Tuesday, March 09, 2010

It's not this simple...

I've been hearing some talk on apex predators lately. Radio was chattering a bit on a NSF study - I think that is summarized here. Another decent scan here.

I remember posting this some time ago.

Seems like this is a very emotional and hot topic. Polarizing would be an understatement. Like most things though, landing in the middle is the most reasonable approach. I don't know much about wolves - I don't see them or interact with them and thus I don't have extensive comment. Sense suggsts to me though, that research means something. Sense tells a person that you can't eliminate a dimension of something and leave all other dimensions as they are now. Sense suggests that thoughtful management is the best approach.

That said, if I had coyotes beating on me and ripping up my stock, I'd do my best to talk it over with folks who understand things well, and then manage the situation. It'd require some thought though. Like you might use field stones to build your low water crossings, and like you might use manure to grow your garden... so should a person use killed animals within the confines of their operation it seems. Skin them out and then maybe feed the pigs. Something. Management is a burden but it's an important one. When you dump an animal in a ditch, as far as I can tell you are (1) disgracing the animal, (2) denying your home and land a potential gain - all flesh and bone has potential to make the land healthy, (3) being lazy and placing a burden on others to take care of your responsibility.

And so while wolves and other apex predators may not necessarily be as romantic as depicted in that Leopold bit, I think it's safe to say that the answer is not as simple as an unwritten policy to shoot all wild canines on sight and dump them in ditches. As a person in the world, I can figure that nobody deserves that end. If those coyotes did indeed have to die (who knows that?), then an honorable end would have been under some roots that would grow a tree or maybe a tomato that a person could eat later on. I suppose they'll end up as nutrient somewhere, at some point, but the path will be a disgraceful one.

These pics were taken yesterday at a stream crossing in the Straight River watershed. Beer can is a nice touch. Identification of sorts.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

pure cowardice.

3:23 PM  
Blogger Schollmeier said...

For christsakes, can't people at minimum skin them out? Like you said the meat could go to pig or chicken farmer. I'm not convinced that much pisses me off more than wanton waste...

5:03 PM  
Anonymous winonaflyfactory said...

Sad. Being a human is a bummer sometimes.

8:01 PM  
Blogger John Montana said...


9:20 PM  
Blogger Colorado Angler said...

Typical. This is why the human race is destined to fail.

Sanctity of life extends no further than some folk's noses...senseless killing of some beautiful animals.

The beer can on the tail speaks volumes.

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Paul Galardy said...

One of the saddest pictures I've seen in a while. Hard not to get a stir of rage against the people who do such things. As you eloquently state - if it must be done, do it with respect and ideally make use of the remains.

9:28 PM  
Blogger Trout Caviar said...

That's really vile. Which Straight River is that?


9:38 AM  
Blogger Capt. Dave's Sport Fishing said...

as a fisherman in Florida, where a wild animal like that is a very uncommon sight. To see that is a disgrace. I guess they go fishing and toss the fish to die on the bank too.....
Jacksonville fishing

1:51 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This is not about whether wolves should be shot or not, it's about the shooter.

He's the one who belongs lifeless in a ditch.

8:47 PM  
Blogger Wendy Berrell said...

Good notes. In particular, I agree with this last one from John. We're all murderers. It comes with the burden of living. The precise story of the coyotes here is not known. However, conclusions can be drawn regarding the conduct of the person responsible. The conduct is what is troubling.

TC: Straight River in Steele County. Cannon River trib.

10:14 PM  
Blogger amanda said...

I read this post a few days ago, and have been letting the thoughts swish around a bit.
A wide range of topics you hit.. man killing coyotes.. information stating that coyotes are out of control & messing up ecosystems, that being due to the lack of wolf, and the Leopold piece on the wolf.

Certainly, when the media, or anyone posts images of dead bodies, particularly those that appear innocent or beautiful such as animals, emotions are stirred up.

Those images are a sorry sight. The story is not known, but it doesn't look good, opinions are formed quickly out of emotions of such images. You’re very right.. not this simple at all.

