August 21, 2019

The Sky Is Falling!….On You But Not On Me

skyfallingI am going to attempt to combine two different issues into one shared topic. My writing skills sometimes don’t match my brain’s ability to see things, sometimes much differently than others do, and at times I struggle to make my point clear and as concise as I see it.

Yesterday, I shared with readers some thoughts and a link to an article about “ecosystems” and the myth of “balance of nature.” Through the entirety of that process and beyond I devised a multitude of questions, the bulk of which were mired deeply in the foundation of hypocrisy, fueled by ignorance and perpetuated by, “a convenient approach to organizing thought.”

I’ll come back to more discussion and questions about the ecosystem and balance of nature paradigm in a bit. First, I’d like to pick a different topic that has a bit of a deeper and related subject matter as the convenience of “balance of nature.”

The Bangor Daily News, in Maine, today had a short opinion piece from a person mostly eulogizing the destruction of game animals due to “global warming.” It’s a hell of a way to have to go through life, believing, without giving it much thought, that the sky is falling, that it is the existence of man that is the fault of that falling sky, and calling on man to fix it.

Rational thinking causes some of us to understand that there is a distinct difference between global warming and climate change. Although the irrational “True Believers” of man-caused global warming have taken the bait, an even swap of the terms global warming and climate change, sold as the same, they are not. It is nothing more than a salesman’s tactic to garner support for a fraudulent, money-making scam. The shame in it all is that this scam is limiting the real science needed to truly understand what causes our planet’s actual climate change.

Few can see, or want to see, that little in this irrational debate makes honest sense. I suppose it’s much in a person’s ability, for lack of a better term, to think independently and not just do as you are told.

Therefore, global warming/climate change, as is used in its majority, perpetuates, “a convenient approach to organizing thought.” In other words it is used, conveniently, to explain everything. It all allows non thinkers to remain in some sort of comfort zone. It’s an explanation for them for everything. If it’s too rainy, it’s the fault of man-caused climate change. For them, the same explanation is used for cold, hot, storms, lack of storms, drought and floods, etc. What intellectual dishonesty!

One has to wonder if those non thinkers who perpetuate the myth of man-caused climate change also believe in the “balance of nature” paradigm. Which brings me back to “ecosystems.”

Whether the followers of man-caused global warming and “balance of nature” are one in the same people I don’t know. What I do think is that they have been programmed to react the same way. Invoking the balance of nature paradigm also becomes a convenient explanation for everything and, of course, man is to blame for all things bad and the one and only entity that screws up the balance.

As a believer of ecosystem self-regulation, the only thing that messes up this paradigm is the presence of man. Even though science places man in the middle of ecosystems, human haters want nothing more than to blame man for anything they perceive as bad happening to their favorite ecosystem. What lacks rational explanation is that while exclaiming the perfections of their balance of nature, more perfect if man is gotten rid of, man is always called upon to fix problems. What happened to self regulation? Isn’t man supposed to butt out?

In examining wolf introduction, or any other introduction for that matter, people, many of whom have become apparent “balance of nature” enthusiasts, called for wolves to be dropped into the Yellowstone ecosystem. Part of that argument in support of wolf introduction was the value a wolf places on “balancing” the ecosystem. This is the tired and worn out argument that is used for all predators and has caused the recent rise in predator worship.

If it was one hundred years ago, and longer, that wolves were extirpated from the Lower 48 States, then how did our fragile ecosystems survive this long without wolves? Was it because nature took over and regulated itself? Was it because wolves and predators in general aren’t necessary in an ecosystem? Did plants and animals react to the negative and positive feedback loops (a form of sustainable regulation)? Did man intercede with wildlife management and do the best job they could to provide a healthy environment?

In addition, if man and man’s existence messes up our ecosystems, and if man would be extirpated so that nature can “self-regulate”, then why is it that man is called upon to mess with what nature is doing? This sounds hypocritical to me. It would appear to me that being that man, arguably the most intelligent of all creatures in an ecosystem, being part of The Ecosystem, then everything that has happened since the beginning of time is “natural.” Is it not? So who is messing with what and why?

Doesn’t then all of this, i.e. the perpetuation of man-caused global warming and balance of nature, become nothing more than, “a convenient approach to organizing thought?” Once independent thinking was removed from this planet, the “organizing thought” becomes someone’s truth. It is not God’s truth. It is the antithesis of God’s truth whose foundation is rooted in evil, fraud, greed, power, etc.

If only we could return to the days when we humans were taught of the value of independent, critical thinking. In the meantime, some humans can only resort to exclamations that the sky is falling and, oh, by the way, I think it’s only falling on you over there and not on me over here.

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Is It Time to Bury the Ecosystem Concept?

ecosystem*Editor’s Note* – Below, I took the liberty of copying the “conclusions” of an academic piece by Robert V. O’Neill. But, please either before or after reading the conclusion, or both, go to the link provided and read the entire article. It is not that long and better explains the “conclusions.”

