Wolves, Brucellosis, & Elk

Wolves have blown elk off western Wyoming’s elk feedgrounds on numerous occasions – it’s something that we’ve come to expect with Wyoming’s protected wolf population. Jim and I learned about the 19 elk that had been killed in one night by a wolf pack on an elk feedground in the northern portion of the county before we left for a getaway with the bliss of little internet or cell phone access for three days.

We were stunned to return home yesterday to learn that the surplus kill on the McNeel feedground had made international news. People seemed to be going bonkers in all directions, including these views:

· kill all the wolves because they are killing all the elk;

· the domesticated elk no longer have wild instincts and stand around on feedlots, so it’s no wonder they were killed;

· it must have been hunters (poachers) because wolves don’t surplus kill.

I view most of the comments as oversimplified nonsense, put forth with little understanding of complexities of the situation.

Elk Feedgrounds
Elk are held at artificially high numbers in western Wyoming through a series of 22 state-managed elk feedgrounds in Sublette, Lincoln and Teton counties. The feedgrounds are located on private, state or federal land, and a total of about 13,000 elk are provided supplemental feed in the form of hay each winter. Elk feedgrounds are generally closed to human access – with the exception of the elk feeder, who is a contract employee in charge of feeding hay with a team of horses or with a tractor.

There are only a couple of elk feedgrounds that can be seen from a state highway – these state-managed elk feedgrounds are not like the National Elk Refuge where you can pay to ride among the elk in a horse-drawn sleigh. The elk are not domesticated animals that have lost their wild senses, and they can be easily spooked off the feedgrounds by disturbance.

Elk and bison that inhabit the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem serve as a wild reservoir of brucellosis – a highly contagious bacterial disease that can be transmitted to humans, and cattle. In humans, it causes undulate fever, and in cattle, it causes contagious abortions. There has been a national program to eradicate brucellosis from livestock since the early 1930s. It’s why milk is pasteurized, and why federal officials long maintained a test-and-slaughter program for our nation’s cattle herds. The brucella organism is also classified as an agent of bio-terrorism.

Brucellosis is a stealth disease that can hide in an animal’s reproductive tract for years without detection. All cattle producers in this region vaccinate (and boost) against brucellosis, but with an efficacy rate of 70%, the vaccine only provides partial protection. We’ve watched our neighbors here in Sublette and Teton counties go through quarantine and whole-herd slaughter because of brucellosis transmission from wintering elk to their cattle. The thought of watching your entire herd sent to slaughter is too horrific for most ranchers to contemplate.

Closing feedgrounds
Most of the elk feedgrounds were established in the 1940s and 1950s to deal with starving elk in bad winter conditions, and to keep them away from stored hay used by ranchers to provide winter feed for cattle on private land.

To close the feedgrounds would be to face the damage caused by dispersing elk that will seek food elsewhere, as they are involved in collisions with vehicles on roadways, move to cattle feedlines and damage stored hay, transmitting disease to cattle, and the anticipated elk population reduction that will follow. So the Wyoming Game & Fish Department has focused on starting feeding later in the winter, ending feeding as early as possible, and conducting habitat improvements to provide better forage conditions for elk off the feedgrounds. The agency is attempting to minimize its feeding program. If it were as simple an issue as closing the feedgrounds, it would have been done years ago. Maintenance of the feedgrounds perpetuates the disease among elk, but spreading diseased elk across the landscape isn’t a good option either. Meanwhile, research for more effective methods to reduce the risks posed by brucellosis continues.

Wolves & Elk
Most western Wyoming elk herds are near population objectives, but some wolf advocates do not believe that wolves impact big game herds. Which is ironic, since the justification for the wolf reintroduction program was based on the need to control the park’s overabundant elk population, which it has. Yellowstone park’s northern range elk herd numbered 17,000 elk in 1995, the year wolves were released in the park. This elk herd shrunk by 2015 to just 1,130 elk inside the park, and 3,714 elk north of the park. At the same time, the grizzly bear population in the region has expanded. Predators have indeed impacted this elk population, just as they do other populations. In localized areas, the problem can be severe.

