Killing preda­tors to boost deer

The Denver Post - - OPINION - Re: Lan­don Bain, Fran­cis M. Miller,

“Lions and ire and bears,” Dec. 14 news story.

In or­der to sup­port dwin­dling deer pop­u­la­tions, the Colorado De­part­ment of Parks and Wildlife has given the green light to a pi­lot study in which preda­tory an­i­mals, such as moun­tain lions and bears, will be se­lec­tively eu­th­a­nized. The ba­sic ra­tio­nale for this is that by killing preda­tory an­i­mals, deer pop­u­la­tions will in­crease. This is im­por­tant to the de­part­ment be­cause hunt­ing li­censes are a pri­mary source of their rev­enue. In their own words, “We rarely ad­dress the ‘should’ ques­tion. We pri­mar­ily ad­dress the ‘how.’ ”

Ex­perts in wildlife ecol­ogy from Colorado State Univer­sity have cast sig­nif­i­cant doubt on the ef­fi­cacy of the de­part­ment’s ap­proach, stat­ing that “plans to test the ef­fects of preda­tor re­moval are not based on science.”

This pro­posal is strongly op­posed by ex­perts and is my­opic and cruel. It is not sup­ported by science. Lead­ers in Colorado govern­ment who find this pro­posal palat­able should take a mo­ment to con­sider the “should” ques­tion.

BBB I echo bi­ol­o­gists Joel Berger, Kevin Crooks and Barry Noon that the prob­lem with de­clines in Colorado’s deer pop­u­la­tion are likely habi­tat-re­lated, not a re­sult of preda­tors. Agri­cul­tural graz­ing prac­tices have been so de­struc­tive that much of the habi­tat for wild an­i­mals has been turned into a weed patch and in­va­sive woody species in­trude.

Ur­ban­ites need to re­mem­ber deer and elk orig­i­nally in­hab­ited the great plains. Now they, along with the preda­tors, have been pushed into moun­tain­ous ar­eas de­void of food. These an­i­mals now flood into ur­ban ar­eas, not be­cause they like hu­mans, but be­cause they are des­per­ate for food.

The For­est Ser­vice, BLM, and Fish and Wildlife have been co-opted by com­pa­nies that treat nat­u­ral re­sources as an ex­trac­tives in­dus­try. Our last great hope is that the die-off of trees due to bee­tle kill and the de­pop­u­la­tion of the Great Plains will al­low greater bio­di­ver­sity to be con­sciously rein­tro­duced.

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