authority.  He resides in Eagan, Minnesota with his wife of many decades.

Jim Beers is available to speak or for consulting.

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