It is my opinion, after reading this piece and comparing the conclusions with what is written in the article, that within the conclusions there exists, to some degree, the limitations of which the author writes of the problems that exist in attempting to work within a theory of “ecosystem” balance or stability. The author describes the theory of an ecosystem as a paradigm, or, “a convenient approach to organizing thought.” (a difficult concept to escape I’m afraid.)

O’Neill also recognizes, rightly so in my lay opinion, that the human is not separate from the “ecosystem” but a part of it, and yet, perhaps in an inescapable way, due in part by “a convenient approach to organizing thought”, points a finger at the human as perhaps a future cause of ecological collapse. I am often left with the question, “If man is part of the ecosystem then how can the presence of man naturally effect, through positive and negative feedback mechanisms, if he is, by law and regulation, removed and/or limited from that ecosystem?”

But we should not lose sight of what is being offered in this piece. Different than some pieces of academic, this writer doesn’t attempt to throw out the baby with the bathwater but to better define “ecosystem”, by first understanding what it means and how it got here, while dispelling myths propagated by “a convenient approach to organizing thought.”

Please find this link to the whole article. (Note: This link was provided in the “Open Thread” by a reader.)

CONCLUSIONS

Is it time to bury the ecosystem concept? Probably not. But there is certainly need for improvement before
ecology loses any more credibility. This paper suggests some of the key problems. Spatial pattern, extent, and heterogeneity are critical to stability. You cannot get a predictive theory if you assume them away. Temporal variability and scale are critical to stability. You cannot get a predictive theory if you assume them away either. It is the interplay of natural selection and internal feedback mechanisms that determines dynamics. Again, you cannot get a predictive theory if you assume either away. Basically, all the processes and constraints needed to explain stability are not encompassed within the boundaries of the local ecological system.

An improved paradigm would have many implications for ecological applications, such as conservation.
Increasing the size of an isolated preserve only increases the length of time until the cumulative probability of a disruption approaches 1.0. Maintaining dispersal pathways might better conserve sustainability by keeping the potential dispersal range near its original, undisturbed scale.

There are also important implications for monitoring. Current theory leads us to focus on average rates and standing crops at a location. Yet scale and variability in space and time may be more important in determining sustainability. Mean values at two locations may indicate that no significant change has occurred, but if dispersal pathways between the sites have been disrupted, one has reduced by orders of magnitude the scale of a catastrophic disturbance.

Perhaps the most important implication involves our view of human society. Homo sapiens is not an external
disturbance, it is a keystone species within the system. In the long term, it may not be the magnitude of extracted goods and services that will determine sustainability. It may well be our disruption of ecological recovery and stability mechanisms that determines system collapse.

Certainly, we don’t want to dismiss the current theory prematurely. But we must understand that the machine analogy is critically limited. In so far as the local system maximizes environmental potential, it necessarily sacrifices stability when that potential changed. The challenge to the ecological system is optimization to a moving target. Optimize too rapidly and the system is trapped in a local attractor and, like an overspecialized species, cannot adapt when conditions change. So, it would not be wise to send the old dobbin to the glue factory before we determine how well the new one takes the bit. But it certainly seems to be time to start shopping for a new colt.

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Balance of Nature: “Has the Disadvantage of Being Untrue”

I’ve been doing a lot of reading over the past 3 or 4 days and during that time I came across a very interesting quote. The quote comes from a man named Charles Elton, perhaps best known among wildlife biologists as the father of ecology.

“It is assumed that an undisturbed animal community lives in a certain harmony….the balance of nature. The picture has the advantage of being an intelligible and apparently logical result of natural selection in producing the best possible world for each species. It has the disadvantage of being untrue.”

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Trophic Cascades from Wolves to Grizzly Bears in Yellowstone?

Commentary by George Dovel

*Editor’s Note* The following is republished on this website with permission from the author. Please consider subscribing to The Outdoorsman. Information can be found in the right sidebar on the home page of this website. Thank you.

In Outdoorsman No. 51, the article on pages 8-9 Titled, “Top Wolf Scientist Charges Wolf Researchers Have Become Advocates Rather Than Scientists,” tells how Dr. L. David Mech charged that when wolf advocates began to claim the wolves’ presence was vital to restore healthy native ecosystems, a large number of university researchers invaded Yellowstone Park with the intention of proving trophic cascades caused by wolves.

Then Mech rebutted their claims with facts. He pointed out that the addition of 27 days of growing season in Yellowstone in recent years undoubtedly created healthier and taller willows and aspens and said there was no scientific evidence that wolves were responsible for creating more food for other predators.
He cited a study of 19 chapters of reviews concerning the ecological role of large carnivores, and said a research team concluded that scientists likely will never be able to predict cascading impacts on biodiversity other than prey. After a review by other wolf scientists, it was then accepted for publication in Biological Conservation on March 12, 2012.