Honestly, I'm as bothered by the beer can as much as anything else in the photos. (which, likely was tossed aside by ANY lousy, lazy human, not necessarily the one disposing of the coyotes.)
I'm very much a lover of nature, and I'm not cold hearted. But I don't find the images vile. Or shocking. Or sad. And there is no evidence that confirms those killings senseless. (In fact, I think coyote management is quite sensible.)
Definitely not an honorable disposal, true. Those are some beautiful pelts that should've been put to use. But I'm assured the ravens, eagles, & hawks will make good use of the nutrients, as will many smaller living things.

The thing is, I see coyotes all the time. I listen to them most nights outside my door.
As the studies you linked to suggest, these mesopredators are prolific & their overpopulation is constantly trying to be controlled.
We observe pretty closely around us, and I see the coyote effects on deer here on the land we live.
I'm also aware of mange.. a fatal condition that is known as one of the most painful, cruel and devastating diseases in the animal world, occurring all too often in overpopulated coyotes. Now those, those are images that are vile, & terribly sad to me.

I agree with Mitch that management is key.. If wildlife numbers are managed, then we don't (as often) have the average joe killing these animals in attempts to- or in the mind-set that individuals need to manage them.
I understand there is the exception of the trigger happy, kill everything individual that exist.. but in this case, I think a lot of average joes, farmers, & families who don't live in cities are in this position.

I'm not sure where the wolf comes in here, except that they do indeed help to control coyotes. But coyotes have the ability to spread themselves out over areas that wolves cannot. They'll move into new areas when chased out by wolves. At that point, it's inevitable that man needs to manage them.

Wolf management is a great controversy.
The articles linked are saying that the apex predator wolves are disappearing, and that is simply not entirely true.

We've done a lot of reading & studies of our own here in our household, and what I find interesting about the study linked, is that they are done at OSU, Berkely California, & New Mexico State.
As far as I know, those are not the boreal forest areas where wolves live & thrive.

The wolves are such a political issue. Living in northern MN and having the majority of our friends, family & acquaintances living from here on north to the Canadian border, spending our time in those areas, and even onward into Canada, we don't buy it for a moment that the wolf population is at risk. They are thriving. Studies show time & time again that they're at no risk of extinction. DNR members admit locally, that our wolf population is near epidemic. We believe it. We see it.
I lived in worry this past year for my children, playing outdoors, walking to the school bus.
Wolves are opportunistic hunters.
And they are growing in numbers in our area.

5:04 PM  
Blogger amanda said...

Ironic to me, all the cursing the humans who ditched those coyote corpses without using them, (not that I condone that) is that the revered wolf is known to be a surplus killer. Known to kill coyotes & known to not consume the coyotes they kill. They've been reported to dig coyote pups from their dens and kill them.
Wolves have been recorded to kill Black Bears on numerous occasions without eating them.
Wolves are known to reduce leopard, lynx, & other big cat populations.
They’ll attack pregnant ungulates to feed on the fetus(es), leaving the mother uneaten.

They kill cruelly, maiming, and often tearing open the abdominal cavity, sometimes feeding on an animal before it has died. Sometimes they'll just wait for wounds to kill an animal, slowly, very slowly. rather than attack & kill it.

Regarding the surplus killing, it's common when wolves target livestock, they're known to kill dozens at a time. Sometimes, the animals survive, but are left with severe mutilations, having to be put down.

In Wisconsin, and in our area, the problem lies more in dog & pet losses. This past year, dogs have been attacked & killed in front of their owner in daylight as little as a mile or so from our house.
When these animals become fearless of humans & buildings, they are a threat. We humans are the apex of all hunters, which is often overlooked in modern day civility.

We are fellow apex hunters with the wolf. I guess my point is, when a human kills a coyote, as here in the photos, it is portrayed as evil, while the wolf is noble for it. While actually, the humans kill is quick & clean, as humane as possible. If you’ve ever observed a wolf hunt, it makes that of a human hunter look far more honorable.