Surplus killing
Surplus killing involves a predator killing more animals than it can consume and, in contrast to those who say this is a “rare” event, it is exhibited by a variety of predators large and small around the world. From a fox in a chicken coop, to a wolf pack hitting an elk herd, it’s normal predatory behavior. Not everyday, but not rare.

A similar kill to the McNeel case took place on a Big Piney-area feedground in 2003, and there were numerous cases in the last 10 years in which wolves harassed the elk to the extent that the elk “quit” certain feedgrounds altogether. The 19 dead elk on the McNeel feedground included two adult cow elk and 17 calves – that is, yearling elk, not newborn calves. (When wolves killed beef cattle on a private ranch not far from McNeel earlier in the month, some assumed that the five calves were small animals, but they were 500-pound calves by this time of year.)

Surplus kills occur on both wild and domestic herds. A pack of wolves left a pasture of 120 Rambouillet rams dead in Montana in 2009. We’ve had surplus kills by wolves on our place too. And by a black bear, and by a mountain lion.

Wolves in the Northern Rockies reached biological recovery goals more than a decade ago, but are still under federal protection in Wyoming. Even if the state were in charge now, it’s questionable whether any action would be taken against the wolves on the McNeel feedground. But at least state officials would have options if wolves were under state jurisdiction. Right now, there aren’t any.

Those who believe the Wyoming Game & Fish will manage the species to extinction give credence to fear-mongers who thrive on controversy. They point to the fact that Wyoming would allow wolves to be killed in two-thirds of the state as proof that state officials hate this predator. In reality, the wolf population occurs in the western third of the state in an area larger than that designated as necessary in the original wolf recovery plan – and that’s where wolf harvest will be regulated and controlled. That Wyoming doesn’t want wolf population expansion to the remainder of the state is no surprise, and was never on the table as needed for wolf recovery.

Some wolf advocates do not want any wolves killed for any reason. I understand that, but they aren’t the people who experience negative impacts from wolf activity.

I don’t seek eradication of the wolf, even though wolves sometimes kill our family’s livestock. But I would like to live in an ecosystem where this species is actually managed, and I won’t have to feel jeopardized by an action I may take when involved in a conflict with the species.

The January Hills…

and their denizens. Federico Calbolli sent me this video of a hunting fisher in Canada.  It is a great hunting scene– watch how she overcomes the hare -pure speed and focused audacity!

Here is the video, and text:

They are splendid but slightly scary creatures. Long ago I lived in western Mass, in a drafty 1700’s farmhouse on a ridge overlooking Quabbin reservoir, in a place  that shows on maps as the January Hills– a perfect name, though nobody ever used it in my presence. (Think of Ray Bradbury’s October country, the idea as well as the book). There we sometimes saw one, usually crossing the dirt road below, often in a single bound if they were in a hurry.They are fearless and brook no trespass; a Maine  bowhunter I know fired an arrow idly at one and it came halfway up the tree to his stand, baring its teeth and hissing like a cat. Look at the way that thing just sucked up that hare. At the beginning, I wouldn’t have given it a chance. She  did it with almost frightening ease.

They are also one of the few carnivores who regularly prey on porcupines; they get under them somehow and attack through the belly. We had  a ead tree in the woods side of our yard that for some reason was a magnet for mating porcupines very early in the spring. As at the time one of us had an exceptionally dumb bird dog, a German shorthair, who constantly tried to kill porcupines in revenge for  the pain that the last one had caused him (try holding down a large pointer sedated only with a pill, with a broomstick in his jaws to give us access to his mouth and his jaws tied tight with a rag- and removing, often, over a hundred quills with needle nosed pliers, and you will guess how we felt about porcupines).