But despite Mech’s pointed claims being published a year ago, a new study by William J. Ripple et al claims that wolves reducing the number of elk browsing on serviceberry provided more food for grizzly bears.

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The Ripple study said it measured 778 bear scats in 2007-2009 and determined from those measurements that the bear stools contained more fruit than were found in older studies before wolves were introduced.
The study also determined that the serviceberry bushes grow taller and have less browsing than were found in previous years. That, of course, correlated with the 27-day annual increase in the Yellowstone Park growing season provided by Mech.

The study published by the British Journal of Animal Ecology on July 29, 2013, included a series of unproven hypotheses that: elk and grizzly bears competed for berry-producing shrubs; after wolves were introduced there would be a decrease in elk and an increase in berry-producing shrubs; and the percent of fruit in the grizzly bear diet would be greater after wolves were introduced.

In reality, the killing or alleged relocation of elk by wolves resulted in far fewer elk available as prey for the grizzly bears when they emerged from hibernation and desperately needed the protein provided by elk prey until green-up occurred.

Such thinly veiled attempts to try to promote the trophic cascade myth illustrate how far science has been prostituted by the current crop of students and professors who lack the wisdom and integrity to be scientists.
—–
I urge Outdoorsman readers to donate any amount, no matter how small, to reimburse us for the cost of providing mailed copies to the elected officials and others who are directly involved in managing your wildlife.

Thank you,
George Dovel

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David Mech: Alpha Wolf? Whatchu Talkin Bout?

I believe I posted this video quite some time ago but being that the subject has come up again….and again…..and again, I thought maybe it would help to post this video again as Dr. David Mech explains the myth, he created, about alpha male and alpha female wolves.

Oh, and heck! While you are at it, that is discovering truths, why not read Dr. Mech’s explanation about how he was wrong about trophic cascades and self regulating ecosystems. Just click this link.

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Top Wolf Scientist Charges Wolf Researchers Have Become Advocates Rather Than Scientists

Dr. David Mech, the man who invented “balance of nature”, refutes his own claim. Says “Balance of Nature” a Myth.

Top Wolf Scientist Charges Wolf Researchers Have Become Advocates Rather Than Scientists
by George Dovel
The Outdoorsman – Bulletin Number 51 – Page 8

Republished on this website with permission from editor/author.

During a May 7, 2010 Boise State University Radio interview, Idaho Fish and Game Predator Biologist Dr. Hilary Cooley stated emphatically that wolves – not hunters – are necessary to manage elk herds.

Speaking with authority, as if she were part of a team of scientists whose research prompted her statements, Cooley stated:

“We saw this in Yellowstone – when we had tons and tons of elk they could change the entire landscape. We saw songbird densities changing, we saw beaver populations changing – everything responds to that and so while some people like to have high, high densities of ungulates, it’s not always good for the rest of the ecosystem.”

What Cooley was referring to are the alleged “trophic cascades” that many ecologists and most conservation biologists now claim are the stabilizing benefits provided to ecosystems by wolves and other top predators. The basic theory is that the top predator (wolf) reduces the number and/or alters the habits of its prey (elk), which provides more habitat for other species such as beaver, song birds and smaller predators.

This revival of the “Balance of Nature” myth promoted by Durward Allen and his graduate student David Mech in their 1963 National Geographic article, began when Robert Payne coined “keystone species” in 1969 and “trophic cascades” in 1980.

In 1985 Mech Admitted Balance-of-Nature is a Myth

Meanwhile after several more years of research with wolves and moose on Isle Royale and wolves and deer in Minnesota, Mech found that his “balance-of-nature claim had zero validity. Both wolves and their prey were in a constant state of changing from population peaks to radical declines, yet Mech waited until 1985 to publish the truth about what was occurring in both states but with different prey species.

And instead of publishing the correction in National Geographic or major news media – or at least in scientific journals – Mech’s startling confession that he was the cause of the balance-of-nature myth appeared only in National Wildlife Vol. 23, No. 1, and in the May 1985 Alaska Magazine. In that article titled, “How Delicate is the Balance of Nature,” Mech wrote, “Far from being ‘balanced,’ ratios of wolves and prey animals can fluctuate wildly – and sometimes catastrophically.”

Several years later, I photocopied the article, including its B&W and color photos, and sent it to the leadership of all 27 organizations in the Idaho Shooting Sports Alliance. But those groups were understandably still so upset with IDFG for letting half of Idaho’s mule deer and thousands of elk die from malnutrition during the 1992-93 winter, they failed to even consider what would happen with wolves 10-20 years down the road.

