This article by Franz Camenzind celebrates the positive steps that have been made in the broad ranging efforts and collaborations to have a viable grizzly bear population in the lower 48. Scientifically the bear is certainly in a better place than it was 40 years ago, but it seems to be lagging as far as our culture’s willingness to accommodate bears in ever fragmented landscapes. We need to ask why modern wildlife biology has been able to achieve stronger numbers of bears in the face of decreasing habitat and food supply, yet modern state managers willingly acquiesce to the social demands to kill for recreation. How ironic that 21st century science has enabled recovery only to cater to hunting demands reminiscent of the dark ages!
Mountain lions face some very unique challenges in South Dakota. Politically there is a strong unscientific push to basically remove as many cougars as possible, especially from the areas through which dispersal might naturally take place. There is also a relative lack of public land where lions might be protected if there was an intelligent attitude towards them. Livestock growers do benefit from maintaining an enhanced environment and even though it can mean changing human behavior, there are ways to reduce conflict. Whether people are willing to live in harmony with the landscape or whether they seek dominion and are not willing to accommodate small inconveniences is the question that must be asked. Putting the kind of pressure that has been directed at the fairly new mountain lion population of the Black Hills in the name of recreation brings negative attention to this great state–where the politics could be perceived as more reminiscent of ‘Deadwood’ than of the 21st century
We hear news of animals facing challenges and even extinction in most news cycles. Often the animals who seem to be most vulnerable to the consequences of human expansion and acquisition are those animals we might think of as ‘strong’ or even ‘fierce’. Large cats, elephants, rhinos and polar bears…all titans in their own way yet all in peril because our misplaced need and greed.
Do we really want our children to inherit a broken planet? Please celebrate and value the LIVES of animals with us!
Producers’ lives demand one risk management decision after another. They are experts and willingly assess possibilities for loss in their quest to provide food for a nation.
The contingencies they address range from events as vast as the weather to the tiny bacteria that could negatively impact their livelihood in the same grand scale.
Irrigation, vaccination, antibiotics, noxious vegetation removal and many other methods of husbandry are part of everyday life for farmers and ranchers in the 21st century. One more item needs to be added to that list and that is ‘conflict prevention’. As humans claim more and more wildland as their own, we encroach on the needs of our native flora and fauna. We develop, fragment and alter the very spaces needed for enhanced biodiversity. Our gain is indeed our loss!
Preventing conflict with wildlife is kind of the natural seatbelt we can choose to use. Non-lethal deterrents-like the seatbelt-do not provide 100% guarantee, but if you get into an unexpected situation, they are the best chance you have. We need to find a way to help make non-lethal deterrents as second nature as the seatbelt-not just something you grab when you think there might be a wreck. How this can be done is an issue that all stakeholders can work on together, whether it is by providing incentives to producers, tax relief for prevention equipment, or compensation if it fails. We can all be part of the solution and when we peel back the negative layers that line the reactive attitudes towards predators, we will remove yet another excuse for exploiting and destroying them.