But then then the fisher found them. In a week they were all gone.We picked up three hollow carcasses, neatly emptied. We never saw a porcupine in that tree again.

That area is between Shutesbury and Franklin, where the road north dead-ends in a forgotten town so as not to drop off into the Swift river, and the tiny dirt-road towns on the east side of the hills were high enough to avoid drowning when Boston secured secure water by drowning seven (I think) towns in the valley.

It’s a beautiful place, full of wildlife. Seventy-five miles from Boston you can see many deer, occasional moose, a solitary mountain lion, the wolf-like coyotes that I don’t think are a new phenomenon. You can see them killing deer on the ice in Quabbin in the winter. Bald eagles nest there, and all small predators and game animals — it’s a great place for goshawks.

But there is something sort of creepy about it: it is full of old abandoned ghost settlements, deep in the woods. There are open stone wells that are as hazardous to you as to your dog when you are out grouse hunting. There are at least two inhabited houses dating back as far as the 1600’s, with that black Puritan architecture, and tiny leaded windows. This was one of the battlefields of King Phillip’s War, and there are even signs of that. Libby and I took directions to a stone underground structure about 5 miles up one of these dirt tracks. It was big enough for both of us to fit comfortably, and we peeked out through roots of a giant white pine.

“This too has been one of the world’s dark places..” (Writer? Bonus points for narrator and setting).

H P Lovecraft wrote about these brooks and hills, and peopled them with monsters. He also used his knowledge of the drowning of the towns to write his story “The Color Out of Space”. I think the only place more Lovecraftian is Providence at sunset. It used to be my home, and sometimes I miss it just a bit, though I was iving off clean roadkill and sometimes poached deer, shooting grouse with a 16 gauge Browning and a 20 bore LC, and running a successful wood business. I was also the acting editor of English Literary Renaissance, where Arthur, my boss, asked me to cold-call Phillip Larkin and ask him for a contribution to our Marvell issue, as they had both been librarians at Hull. Since I was so young and dumb I did not know I should be scared of him, and he was very nice, and contributed one. I also got one from my friend -to- be Gerry Cox, but it was 40 years before we actually met…

Update: here is a fine block print by the master of the medium, Francis Lee Jacques, for Victor Cahalane’s Mammals of North America .  Forgot I had it, which was not as weird as the incident of my copy of Birds of Tibet. Remind me…

When Man Becomes Prey

Cat Urbigkit’s newest, When Man Becomes Prey, is extremely relevant to the matter of the home- invader coyote below.* I rather thoughtlessly quipped “Ask Val Geist” because I have been corresponding with him on such matters for years, and the old zoologist’s theories about too- bold urban predators are bedrock.

But Cat is a pastoralist and writer whose life and work are inextricably interwoven with– I won’t say “urban”, but modern predators. She deals more with coyotes (and bears and wolves and lions) than anyone I know, and she is dedicated to finding “win- win” solutions to problems most people don’t know exist. She has now written the first text on how people in our civilization can co- exist with big predators.

I hadn’t realized that her book was not getting the attention that it should; perhaps it is too biological or realistic for the kind of pop Greenies who think that wolves are spiritual, and too accepting of the predator’s role for traditional “shoot, shovel, and shut up” varmint killers. The more loss for them, especially the first; Prey is THE text on the dangers of taking too naive a view of these wonderful but not entirely benign “new” and ancient neighbors. Even the most  pro- predator advocate must realize that, if enough people are attacked by any carnivore, it will lose its protection.

