September 22, 2020

Hunting Cross-Management Practice. What Is It? Is It Good?

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For the educated and informed, hunting is the number one best and most reliable means of managing a healthy wildlife population. For the sake of argument, we can no longer “let Mother Nature take its course”. There are just too many humans living in too many areas where animals live and used to live. That option is out and what is now necessary is for wildlife scientists to scramble to find ways to manage a healthy population and limit human-wildlife conflicts. This is proving to be a challenge, one that I think for the most part is being handled quite well by our biologists.

A common and proven method of population control for deer is to increase the number of permits if officials want to reduce herds and reduce the number of permits when the need is to increase the herd. This is over simplified and biologists use many variations to achieve the end results.

But what if scientists begin using hunters to manage one species in order to indirectly affect the management of another? Confused? Let me try to explain.

In Colorado, officials there are contemplating using deer hunters to manage mountain lion populations. In essence, their thinking is that if they can reduce the amount of food available for mountain lions in an area, the lions will disperse to other areas in search of food.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife believes that hunters could perhaps help control the people vs. mountain lion situations by hunting deer.

“The lions will disperse and manage themselves to a degree if the prey base is dispersed,” said Rick Enstrom, a wildlife commissioner.

He said the state will soon embark on a study of mountain lions on the Front Range.

Flagstaff Mountain, just outside Boulder, is where a 7-year-old boy was attacked by a mountain lion last spring.

Enstrom hopes big game hunting can be part of the mountain lion discussion in Boulder County parks.

“What we don’t want to do is react to another disaster where they call the Division of Wildlife and say ‘come and get your cat,'” Enstrom said.

“There are a lot of people who would not like to see hunting on open space at all,” said Ron Stewart, with Boulder Co. Parks and Open Space. “I mean any king of hunting.”

He said the mountain lion study will provide a crucial scientific base to make decisions about hunting deer to reduce the mountain lion numbers on public land.

Should such a study prove that this method is valid, what would it hold for the future? Obviously, as I would presume it to be the case in Colorado, there is an ample size herd of deer that would withstand reduction and still remain within the population goals of the Department of Wildlife. The theory is that there are too many mountain lions because there’s too much food. I guess that’s how you get rid of an unwanted guest. Stop feeding them.

Without knowing any of the details, I am a bit confused. If there are too many deer in this area, why doesn’t the DOW put together a program that would reduce the deer population? If there’s not too many deer, in other words the numbers are within carrying capacity, then they are looking to reduce the herd to below average numbers in order to hopefully disperse the lions. I’m not sure that’s the best way to go. Why not open up a hunting season on the lions in that area to reduce populations?

This is an interesting theory and I will be watching for the results of such a study. This is something that should entail a lot of thought before being implemented to any degree, in order to better understand the ramifications.

Tom Remington

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