Friday, November 25, 2011


In a "perfect" natural world there would be the exact number of predators hunting and feeding on birds, rabbits, deer or whatever prey is available to keep the meat-eaters well fed and the prey species from over-populating. The "real" natural world, however, produces cycles.

Sometimes prey numbers are high due to a light predator load; at other times the cycle is reversed.

As predator populations increase, the amount of available prey declines until too few remain to support the number of predators. When that happens, the predators die off in mass numbers due to outright starvation or diseases brought on by malnutrition and from parasites such as mange. None are easy deaths to endure.

Once the predator numbers crash, prey numbers can grow unchecked. You know the theory, each momma rabbit has 8 babies each month of the spring and summer, and baby rabbits can become momma rabbits in 6 weeks. Do the math and by the end of the breeding season the world is butt-deep in rabbits. Of course come winter, there’s insufficient habitat for all the rabbits and the population control becomes starvation, exposure, road-kills and disease.

Should we let nature run its course or should we manage wild populations, both predator and prey, to ensure the perfect balance? Trappers harvesting predator animals such as foxes, raccoons, skunks, mink, coyotes and opossums allow prey animals to flourish. Hunters harvesting surplus rabbits, squirrel, deer, quail and pheasants ensures the remaining animals go into the winter in numbers consummate with the available food and habit  and with ample numbers surviving to become next year’s breeding stock.

Personally, I believe managing wild populations makes more sense and affords the opportunity for humans to participate in the natural world - not just observe it.

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