This sounds as calm as Cat is when she discusses the potential problems on the wild/ human “interface”, so let me reprint what I wrote to her a while back when she asked me for a blurb:

“Jeez, you write a revolutionarily sane book that goes against all trends in the world outside of Africa, takes brisk notice of the stupidity of rules made by sentimentalists in cities who think that all animals can be reasoned with (you don’t HAVE to get gory to elicit the horror as that poor woman gets eaten for half an hour because she thought Timothy Treadwell was a reliable guide to grizzlies), remind people that not only will coyotes eat your dog but, just as happily, your kids (and show why the first publicly eaten kid will be in California, where runners should just sacrifice a woman a year to the Cat Goddess); and why even if that happens the residents of Boulder will give their dogs and children to lions rather than allow hunting or GUNS to be used in their peaceful city (and I have read details of the kid who got et, and it wasn’t pretty)…

“And all this all without blinking, in a serious tone that still can be devastatingly if blackly funny when you come up with predictions of what will happen if idiots stumble on making the  same mistakes (“… and the idiot’s twice- burned finger/ goes wabbling back to the fire…”**)

“You expect me to sum it up in three sentences???”

So I took one more.

“Cat Urbigkit is a scholar and a rancher and above all a writer, a woman who has lived with her flocks in the wildest ranges we have left, watching and admiring, and sometimes without rancor killing the great predators who share her home. In When Man Becomes Prey, she documents the increasing conflict as animals big enough to eat your pets, your children, and even you, come to live in close contact with people who do not believe that anything beautiful can be dangerous. In this lucid, sane book she brings her years of experience and study together to suggest the unthinkable: that if we live in intimate contact with big predators we must regain our ability to scare them, the heritage of a primate who only survived by knowing that when predators think you are harmless, you will become food. That hunting may both preserve predators and make the wilderness safer for humans may be counterintuitive, but it is as true now as it was in the Pleistocene.”

Eventually, our big predators, through both learning and the elimination of aggressive individuals, may behave more like the ones in Europe. Ours MAY be less aggressive than those in Africa; if so it may be, as Valerius Geist suggested, due to the ubiquity of firearms on our frontier (Africans and Siberians generally were far less well- armed than our pioneers and frontiersmen).

But we aren’t there yet, not when runners are eaten by lions, students by wolves, and Canadian folksingers by coyotes. If you like predators, enjoy the wild, and believe that we must find ways to live with more of it around, read this book. It is also a treasury of good up- to- date natural history backed by real- life experience, and full of first- rate photos, most by Cat. Buy it!

* People have been asking how it got in. A door was slightly ajar– but what non- acclimated coyote would test doors like a burglar?

** Kipling, “The Gods of the Copybook Headings”

Poorest of People Caught in Anti-Hunting Crossfire

In March 2011, a coalition of animal welfare groups opposed to the hunting of African lions petitioned the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for protection of this lion subspecies under the Endangered Species Act. FWS responded this week by proposing to list African lions as “threatened” – not the “endangered” status sought by the groups. Still, the groups claim success. It is evident that the sought-after listing is more about stopping the hunting of African lions and less about lion conservation after all.

Unfortunately those who stand to be most impacted by the listing aren’t rich American hunters seeking a trophy, but the some of the poorest people on the planet who live with Africa’s 30,000-40,000 lions on a daily basis. Since this is a proposal for animal conservation, the human equation is largely ignored – with the exception that the proposal notes the continued increase in Africa’s human population further endangers these iconic cats.

Three major factors largely ignored in the discussion are:

• African people have to eat to survive;

• African people rely on their close association with their livestock and wild animals to feed their families;

• African lions kill not only thousands of livestock, but hundreds of African people, each and every year.

Instead, headlines in American media report of the “Last-Ditch Effort to Save Remaining African Lions” and the need for action “Protecting the African Lion From Trophy Hunters.”

Here’s a list of the groups authoring the petition for endangered status:

• International Fund for Animal Welfare,

• Humane Society of the United States

• Humane Society International,

• Born Free Foundation/Born Free USA

• Defenders of Wildlife, and the

• Fund for Animals.

These are not organizations devoted to spending a large portion of their revenues on the ground in Africa to alleviate conflicts between humans and lions. A major motivation for the proposal is the desire to stop trophy hunting of African lions, which the FWS proposal will not do. But what the FWS proposal may do is further jeopardize the already dire future of the poorest residents of Africa.

