Monday, March 11, 2013

Predators Balance Nature


When large predators are removed from the environment negative consequences follow such as deer and elk populations exploding. This is then followed by over browsing of plants, which can cause streams to erode and populations of plants, birds, animals, fish, insects, and amphibians to dwindle with some vanishing forever. Take wolves from the environment and coyotes proliferate reducing populations of rabbits and hares. At the same time deer and elk herds grow beyond the ability of the forest to sustain them. Trees and shrubs are unable to reproduce adequately due to over browsing and some vanish from the landscape. Habitat that supports birds and insects is lost and their numbers plummet. By removing wolves from the environment a chain reaction is put into play that is the beginning of a major ecological degradation.
 Here in the west wolves, mountain lions, bears and eagles were hunted almost to extinction to make room for domestic cattle and sheep. Unable to comprehend the contribution of large predators to the ecology bounties placed on predators almost completely removed wolves from the lower 48 including our public lands. Today wolf reintroduction programs are seriously impacted by those who misunderstand the role that these predators play in the health of the environment.
 Recently protections for wolves have been removed by the Interior Department allowing them to be slaughtered by the hundreds in the Northern Rockies and I believe they will try to remove protections from almost all wolves across the country before Secretary Salazar leaves the agency once again leaving wolves to be leg trapped and shot back to the brink of extinction.
Mountain Lions are being killed in South Dakota, Wolves in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Wisconsin and Minnesota are being killed at an alarming rate (0ver 1000) since August 2012. Threats to these animals include hunting, habitat loss and poaching.

                                                             MEXICAN GRAY WOLF

Even though the Mexican Gray Wolf has been protected by the Endangered Species Act since 1976 twenty of the animals released along the Arizona/New Mexico Border have been killed. Currently there are only 58 Mexican Grays in the wild making them the most endangered mammal in the country.
 Around the world thousands of species are either extinct or endangered due almost exclusively to the activities of humans. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 was approved by Congress with the force of law aimed at protecting plants and animals that are in danger of extinction. Today we still have great challenges including legislators on the right that try to weaken and even end protections for our most vulnerable species based on politics with little or no regard for science. Clearly this assault from politicians is driven by campaign cash and unfortunately ignorance. Senator Orrin Hatch has introduced  a bill that would remove protections from all wolves allowing them to be slaughtered throughout the entire country including in Arizona/New Mexico where reintroduction efforts would be devastated and the Mexican Gray Wolf would disappear from the landscape forever.

Wolves and Mountain Lions provide a natural and necessary function in nature. We made the mistake of removing them in the past and our ecology suffered enormously. Now with the science clearly showing how these animals help an ailing landscape forces are poised to repeat the tragic mistakes of the past. If this battle is lost then hundreds if not thousands of other efforts will fail along with it. We must prevail in our efforts to save these remarkable animals or suffer grave consequences.

1 comment:

  1. This wolf looks like a wolf that I knew in wolf hole valley on the Arizona Strip. (