Misleading Headline: “Wolves Not Guilty”

Because the National Wildlife Federation was promoting wolf recovery, and Mech’s 1985 article emphasized the need to control wolves to prevent the radical swings in populations, his choice of magazines was perhaps understandable. Canadian wolf transplants into Idaho and Wyoming (YNP) would not happen for another 10 years, but the biologists promoting wolves were enlisting all the help they could get from environmental activists to lessen public resistance to restoring wolves.

Twenty years later, Mech’s team of student Yellowstone Park researchers (wolf advocates) issued a news release with the headline, “Wolves Not Guilty,” saying their unfinished research revealed that bears were the major predator of newborn elk and moose calves.

When the study was finally completed, Mech explained that bears killing most newborn elk or moose calves had been documented for several decades. But based on the volume of mail I received from Alaskans who read the “Not Guilty” article, it was too late to change their new opinion that wolves had been wrongly accused of killing elk and moose.

Mech 2008 Testimony Refuted DOW Claims

Mech has always recognized the necessity for state wildlife managers to control wolves that adversely impact either livestock or game populations. And when Defenders of Wildlife and 11 other preservationist groups sued FWS to shut down wolf hunting in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, Mech’s May 9, 2008 22-page testimony destroyed every one of their arguments.

The non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that federal and state wolf promoters have “been in bed with” for several decades, now oppose the same recovery plans they helped design during the early 1980s. They have parlayed wolf recovery into a never-ending billion-dollar enterprise, and used tainted science and activist judges to support their destructive agenda.

Mech realized that the states’ failure to control wolves to numbers that are biologically sustainable has generated extreme opposition to their very existence in the areas where they are causing problems. The difference between the make-believe world of indoctrinated biologists like Hilary Cooley, and the real world where wolves eventually destroy the wild prey necessary to sustain their numbers, caused Mech to take drastic action in 2011.

On Oct. 26, 2011, Mech submitted an article to the editor of Biological Conservation titled, “Is science in danger of sanctifying the wolf.” He also sent copies to eight wolf scientists for review and suggestions, and on Feb. 29, 2012, the slightly amended article was submitted to Biological Conservation and was accepted for publication on March 12, 2012.

In his article, just before he dropped his bombshell on wolf preservationists who falsely promote the image of the wolf as a saint, Mech mentioned that North America’s wildlife manager, Aldo Leopold, continued to recommend bounties on wolves in 1946 to increase abundance of big game populations. Leopold also warned that extermination of large predators could result in over-browsing.

Propaganda Changed Wolf Image from Devil to Saint

But in 1967 the wolf was listed as endangered and one of the most effective propaganda campaigns of all time began. Mech points out that the image of the wolf changed from a devil to a saint and wolf advocates began to claim that the wolves’ presence was vital to restore healthy “native” ecosystems.

He said that his library has more than 30 books written about wolves and that 27 NGOs have been formed to promote wolf preservation. One of Mech’s reviewers commented on the millions of dollars raised by these groups, and could have commented on the dollars many of them receive for reimbursement of legal fees from the feds each time they sue to halt delisting or hunting.

Mech also said that a large number of researchers have invaded Yellowstone Park with the intention of proving the existence of trophic cascades caused by wolves. Yet he asserts there is not even one YNP study with evidence proving that a cascade actually took place beyond the wolf and its prey.

For example he says the claim that wolves would kill most of the coyotes and replace them with smaller predators has not happened. Instead, after the initial coyote decline they have repopulated the Park with the same number of coyote packs.

Do Wolf Kills Really Benefit Scavengers?

According to Mech the claim that wolves benefit other scavengers by providing more kills ignores the fact that wolves consume most of the prey they kill. If the prey animal died from other causes, the scavengers would have 7-10 times as much meat as is available from a wolf kill.

And he reminds us that as the wolves kill more of the available prey, the scavengers have fewer – not more – animals available for food.

What Really Caused the Restoration of Beavers

Similarly, the claim that wolves killing the elk and/or creating a “landscape of fear” would reduce elk depredation on willows and aspen, which would cascade to restoring beavers, which would, in turn, raise the water table has been highly advertised – but it has never been proved according to Mech.

He points out the reality that there were no beavers in the Northern Range of YNP when wolves were introduced in 1995. He responded to recent unsupported claims that wolves caused beavers to return to the Northern Range and raise the water table with the following excerpt from a recent study:

“What has had little publicity, however, was that the rapid re-occupation of the Northern Range with persistent beaver colonies, especially along Slough Creek, occurred because Tyers of the Gallatin National Forest released 129 beavers in drainages north of the park.”

Mech referred to other research pointing out that the combination of these beaver colonizing in the Park and raising the water table, and a reported 27-day addition to the YNP growing season, were valid reasons for increased growth and height of willows, and aspen. “It should be clear from the above examples that sweeping, definitive claims about wolf effects on ecosystems are premature whether made by the public or by scientists” said Mech.