Single-species protection efforts rarely (if ever) address the core issues of large carnivore conservation – human wellbeing, and in the case of Africa, alleviation of poverty. “The impact of conservation policies on human wellbeing is critical to the integration of poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation,” according to a 2012 paper in Biological Conservation. “Conservation and provision of livelihoods should therefore go hand-in-hand.”

Elephants in India kill people every day. African lions kill more than 100 people each year in southern Tanzania and northern Mozambique alone. People killed in these human-wildlife conflicts are generally from “the weaker socioeconomic sections of society” – the rural poor.

Conservation policies often have the heaviest impacts on the poorest of people, and when there are human-wildlife conflicts such as loss of one cow, it aggravates a family’s existing poverty. Studies have shown that crop-raiding by wild animals in Africa frequently results in a reduction of the overall food supply available to a family. That often means that mothers will eat less to provide nourishment for their children, resulting in her diminished health. Family members become anemic, and people die from lack of sufficient nutrition. If a family member is attacked and killed by a wild animal, and that person is an adult wage-earner, this further threatens the entire family’s livelihood, well being, and potential survival.

In Africa, if an adult male is lucky enough to have an outside job that generates income in a subsistence-based economy, that male wage-earner will spend his days at a paying job, and stand guard over his crops or livestock at night. That means that daytime guarding is conducted by children who are therefore not attending school to better their futures. Many of these daytime guards are killed by predators that hunt during daylight hours: African lions.

To some, the impact of human-wildlife conflicts may seem small on a national or global scale, but “but they give rise to exponentially high costs for the affected individuals and families, many of whom are amongst the least privileged people in the world,” according to the Biological Conservation paper.

The listing of a species as threatened or endangered often leads to the setting aside of more lands to protect that species. When more land is set aside for wildlife conservation, traditional human use such as hunting and livestock grazing are forbidden or restricted. Subsistence livestock producers, or people who depend on bushmeat for nutrition, thus lose use of traditional resources and land. This global trend has resulted in a new class of people aptly termed Conservation Refugees. Google it.

The reliance on bushmeat in Africa includes everything from rats to elephants, and from subsistence use, to providing meat for the urban marketplace. A paper in a 2006 issue of Conservation Biology (“Hunting for Consensus: Reconciling Bushmeat Harvest, Conservation and Development Policy in West and Central Africa”) notes: “Where bushmeat markets are booming, poor rural communities are often mining their wildlife resources to subsidize the protein consumption costs of urban families. The failure of development to provide growing urban populations with secure livelihoods and sustainable sources of animal protein are resulting in overharvesting of wildlife in rural areas and decreased livelihood security of poor rural families who are dependent on a dwindling wildlife resource. Bushmeat harvest is more a survival strategy than a development strategy. The places where species are threatened pinpoint places where development policies have failed, and the future of the rural poor is likely to be threatened as well.”

Those advocating for switching subsistence economies toward ecotourism at least acknowledge the need for human economic viability, but have failed to find an alternative that actually works. Ecotourism is often touted as alternative, but few people impacted by wildlife conflicts receive benefit from such schemes. In one recent study in Africa, only 17% of families were associated with ecotourism, but 65% lost livestock to lions. Other programs offer compensation for certain (proven) losses, but the time and effort required to seek such compensation – especially in poor countries where fraud is rampant – is often too much for the rural poor. Poor and illiterate people lacking social capital are not likely to seek compensation for their losses to wild animals.

We all want African lions to thrive well in the long term. But unless we actually begin to address the core issues involved in human-wildlife conflicts, we’ll adopt policies much as this one, meant to harm rich American hunters traveling to do something many find distasteful (hunting lions as trophies), but the resulting impact may be the death of more of Africa’s poorest people. Until we adopt a new approach, the cost of conservation will continue to be disproportionately high for rural people to bear. For a moral people, the loss of human life should be at least as important as wildlife conservation.

