Are the clues right before our eyes? Do we need to manage predators as closely as we manage deer and elk? Is there such a thing as the “natural world” any longer where animals can manage themselves?
Hunters realize the answers to these questions because hunting plays such an integral role in the North American model of wildlife conservation, the most successful of its kind in the world. Yet fights arise all the time on how much predators should be managed and if they should be managed at all.
For instance, just this month a controversy arose over bighorn sheep introductions in Arizona. Last November, the Arizona Game and Fish Department implemented the first phase of a three-year plan to transplant sheep from the Yuma area into the Catalinas, an area they once thrived. Approximately $150,000 was spent on the project — none of it from taxpayers — and 431 collard sheep had a new home. Four months later 15 of the bighorns had been killed by mountain lions that obviously dominate the area
Custer State Park in South Dakota is another area of question. Once coveted as a trophy-elk area for resident-only hunting, the herd has crashed in recent years. The evidence was clear, but became crystal clear after several attempts to tranquilize and collar elk for research. In three incidents tranquilized elk, with crew and helicopter in close proximity, were attacked by mountain lions. In one batch of 30 collared calves, 16 became cougar cuisine.
California, the “hands off” state for mountain lions, routinely has newspaper headlines with mountain lions grabbing the news. Consider this one I just found the other day in the Los Angeles Times.
“A mountain lion is believed to have killed an 85-pound black Labrador retriever named Bubba, dragging it over a 3½-foot wall in north Glendale. The attack apparently happened about 3 a.m. Friday on Rimcrest Drive, near Canonwood Drive, said Bubba's owners, James and Lynnette Hamada. They found the dog Saturday afternoon in a neighbor’s side yard with a dead rabbit lying on their dog’s lifeless body, the Glendale News-Press reported. Animal control officials could not confirm that the dog or rabbit were killed by a mountain lion, but based on information residents provided there is a strong likelihood that a mountain lion killed the animals, Glendale Police Sgt. Tom Lorenz said.”
Wildlife management is not an exact science, but even laymen know that humans have affected our natural world to the point of no return. Wildlife needs to be managed and predators fall into that realm. The debate on wolf management has been fierce and it looks as if the cat debate is heating up as well. What do you think? Do mountain lions need to be managed more aggressively to hold the balance of predator and prey?