Mech continued, “Once findings claiming wolf-caused trophic cascades were published, scientists competed to find more. Teams from several universities and agencies swarmed National Parks and churned out masses of papers, most of them drawing conclusions that wolf advocates considered positive toward the wolf.”

He explained that after synthesizing 19 chapters of reviews relating to the ecological role of large carnivores in 2005, a research team concluded, “Scientists will likely never be able to reliably predict cascading impacts on bio-diversity other than prey.” Mech continued, “As one reviewer of this article put it, ecologists (and particularly conservation biologists) do seem obsessed to the point of blindness with predator-induced trophic cascades.”

The extreme bias of their studies is reflected in Mech’s comment that the only wolf study results he can recall that might be considered negative by the public is the 2003 Idaho study by Oakleaf et al who found that in central Idaho, ranchers discovered only one of eight calves that were killed by wolves. That study gained little popular press.

Although Mech candidly named several wolf scientists whose research reports are tainted by their “wolf is a saint” agenda, his closing comments reflect his own agenda. “National Parks are protected from most hunting and trapping, logging, grazing, agriculture, irrigation, predator control, pest management, human habitation, and mining, all of which wreak pervasive, long-term effects on ecosystems.” (emphasis added)

By the time tens of thousands of young biologists and journalists and a hundred million other youngsters have spent 80% of their lives being taught that all human activity destroys healthy ecosystems, they believe that starvation, cannibalism and widespread disease make up a “healthy” ecosystem. Is this the legacy you want to leave to future generations – or are you just too “busy” to care?

Note: This article and many more like it can be found in The Outdoorsman magazine. Please click this link to a PDF page where you can print out a form and subscribe to the magazine. The work of George Doval, editor of The Outdoorsman, is arguably the finest work to be found anywhere in print or online publications.

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David Mech’s Damage Has Been Done – Too Late to Attempt Reconciliation

It seems some readers are agog today over an article discovered to have been published at Daily Kos, discussing supposed errors made in attempts to understand wolf and wildlife science, balance of nature and trophic cascades. At the center of this article is David Mech, father of the Wolf Wars; the man who identifies with wolf studies and the introduction or reintroduction, depending on one’s perspective, of wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

It’s always vengeful bliss to say, “I told you so,” but it’s just as important to understand that Mech’s seeming admission that some things might not have been right, is really no victory for anyone accept David Mech and the environmental hijackers; those destroyers of people’s rights, property destruction and confiscation, and the subjection of citizens to reduced levels of public health and safety.

On examination of certain statements made by Mech, on the surface I can see him saying the things that I have been writing about for several years on the myths of balance of nature and self regulation of the ecosystems.

…..at the very least, scientists now disagree about whether wolf related behaviorally mediated trophic cascades in Yellowstone are really occurring………. At most, that well-publicized claim may not be correct at all.

…..ecologists (and particularly conservation biologists) do seem obsessed to the point of blindness with predator-induced trophic cascades.

Two decades later after observing wolves and moose and whitetail in Minnesota, Mech denounced the “balance of nature” writing in (National Wildlife 23(1):54-59) he said nature “far from always being ‘balanced,’ ratios of wolves and prey animals can fluctuate wildly – and sometimes catastrophically”.

Consider, if you will, what Mech said and the comment made by the author of this piece.

In an interview Mech states that scientific conclusions may “vary from outright dishonesty to not even knowing your bias is getting in the way,”. Because the meme of a trophic cascade in Yellowstone is so embedded in textbooks and popular media, it may never die, even if untrue.(Emboldening added)

It has taken how many decades of wolf study, combined with the numerous “scientific” papers written and distributed by Mech, perhaps walking around with a very large chip on his shoulder, swelling in his pride as being perceived as the wolf expert, approaching godliness in some people’s eyes, to decide to consult other scientists about wolves, or in general, balance of nature and trophic cascades?

It may appear that Mech has reached some scientific epiphany or maybe even remorse, complete with crocodile tears, so why should we be so thrilled at his comments about the dishonesty and corruption of money-starved, agenda-driven scientists who, “vary from outright dishonesty to not even knowing your bias is getting in the way?”

I would have to agree with the author of the article who states that this meme, that is the false idea that has spread throughout the scientific community full of wolf loving, money hungry faux scientists, may never die, is, in fact, the outcome that Mech intended from the beginning.

It’s a bit easier to put up a front indicating wrongdoing when the damage has been done and you’ve achieved the goals intended. Are we then to forgive and forget? I think not. The actions of Mech and many others, those being the products of his own work, i.e. his following, his own “outright dishonesty” and what I believe to be him knowing his own bias, have caused such extreme damage, to not only the scientific community but the loss of other wildlife, the spread of disease and the destruction caused to humanity through his deceitful work to cause division and strife among the people. How does one measure that value and establish accountability? Should we just dismiss it because this man is sticking his big toe in contriteness?

