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fish and wildlife

Managing Predators

Why Fish and Game Agencies Can’t Manage Predators

Persecution and limited acceptance of predators’ ecological role is still the dominant attitude. In the past month or so, helicopters with gunners skimmed over the Alaskan tundra and forests shooting wolves to “protect” caribou herds. In Nevada, the state fish and game agency wants to kill more mountain lions to increase mule deer numbers. In Idaho, the state wildlife officials want to kill more than a hundred wolves in the Lolo Pass area to benefit elk.

Photo by Alan VernonAlaskan Coastal Brown bear near Hyder, Alaska.Predators like bears, wolves, and mountain lions help reduce herbivore numbers which in turn reduces overgrazing. Without exception, state game and fish agencies do not treat predators like other wildlife. Even though state agencies are no longer engaged in outright extermination of predators, persecution and limited acceptance of the ecological role of predators is still the dominant attitude. State wildlife agencies only tolerate predators as long as they are not permitted to play a meaningful ecological role – which at times means they may reduce prey numbers.

George Wuerthner has a degree in wildlife biology from the University of Montana. He is a former hunting guide and ecologist.

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