August 11, 2020

Repeating Outcome-Based Post-Normal Science Doesn’t Make it True

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CoyotesIn the June 2015 edition of Whitetail Journal, there’s an article about the affects coyotes are having on deer populations nationwide. Essentially the article is not very helpful to anyone wishing to know facts about predators and prey, their relationships, and all the things that effect those relationships. The article boldly states that, “The data shows…that [coyotes] don’t have major impacts on [deer] population levels.” That might be somewhat akin to saying that deep snows in Alaska don’t have major impacts on building snowmen in Florida.

It is impossible to draw conclusions, such as this, from a potpourri of studies from different regions under completely different circumstances, by agents seeking an outcome. While it might be useful to gain a basic understanding of how some coyotes, wolves, bobcats, etc. might act and react in their specific habitat, such actions do not necessarily trend into other zones by different predators, because everything is different and changes in ways not uniform across the entire nation.

Missing from the article was any discussion about how continued protection of predators, resulting in larger populations of the deer-killing varmints, would continue to negatively impact deer herds. Perhaps the author is a bit of a believer in “natural balance.” On the one hand the article states that, “…the impact of winter coyote predation is greater when deer are low, below five deer per square mile.” That is a fact. Possibly deer numbers were below 5 per square mile because coyotes reduced them to that level and kept them there. This is sometimes referred to as a “predator pit” – the result of Predator Mediated Competition. A predator pit occurs when there are more than one prey specie that predators can eat, otherwise, the coyote/wolf will move to another area where it can find prey. This will allow the prey species (deer) to somewhat recover before the next round of killing begins.

You will also read in this article that when deer populations are running as high as 55 deer per square mile, predator effects on deer seem low enough that managers can control the deer herd by limiting or increasing deer hunting permits. Is that acceptable?

But, don’t we all know this by now? If your favorite place to hunt has been or is overrun with predators resulting in 5 deer per square mile, then this is a problem at every level. Just because down in the Southeast, where there’s 50 or more deer per square mile, coyotes don’t seem to matter, this does little in understanding and taking the right positive steps to cure the problem.

Don’t forget! I’ve mentioned this often and will keep repeating it because it is proving to be quite a prophetic statement by Dr. Valerius Geist, professor emeritus University of Calgary. He stated before the annual Southeast Deer Study Group in 1995, in reference to their complaints of too many deer, “Enjoy your problem while it lasts, because the coyote is coming. Once he’s here, you’ll miss your deer problems.”

The article states that predator control doesn’t work and one excuse given is because coyotes are transient – meaning that if they kill all their prey in one area, they will move to another area and eventually other, or the same, coyotes will return if prey begins to recover. This is nothing new. The author cites studies that prove in the first year after substantial numbers of coyotes were removed from one study area, deer numbers, in particular fawn recruitment, increased dramatically. Over the next two years the numbers didn’t grow so much. And this is what the conclusion that coyote control don’t work is based on? I would like to know what the author expected.

The author goes on to conclude that the only way coyote control – that is for the purpose of protecting and growing deer herds, can work is, “…keep at it all the time, month after month, year after year.”

Like the Geico commercial says, “Everybody knows that.” Don’t they? They should. Anybody that I have ever talked with, who has a good understanding of the need for predator control, knows that it must be an ongoing endeavor. Deer management must include predator control. Without it, the ONLY other option is loss of hunting opportunity and eventually loss of hunting altogether, when growing numbers of predators cause dwindling game populations to predator pit levels. Is that acceptable?

If not, then don’t settle for predator protection over hunting opportunity.

An additional note: Environmentalist are always trying to butter their bread on both side. They have, historically, repeated the mantra that hunters and trappers, using bounties, extirpated or nearly did so, wolves and coyotes. In the next breath, they will tell us that hunting, trapping and using bounties not only won’t have any effect on reducing coyote numbers but will cause the numbers to go up. Amazing brain power there at work.

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