The damage has been done and it probably never will get corrected. The lessons learned here will also not be all good. One would like to think that the scientific community would take a deep breath and reassess this evil approach toward political ends shrouded in spurious science, but unfortunately it will stand as a proving ground in how to make money while lying and cheating the American public, regardless of the potential of damage that can be done. After all, the love of money is the root of all evil.

The U.S. Government, specifically the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, should never have given one man so much power and authority to carry out his work. To do wrong, the result of work going unchecked and unchallenged, some because Mech had the power to disregard information from others, for over 2 decades and THEN step forward indicating that things may have been wrong, isn’t something the American citizens should be so easily willing to accept. There is far more to Mech’s and other’s behavior over the years that goes a bit beyond “oops” and can rightly be described as a criminal enterprise.

As Christians we are taught to forgive, but that doesn’t mean we need forget. We must correct the wrong and seek rightful justice for the actions that go beyond scientific error. The American people will never get back into the scientific literature the truth about wildlife science, balance of nature and trophic cascades. It is my opinion that this “damage” was intentionally planned. It is also my opinion that as David Mech ages, he’s now, without much fear of punitive actions against him, willing to say what he may deem appropriate to save his own skin and play to the side of science and citizens who believed him wrong and corrupt from the beginning. We shouldn’t fall for it.

We should take his words and attach those words to the years of his work and then the task at hand for the activists is to begin a long and difficult task of reeducation. How do you counter the brainwashing being done by the most powerful?

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Debunk: Predators Kill Only Lame, Sick and Weak Prey Species

I have finally found a written explanation about predator/prey relationships that is easy to sink your teeth into and understand and written by an authority on the subject; Dr. Charles Kay, Wildlife Ecology-Range Management Specialist Utah State University. His article can be found in Muley Crazy Magazine, Jan./Feb. Edition 2013.

Anyone paying any attention to the emotional debates about large predators – wolves and coyotes seem to carry the most irrational emotions – have heard someone, even those supposedly who are authorities, say that wolves/coyotes/large predators are necessary for our ecosystems because they kill only the lame, sick, weak and/or substandard members of the prey species. With the mindless perpetuation of such drivel, we are also told this “sanitary” engineering by predators provides for “healthy” prey species, some even claiming this natural phenomenon limits and reduces certain wildlife diseases because these predators are killing the sick among the prey.

I have always contended that if large predators were intelligent enough to determine the sickly of the species, why aren’t they equally intelligent to pick a good meal rather than one that might taste bad and be full of worms and disease? But I guess maybe that’s another discussion.

What studies that do exist, clearly show that large predators kill their prey/food depending upon several factors, none of which are the result of a predator recognizing they have a sick animal on their hands. Factors include: How easy it is for predators to kill their prey species under normal conditions; the size and killing ability of the predator versus the size and defense capabilities of the prey; how the predator hunts and environmental conditions. Seriously, is this something new? Of course not.

Dr. Kay explains that any prey species that is easily captured and killed, there is no difference in the proportionate killing of healthy vs. ill prey species. As the size and defense capabilities of the predator animal increases, the incidence of prey killed increases mostly do to a reduction of defensive capability.

Kay uses an example of lynx in Europe that will feed on both roe deer and red deer. He explains that roe deer, “are less than half the size of mule deer, while red deer are the same species as our elk.” Roe deer are easier to catch for the lynx and kill without evidence of taking a disproportionate number of sick roe deer. As far as the red deer are concerned, because the animal is bigger and more difficult to catch and take down, lynx tend to target red deer calves in disproportionate numbers to the overall red deer population. A bigger predator, such as a wolf, isn’t choosy between roe deer and red deer and will take either species that is available when hunted with little or no regard to seeking out a sick member of the herd.

All predators hunt differently; some are ambush hunters, some are stalkers that run down their prey, for examples. An ambush hunter isn’t particular or concerned over whether an animal is sick or lame. Essentially they have one shot at their prey, healthy or not. On the other hand, a predator, like a wolf or coyote, track down their prey, sometimes running them down, or perhaps surrounding their target. In this case, opportunism will likely afford the predator a better chance at catching up to and killing a sick or lame prey species. This only makes sense.

As any good scientist would do, Dr. Kay points out information he provided in other research work written about in “Predation and the Ecology of Fear” [see Muley Crazy 10(5): 23-28; 2010]. In this work and subsequent reporting, Kay points out that often times the substandard prey species can become this way due to harassment by predators and humans. Predators torment and harass prey species constantly. Battle weary prey animals then become an easier target and thus the ill health mythology exploited by the predator protectors is not so because it is caused by natural conditions such as physical defects and disease.

And if predators, such as wolves, exist for the function of killing only the lame, diseased and infirm of prey animals, while yielding us a “healthy” ecosystem, how does one explain surplus killing? Surplus killing, which is readily recorded, is when wolves move into a herd of prey and just kill everything they can until they have had enough killing, for no apparent reason than to kill. Some think of it as a learning adventure for the immature dogs in the pack. What I can tell you is that those who protect predators will deny that surplus killing is real.

