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Friday, July 1, 2022

The Role of Predators in Our Ecosystem

Predators are the animals we love to hate. Coyotes, wolves, bears, mountain lions, and bobcats all draw as much hate as they do praise. Environmental activists claim they can do no wrong and should be left alone under any circumstances. Farmers and other groups of stakeholders want to eliminate these predators from the landscape altogether.

The answer to how we should live with our predator populations is one that is constantly evolving. I believe that predator hunting is fine as long as it is managed in some way. The goal of “eliminating” all coyotes is not one that is attainable and if it was would likely have some unintended consequences. Wolves were targeted in this manner for much of the 19th and 20th centuries. After the wolves were gone coyotes moved into the landscape spreading far east of their historical range in the United States.

The fact is that like it or not, the role of the mid-sized predator is one that is necessary in our environment. It helps control the populations of other animals. While I don’t believe we should ever set out to eliminate these animals, governments must be empowered to control problem animals and manage them based on biologists recommendations.

The current trend of people desperately trying to keep animals such as wolves and grizzly bears on endangered species lists because of emotions is a very troubling one. If an animal is truly threatened it should be protected. But once that population has recovered to the point that it no longer needs to be listed, then management must be returned to state governments. Our North American model of conservation has its roots in facts and science. That is why it is the most successful model of conservation in the world.

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When a state’s biologists and scientists determine that a population of predators has grown too large and must be controlled, then the only logical thing is to allow hunters to come in and perform the work. They will willingly pay money for the privilege to hunt bears and wolves and pump money into local economies while they are hunting. Eliminating hunters from the equation does not mean that predator populations will not be controlled. Rather it means that governments would hire professional snipers to come in and control the population through culls.

Having predators around can be inconvenient. Coyotes can move in and steal a deer you are tracking before you locate it. Wolves have been known to kill livestock—sometimes more than they could eat at one time. Bears (both brown and black) can occasionally cause a host of problems if they become too habituated. But, for all the inconveniences that come with having these animals around, they make the outdoors truly wild.

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