Thursday, January 8, 2009

Predators and an Overabundance of Whitetail Deer in MA

I'm giving a talk on predators tonight at the Y; in preparation I was thumbing through an old issue of Massachusetts Wildlife (Nov. 2006), as I had seen mentioned on the cover an article about whitetail deer over-population. After reading the article, I have to say I'm even more fired up for my talk. It did a good job discussing the history of whitetails in New England, their human-caused decline and re-growth, and talked about the challenges we face living with a large, abundant mammal so close to our civilization. Hunting, however was the only method mentioned as a means of restricting the deer population (discounting natural causes which would result in ecosystem destruction and disease and starvation for thousands of animals). The article discussed the pros and cons people feel about hunting (while mentioning that the author - Tovar Cerulli - is a hunter himself) and proposed it as the best viable solution to the deer problem.

I happen to think that hunting is an excellent form of population control for our out-of-control deer population (and agree with the author that it's our best solution right now). And I also happen to think that a healthy predator population (i.e. - wolves) is also a potential solution. Reintroduction of wolves is a very controversial topic - no doubt about it. But much to my frustration, the author didn't even MENTION the role predators naturally play in keeping ungulate populations healthy and stable, and that fact that our top level predators are missing here in New England - and that's a big problem. Regardless of how you feel about an issue like predator re-introduction, to not even mention it as an ecological issue drives me crazy. People can continue on their way with their misconceptions about predators big and small, ignorant of how imbalanced our forests are without the biggest ones present. I'm SO glad I'm running my program this evening. **Stepping off my soapbox**

As an aside, I will be leading a tracking program in the central MA region this Saturday, January 16th from 10 - 12:30. If you're interested in attending, send me an email and I'll get you the details.

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