Rena’s Contributions

It’s been nearly two months since Rena tangled with wolves while protecting our sheep herd in the foothills of the southern Wind River Mountains. She has recovered nicely – no major muscle loss, but some stiffness in her hind end remains, and we suspect that won’t change. The sheep herd has moved home for the winter, and Rena is happily back on guardian duty, but tires easily. We’re hopeful for a quiet winter.

The essay I posted here on Q about the weekend of the wolf attacks on our herd has been widely read, and I’m pleased to say that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe was one of those readers. Ashe quoted some of the essay at a carnivore conservation conference at Yale this week, and showed the crowd a photo of wounded Rena. His point in doing so was to urge those present “to think about the people who must share the landscape with these species. We need their support, their understanding and their forbearance if we want to see large carnivores roaming free.

“We must seek solutions that work for them, as well as for the species we manage. To do otherwise will perpetuate the conflict and make it harder for carnivores to gain acceptance.

“Compassion and empathy. That’s the key.” Amen to that, Mr. Ashe. Thanks for spreading the word.

Rena’s responsibilities have increased now that she’s healed up and her sheep are home. Her 9-year old mother, Luv’s Girl, gave birth to four pups in early October, so she’s on maternity leave. Luv’s Girl will race out to join Rena in reacting to a perceived threat, but she isn’t actively patrolling since she’s too busy tending to her pups. We’re night penning the sheep to give the dogs a break, but Rena stays double-busy checking the herd, and then checking her mother with the new puppies in their natal den. We’ll keep one of the pups to raise in our herd, and send the others out to other livestock producers who need working dogs. I think we can say with confidence that this lineage is wolf- and bear-tested.

“Homotherium is perhaps my favorite felid…”

… says Nathaniel below. I agreed, then laughed at the oddity of a blog where readers could make that statement with a straight face, though there are a couple of others on the blogroll…

Here is my favorite image of Homotherium serum, a frightening predator, in life bigger than an African lion and possibly cursorial like a hyena, by Mauricio Anton for The Big Cats and their Fossil Relatives. The paperweight is a young mammoth’s tooth found by Joe Hutto in Florida; young mammoths were the major prey of a species of Homotherium at one European site.

And a mother and cubs of another color morph:

Attitudes to Predators

I just got an email from Al Cambronne, who has a new blog Deerland here, and book coming out at Lyons by the same name. He wrote an interesting post on how public attitudes toward three predators– muskies, wolves, and (Bald) eagles differ as exemplified in his home state of Wisconsin.

I found the discussion stimulating enough that I replied at blog length (edited after more reflection):

Analogies between muskies, wolves, and eagles are… BIOLOGICALLY difficult, because as you surmise culturally different. Muskies have always been prizes, but pike which are similar in every way not always so– persecuted in European trout and salmon water for one example.

I would say that both wolf and eagle are romanticized and revered by the same element of urban society. Some tribes do hold them sacred, which doesn’t mean they don’t kill them, sometimes cruelly. Wolves are serious stock predators, which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t let or encourage their return, but not by doing so on the backs and economy of rural residents. So-called reparations for lost stock, at least in NM, are held to such an absolute standard of proof as to be absurd– evidence of wolf tracks and eaten carcasses is NOT enough even if wolves were seen chasing stock.

I think the urbanites who so want them might find a way to help pay, perhaps as subsidies to predator- harassed ranchers who must share their land. (That they might then demand a say in ranching practices might open up a bigger can of worms– they know nothing whatsoever about pastoral life, and some ranchers know only a little more about wildlife, but some places both sides are polarized past compromise– government’s fault, another issue).I think confirmed stock killers should be removed, permanently– good evolutionary biology too. The surprisingly widespread wolves of Europe rarely bother humans. Ranchers should learn the use of stock protection dogs like my Wyoming friends the Urbigkits. Urbanites should not romanticize individual wolves at the cost of harming humans who must live with them, but take it as a necessary compromise– you get to hear wolves, problem wolves die, and the rancher is not driven off his land.