Depending upon the region in which predator and prey relationships are being examined, one can find many environmental conditions that will effect a predator’s ability to hunt and a prey’s ability to defend themselves or escape. Deep and crusty snow comes to mind, as often prey species such as deer and moose, that use running as an escape, cannot flee so easily and wolves and coyotes easily run them down.

Dr. Kay also debunks the notions that large predators are good to limit or reduce wildlife disease because they pick on the sick prey and not the healthy. He points out that, “Wolf predation has not lowered the incidence of brucellosis in elk within the Yellowstone ecosystem.” Also, “In Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park, bison are infected with both brucellosis and bovine tuberculosis. Yet more than 50 years of wolf predation has not lowered the incidence of either disease.” Again, “Cape buffalo are preyed upon by African lions and spotted hyenas, both formidable predators, yet predation has not slowed the spread of bovine tuberculosis in Kruger’s cape buffalo population.” Finally, “predation by black bears, mountain lions, and coyotes has not slowed the spread of chronic wasting disease.”

In addition to revealing that predation is not changing the incidences of disease, Dr. Kay tells his readers that some predators, such as wolves and coyotes, carry more than 30 diseases that they are infecting ungulate populations with, and creating for potential harm and possible death to humans. Certainly a predator spreading so many diseases cannot and is not making for a healthy prey population, but an unhealthy one.

Proper control of predators is the proven and scientific method of keeping healthy prey and predator species, not some myth that these predators are like trained physicians making house calls to keep all their food supply healthy. Let’s not pretend.

It is certainly one thing to want to protect your favorite wild animal but at what expense? Do we risk the health of humans while hiding behind some notion that predators are sanitation engineers? As Dr. Kay says, “the next time some wolf biologist or pro-wolf advocate tries to tell you that predators only kill the lame, the sick, and the infirm, or that predators help control disease, listen politely, or not, and then have a good laugh! What you do next is up to you, but remember, the federal government has warned all its employees, who normally handle wolves or wolf scat, about Echincoccus granulosus, but has yet to pass a similar warning on to the general public.”

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The “Intellectual Rubbish” of “Ecosystems” and “Balance of Nature”

*Editor’s Note:* Yesterday I received an email from a member of a communication network who questioned what tactics were going to be necessary to correct this perpetuated myth of “natural regulation” or “natural balance”. For those not familiar with these terms, essentially the self-appointed custodians of the forests have fabricated the idea that if man would just simply go away, then our fields and forests would self regulate into some elevated form of nirvana. Yesterday, in the same email, I coined the title for such believers as sufferers of “UPEPS” or Utopian Philosophy Ecosystem Perfection Syndrome.

UPEPS has run rampant across this land and how I got UPEPS was from information provided to me by Dr. Valerius Geist, professor emeritus, University of Calgary. This email prompted me to research my archives to reread what I wrote just about one year ago about the balance of nature.

Here’s is a republication of that article. Please do yourselves a favor and follow the links and take the time to understand about positive and negative feedback loops and how those relate to our everyday lives. And then ask yourself if nature can “balance” itself if man would just bug out.

Today, we learned that Dr. Valerius Geist, a foremost wildlife scientist, “Denounced Ecosystem Management“. In his condemnation he described the belief in “Utopian philosophy of ecosystem perfection absent of all human activity” as “intellectual rubbish”. He also challenges, in a way, those not stricken with “intellectual laziness” to “Know the difference between positive and negative feed back, and you are on the way of understanding both homeostasis in individuals and stochastic non-determinism in ecosystems.”

I would like to take a layman’s stab at explaining about ecosystems and the myth of nature balancing itself. As with everything I write, I don’t ask readers to simply believe what I write but to do some research and make their own determinations.

Of late, I have composed a couple articles in reference to “natural regulation, here and here. The theory of “natural regulation” can just as easily be described in the same fashion as Dr. Geist used above; “utopian philosophy of ecosystem perfection absent of all human activity.” Or, in words we can all understand – just leave it alone and let things go as they will.

Part of the problem is that all people have been subjected to the use of the word, “ecosystem” to describe a landscape where flora and fauna live together in perfect harmony. “Eco” being a hip word these days (I assumed derived from ecology) and the “system” I am willing to wager is very much misunderstood. Many people, if engaged in some kind of biology discussion, might think of a system as their own body; a composition of organs and tissues all working together, the result of which is a living, breathing and walking specimen of human being.

Unfortunately the “system” in ecosystem is only used as a means of classification, or dare I say, should be used in that way. Regardless, the term in and of itself is quite misleading.

