Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Preditors Targeted in Colorado

Once again wild predators, such as cougars and bears, are being targeted by the state wildlife agency because they do not have the political courage to take on the Money Power that is the real cause of a decline in mule deer numbers.  Mule deer are far from threatened in Colorado with numbers exceeding 400,000.  But that level is below what the Parks and Wildlife Department has set as a exploitable goal.  Of course the state agency depends on generating revenue from the sale of hunting licenses and deer tags, and to tolerate a less than an optimum level demands a response.  Unable to take on agriculture, sprawl and energy development that gobbles up habitat, the agency is willing to scapegoat wild predators.   This is a cultural predilection that goes back to the 1800s when predators were exterminated as a consequence of human western migration.  Colorado is not alone in this misguided approach to conservation.  Oregon is killing sea lions and cormorants to save declining salmon populations, all the while ignoring the real causes of the salmon's demise--hydroelectric development and pollution.

Inevitably energy development harms mule deer populations.  Each well drilled requires roads, dump sites, pipelines, transmission lines, and clearance for operations all of which infrastructure fragments deer habitat.  In Colorado in 1989 there were 5000 oil and gas wells that number has boomed to 32,000 in 2014.  Much of the state's energy boom is concentrated in the northwest where the remaining habitat for large predators exists.  Study upon study has demonstrated that wild predators are rarely the cause of a species extinction because their numbers are controlled by a bio-feedback relationship with their prey.  When prey numbers decline, so do predator numbers.   It is the uncompensated externalities of man that upsets nature's delicate equilibrium.  No amount of artificial 'management'--such as killing predators--can ultimately solve the perceived problem.  Cougars and bears do not have lobbyists, but they should, because they are getting blamed for a problem they did not create.  Ultimately, it is man himself not predators that will put wildlife agencies out of business.