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Didyou know

  • Blog Post by: T.R. Michels
  • October 1, 2011 - 10:40 PM

Did you know?"

It is somewhat funny. I started my career as a writer /seminar speaker, and based my reputation on getting to the bottom of wildlife myths and telling the truth as best I could determine it – with hunters. And now, here I am trying to do the same thing with non-hunters and even anti-hunters, all of whom I hope will stay tuned, read what I write, keep an open mind, and hope will be able to understand enough to change their minds.

One of the biggest misconceptions I read about, is that wildlife populations will balance themselves. While that may be truein some cases, what is being left out is, that in many instances it may take dozens if not hundreds or thousands years for that to occur. It may only after there has been massive habitat destruction, drought, disease, stress or large die offs of one or more species.

First, realize that everything in an ecosystem is dependent to some extent on everything else in that ecosystem. And, if we look at it, as we should, the earth itself is one large ecosystem. To start at the beginning, or bottom, of the biological pyramid – lets assume that a frog laid its eggs in a shallow pond, one, which relied on seasonal rains to keep it wet. When the frog laid its eggs the pond may have been filled with microorganisms that were dined on by invertebrates such as insects and arachnids, which in turn were dined on by small invertebrates such as crustaceans and mollusks, which were dined on by small vertebrates such as amphibians, reptiles and fish, which were dined on by larger fish such as bass and walleyes, and wading birds such as herons and egrets, and large birds of prey, such as hawks or eagles, and mammalian species such as weasels, mink and otters, which in turn may be dined on by larger predators such as badgers, coyotes, bobcats, wolves and bears, which man in turn be killed and eaten or used by humans.

Once the frog eggs hatch, the tadpoles emerge, and begin to eat microorganisms and algae, which rely on rain to keep them wet, but it did not rain. So the tadpoles ate all of the microorganisms and algae, and even plant life in the pond. Then they may begin to eat each other, and if it does not rain, before they grow legs, with which to leave the pond, they will die – all for the lack of rain.

This same scenario can occur in any animal species. Too many bears in a habitat, means that they will eventually eat everything in the habitat, and if they do not leave the habitat, they begin to suffer malnutrition, physical stress disease, and eventually death. Even if a few bears make it through the worst time, it may be dozens of years, if not more, before there is enough forage for the bears to eat and get healthy, to the point where they can begin to reproduce again. In most cases poor or low forage for larger animals such as bears and deer, results to some extent, in pregnant animals either aborting their young, or resorbing, the egg back into their bodies, so that the adult can survive.

In a balanced ecosystem, the predators, such as bears eventually begin to keep their numbers in balance with the carrying capacity of the habitat, meaning there is enough forage and deer and small animals for them to eat, that they do not suffer malnutrition. This is often accomplished by the fact that females either may not come in to estrus if they are not healthy, or some of the unhealthy animals die off, or eggs are reabsorbed back into the females so that they do not give birth the next year. But, if something catastrophic occurs, such as a wildfire, or drought or strong winds or a tornado, that destroys the forage base, large numbers of animals may suffer malnutrition, stress and starvation.

Let’s use deer as an example. The thing that kept deer in balance with the carrying capacity of the habitat, before man entered the picture, was large predators. But, since most humans refuse to live in the presence of large predators, either the predators are driven out of the area, or more likely, they are killed, and then there is nothing natural to keep the deer herd from overpopulating and getting out of balance with the carrying capacity of the habitat. What often occurs is that the deer begin eating everything in sight (as in what occurs in many county and city parks, where deer densities may reach 49 deer per square mile, on habitat that generally holds 14–20 deer per square mile). Once deer numbers get that high they begin to dine on anything in the woods, and you will notice that the lush forest floor is no longer lush, the weeds (as many call them,but are propely teremed forbs) are gone, and then the lower branches of the trees are gone, because the deer ate them. (We refer to this condition as a browse line.) And eventually vegetable gardens will be dined on, hostas and arbor vitae will be dined on, and numerous deer/vehicle collisions occur, often endangering the health and possibly the lives of citizens. And the human residents of these areas begin to complain - all because their ancestors did not want to live with coyotes, wolves and bears in the vicinity.

When the habitat begins to fill up with humans, or the predators aren't there to keep the deer in balance with the carrying capacity of the land, the only alternative we have is – hunting. Or at least killing, because most areas where anti-hunters and non-hunters think the deer could be relocated to, already have all of the deer the habitat in that area can hold. Which leaves killing some animals as the only alternative.

Another scenario that many non-hunters and anti-hunters may not be aware of is that in some small animals and bird populations, that do not have large animals as predators (only raptors - birds of prey), the way they keep their numbers in balance with the carrying capacity of the habitat, is through annual mortality rates. With many game birds, and small mammals, the annual mortality rate, whether the species is hunted or not, will be enough that they do not overpopulate the habitat. In some populations the annual mortality rate will approach about 30 percent. But, as I said, it makes no difference if the animals are hunted or not, hunting (provided game managers have a good idea of what the annual mortality rate of a particular species is, will not offer permits or licenses that exceed the annual mortality rate) will have little or no effect on the yearly population. In other word, hunting has no noticeable effect on the annual population of the species. So, hunting can be used to fund the research and management of wildlife. Without those funds, that research and management probably would not occur, especially in these difficult economic times.

Although one might argue that there is no need hunt these species, because they are somewhat self-regulating, without the funds generated by hunting, not only research and management of a particular species might not occur, but funds needed to support parks, trails etc, that so many outdoor enthusiasts and Minnesotan’s are proud of, and take advantage of, would not exist.

If you are a nature lover, or a birder or wildflower enthusiast, and pay nothing or very little to walk or hike in the parks, wildlife areas and nature areas, that you enjoy, you can thank the hunters - because they are the ones that supply a major part of the funding needed to purchase, maintain and improve those areas. You should take time to thank hunters for what they do for wildlife, wild places and for you. 

 

God bless all of you,

T.R.  

If you are interested in a wildlie tour or photogaphy trip, now is a great time to go, because many bird speceis are migrating through our state, and the deer rut is beginning. If interested give me a buzz at TRMichels@yahoo.com

 

 

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