Dr. Geist spoke of “know[ing] the difference between positive and negative feed back”. This information can easily be obtained by doing searches Online but perhaps it’s much easier to find than understand. As individual humans (animals), our system (body) works to maintain “homeostasis” – “to maintain internal stability, owing to the coordinated response of its parts to any situation or stimulus tending to disturb its normal condition or function”. The responses to those disturbances are what are known as “negative feedback loops“, working to reverse or negate those disturbances. Dr. Geist says this is why “individuals are individuals”, i.e. “because they are controlled by negative feed back – negative!“.

In the contrast, as is pointed out by Geist, groups of organisms living together, in what is now too commonly referred to as that somewhat mythical “ecosystem”, are “never controlled but instead are subjected to “whims and randomness of positive feed back”.

Positive feedback loops, logically would be the counterpart to negative feedback loops. In the positive feedback loop, the body senses changes or disturbances and reacts to actually speed up the change. Some examples of this in humans might be a heart attack, clotting of blood, or even labor pains.

Dr. Geist tells us that if we can gain a solid understanding of the differences between positive feedback loops and negative feedback loops, then we might better understand “both homeostasis in individuals and stochastic non-determinism in ecosystems”.

Stochastic as it would apply to our “ecosystems” involves “a random variable or variables“.

Our ecosystems, so used, is a conglomeration of organisms all subjected to the influences of random variables that are forever changing. Geist describes those random variables as: “whims and randomness of positive feed back.”

If in our minds we can envision that our world is comprised of multiple pockets of habitat of varying sizes, each abutting and/or overlapping, or even standing apart, comprised of diverse species of plant and animals (including man) and all being subjected to random variables, it becomes much more difficult to seriously give credit to a “balance of nature”.

Tom Remington

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The “Intellectual Rubbish” of “Ecosystems” and “Balance of Nature”

Today, we learned that Dr. Valerius Geist, a foremost wildlife scientist, “Denounced Ecosystem Management“. In his condemnation he described the belief in “Utopian philosophy of ecosystem perfection absent of all human activity” as “intellectual rubbish”. He also challenges, in a way, those not stricken with “intellectual laziness” to “Know the difference between positive and negative feed back, and you are on the way of understanding both homeostasis in individuals and stochastic non-determinism in ecosystems.”

I would like to take a layman’s stab at explaining about ecosystems and the myth of nature balancing itself. As with everything I write, I don’t ask readers to simply believe what I write but to do some research and make their own determinations.

Of late, I have composed a couple articles in reference to “natural regulation, here and here. The theory of “natural regulation” can just as easily be described in the same fashion as Dr. Geist used above; “utopian philosophy of ecosystem perfection absent of all human activity.” Or, in words we can all understand – just leave it alone and let things go as they will.

Part of the problem is that all people have been subjected to the use of the word, “ecosystem” to describe a landscape where flora and fauna live together in perfect harmony. “Eco” being a hip word these days (I assumed derived from ecology) and the “system” I am willing to wager is very much misunderstood. Many people, if engaged in some kind of biology discussion, might think of a system as their own body; a composition of organs and tissues all working together, the result of which is a living, breathing and walking specimen of human being.

Unfortunately the “system” in ecosystem is only used as a means of classification, or dare I say, should be used in that way. Regardless, the term in and of itself is quite misleading.

Dr. Geist spoke of “know[ing] the difference between positive and negative feed back”. This information can easily be obtained by doing searches Online but perhaps it’s much easier to find than understand. As individual humans (animals), our system (body) works to maintain “homeostasis” – “to maintain internal stability, owing to the coordinated response of its parts to any situation or stimulus tending to disturb its normal condition or function”. The responses to those disturbances are what are known as “negative feedback loops“, working to reverse or negate those disturbances. Dr. Geist says this is why “individuals are individuals”, i.e. “because they are controlled by negative feed back – negative!“.

In the contrast, as is pointed out by Geist, groups of organisms living together, in what is now too commonly referred to as that somewhat mythical “ecosystem”, are “never controlled but instead are subjected to “whims and randomness of positive feed back”.

Positive feedback loops, logically would be the counterpart to negative feedback loops. In the positive feedback loop, the body senses changes or disturbances and reacts to actually speed up the change. Some examples of this in humans might be a heart attack, clotting of blood, or even labor pains.

Dr. Geist tells us that if we can gain a solid understanding of the differences between positive feedback loops and negative feedback loops, then we might better understand “both homeostasis in individuals and stochastic non-determinism in ecosystems”.

Stochastic as it would apply to our “ecosystems” involves “a random variable or variables“.

Our ecosystems, so used, is a conglomeration of organisms all subjected to the influences of random variables that are forever changing. Geist describes those random variables as: “whims and randomness of positive feed back.”

If in our minds we can envision that our world is comprised of multiple pockets of habitat of varying sizes, each abutting and/or overlapping, or even standing apart, comprised of diverse species of plant and animals (including man) and all being subjected to random variables, it becomes much more difficult to seriously give credit to a “balance of nature”.

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