I think we should learn to live with a good amount of wolf- game predation– another divisive issue, but the wild is the wild, and co-evolved species must find their way. Prey populations seem to be wobbling into an interesting balance in big wild areas like Yellowstone. We have a hard time seeing that wild populations are often not stable, but run to boom and bust, and that this is natural. Read Where the Wild Things Were. We have little concept of how important apex predators are– which does not mean we cannot kill a few!

Eagles? Very controversial and even more complicated, but important to only a few. Legally both wind power companies and Indians can kill eagles, practically speaking almost at will. The first do it as a side effect but kill a lot. Some of the second do it even more crassly for money than the wind blades do, for powwow costumes which are no more religious than a prom dress, though their slaughter is defended by the likes of Leslie Silko as religious last I heard.

Complication number one: there are a LOT of Golden eagles– five figures worth in the continental US. NOT analogous to wolves! Number two: eagles are still sometimes a significant livestock predator. I know of no recent persecution, but until last year (?– not sure of the most recent decision), problem eagles were legally trapped and removed. Falconers used this population; in fact, trapped legally. Their take was reduced to SIX a year– remember, recent studies indicate this is a common bird with thousands of breeding pairs!– and may be ended for good. This does not sit well with eaglers, dedicated and fanatical even among falconers, who may bond with a bird for decades, while wind blades harvest ten and twenty times the annual number allowed to them, and natives– I am emphatically NOT talking about the reverent Pueblos, who have a real attitude of respect– shoot eagles for profit, brag about it, and are released by white judges.

I am, as a once- zoologist, inclined to manage populations biologically. If a harvest of sorts is the price to pay for having wolves back, fine with me. I would crack down on consumptive use of eagles by Indians, as opposed to sacrificial, and FIGHT for it– no other religion is allowed to decimate a species. And I would allow the same biologically reasonable take on Goldens as applies to any other master falconer’s raptor. (Balds are a less active predator, not as good for falconry, and protected for better or worse by the US civil “religion”, though I know a guy in Canada who flew a male on whitetail jacks).

I have no trouble with the idea of shooting a wolf– well, not a huge interest, but I have killed coyotes: Betsy Huntington is buried with the pelt of one. Hunted predators bother us less. Suburban coyotes are behaving in a scary manner in southern California and even Albuquerque, and “lions” can become even scarier when surrounded by gentle vegans (read the cougar book The Beast in the Garden) Specific population numbers are rather irrelevant, and stable is a different number for each species and region; there are always going to be low numbers of apex predators, and there soon could be a decent number of wolves; micromanaging by moving them in and out may actually be hindering them. Shooting persistent outlaws will like it or not “teach them manners”– they are intelligent– and keep them from eating our dogs & eventually our kids. And please spare me ideas of their harmlessness; the benign wolf of North America is a historical example of what scientists would call an “artifact”, based on rapid settlement and and a historically unusual plethora of guns. Run the figures for Siberia or India– or go to Native accounts, or Medieval ones (Lane?)…

Can’t neglect fish: big muskies (also pike; the large predatory catfish like blue and flathead; alligator gar; even carp in non- wilderness waters). The huge ones are old breeders– catch, photo & release! It is fine, contra “Throw Back the Little Ones*”, to keep small fish & eat them…

*Donald Fagen has a new album out!


I want a Cooper’s hawk but this one is a breeding adult, too old and too valuable to the population to keep, not to mention illegal. She trapped into my flight loft today and I will release her to make more tomorrow. She weighs nearly a pound, huge for a western Coop, and is a pure Velociraptor. Wonderful word, “haggard”…

She was not pleased