Monday, 01 June 2009 00:00

More Predator News

Written by Hunters Alert
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Steve Smith, a rancher and lion hunter in Arizona, wrote an article that originally appeared in Western Hunting Magazine and was reprinted in Deer Times-Fall, 2007 magazine. The title was Out of Balance: One Expert’s Commentary on Mountain Lions, Mule Deer and Wildlife Mismanagement.


The author made many valid points and HUNTER’ S ALERT would like to compare his views with those of HUNTER’S ALERT.


SS: As mule deer numbers decreased, depredation on livestock increased.


HA: This is similar to what has happened in Nevada.  In Elko County in 1973, there were approximately 50,000 domestic sheep. Twelve years later, the number had declined to 15,000 because the federal government wanted the sheep off the land. When this happened, the lions went to their alternative food source and started wiping out the mule deer.


SS: As mule deer (the primary prey of lions) decreased, the lions just switched to another reliable food source – cattle.


HA: In Arizona, they realized the primary food source for lions is deer. NDOW has not yet figured that out for Nevada.


SS: If lions don’t have mule deer or cattle to eat, they will move on to other prey as well.


HA: This is exactly what happened on the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. The lions ate all the sheep.


SS: Does the recent high predation on bighorn sheep by lions today have any connection with the high losses I experienced on domestic livestock 25 years ago? I believe both were predictable, and are products of the mismanagement of mule deer for the last 50 years.


HA: We could not have stated that any better. And let’s repeat it: The mismanagement of mule deer.

SS: I believe the single most important contributing factor to the decline of mule deer in the southwest has been suppression of forest fires. The greater density of trees and brush enhance the position of the predators tipping the balance in their favor.


HA: NDOW believes differently. Wherever there is a forest fire, NDOW wants to kill thousands of does because there is no cover. NDOW would never believe cover makes it easier for lions to kill mule deer.


SS: I believe the Federal government has done a miserable job of managing federal lands.


HA: Amen to that, brother!


SS: Drought is used as an excuse that absolves agencies from any responsibility. Obviously its impact can be profound, but a look at the 602-acre (approximately one square mile) Walnut Canyon deer enclosure at the Three-Bar Wildlife Area in central Arizona makes one question the resolve that AZGFD has on the issue. Inside the fence, with no predators, there are an estimated 90 mule deer per square mile. Outside the fence there are three mule deer per square mile. This information has been suppressed for 20 years.


Coyotes have a significant impact on mule deer in two different ways. Predation directly after fawn drop in some regional circumstances is enough to stymie any recovery. This, however, is only a seasonal issue. The second problem, which I will refer to as secondary depredation, is far more invasive. I am always amazed how fast coyotes locate a lion kill and the quantity of meat they consume. I’ve read for years that lions make one kill per week. I believe coyotes left unchecked increase this number to one and a half kills per week or three large prey animals every two weeks.


HA: This is more proof that predators have a big impact on mule deer. But NDOW will never recognize this fact as they would then have to do some predator control.


SS: A sincere effort by our managing agencies to bring predator-prey relationships into balance would increase the effectiveness of wildlife management strategies across the board. Lions have demonstrated that they will adapt to change more than any researcher would have predicted. We should not ignore the need for intelligent, balanced wildlife management, as we have with mule deer for the last 50 years.


HA: Intelligent management of mule deer will not happen with the current director. He has done nothing in over two years to restore our mule deer. In addition, his chief of Big Game, Mark Atkinson doesn’t have a clue about Nevada’s needs. He trained in Africa, went to Montana, then to Nevada. Unless some major changes are made in NDOW, mule deer will never have the chance of recovering, certainly not with the current people calling the shots in NDOW.

Last modified on Wednesday, 14 April 2010 23:53
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