We are also those people who live on wild game as our food source, white tail deer in our case.
In the food chain, there is no balance when the wolves eat & diminish all the deer and no one kills the wolf. You end up with a whole lot of wolves and no deer. I understand that we do need some wolves to manage the deer, just as we need human hunters, or the deer become overpopulated, as we've seen in places, becoming diseased, or resulting in more of them hit on highways than hunted & consumed.
The fact that humans are predators, and a part of the ecosystem seems all to often forgotten or ignored. I suppose because a small percentage actually live in areas where it is an issue. And because many humans simply eat at McDonalds.

I respect the wolf that stays away from my home & children. I respect the woods are the wolf’s home, and tread with that awareness when I'm there.
When they come near our home, we will protect our children & our dog.

The wolf population has moved, been pushed out by man, by urban development, suburban development. Not killed off by hunters or men with guns.. as the media & animal rights groups want to portray. They no longer exist in certain areas because of ALL humans, because of loss of habitat. They've moved out. But not died out.

5:05 PM  
Blogger amanda said...

I learned last night that a woman jogging in Alaska was killed & half eaten by wolves. I would like to see more information on wolves & their numbers being spread & shared from the areas, such as Alaska, where they actually exist, and humans actually interact/deal with them.

There's just so much hype, and much mis-information.
And so much of the information contradicts itself.

This statement:
"The loss of primary, or "apex" predators is causing an explosion in secondary, or "mesopredators" around the world, a new study concludes. In this image, the extermination of wolves may allow coyote populations to surge, which in turn can suppress feral cat populations, leading to more rodents, etc."

Ferrel cats shouldn't even be considered a natural part of the ecosystem.
I will not be misled to believe that we're at risk of being overrun by rodents because we're overrun by coyotes, that's ridiculous. Ferrel cats are not a natural part of the food chain, and observation & knowledge leads me to believe that coyotes consume rodents galore!! I've watched them do so every hay season since I was a small child. That's just silly, the notion that we’ll have more rodents because of coyote overpopulation.

We don't live in or on the ocean, so I'm not in a place to comment there on the apex predator sharks. I don't believe humans compete with them in quite the same way we do wolves.
But we do live with wolves & coyotes. And we discuss them a lot. So I had to pipe in.
Sorry, that was a lot of piping.
(blogger wouldn't even let me post it in one solid segment) ;)

5:06 PM  
Blogger Wendy Berrell said...

Good comments by someone with good perspective. You put so much time into that, I feel obligated to go through and make a few notes and responses:
(1) You say management is key – I agree. Management is left to citizenry, with the trust that it will be thoughtful and carried out well. I read the DNR pages regarding coyotes. They suggest that populations are surging.
(2) Regarding the wolves: I agree that management is key. Like you do, I would use my own discretion to manage them on my property. Especially if my kids were in the woods. If I had 344 squirrels in my back yard, I’d handle that situation. If I had 14 beaver on my reach of river, I’d think through it and manage it. I acknowledge that it’s necessary. The danger arises when things are oversimplified and thus polarized: PETA says never kill anything ever, and the other extreme shoots every predator they see because they figure it will make for a better world for humans. Down here, a subgroup of fishermen figure it’s best to remove every single beaver dam and kill every beaver out there…. They believe they need to do this to maintain their fishing opportunities. The fact is though, that beaver are a native specie, and they can coexist with fish. They get no consideration because they are viewed as an obstacle in the path of the hopeful fishermen. Oversimplification. Same for the carp: reviled by many, but the fact is they can exist in some settings just fine. Coexist with other fish just fine. In other settings they are problems. So again – it requires case by case consideration and management. Unfortunately though, it’s oversimplified and you have people “banking” fish. Taking living fish and tossing them on the bank to expire. If we issue a blanket policy to kill every beaver, wolf and carp (to name a few targets) we objectify them, which in turn confirms that we setting ourselves apart from the rest of the world and attempting to modify it to best suit our needs and wants. That, as opposed to fitting into it and taking part in it. If you’re snagging a tree on your backcast, you don’t cut down the tree. You figure out how to best approach the stream so you can operate within its constraints.

9:40 AM  
Blogger Wendy Berrell said...

(3) Humans are apex predators: I agree. It doesn’t follow that wolves are “not needed.” You didn’t say that (in fact you said we need wolves), but it’s an important point to emphasize. If we start down the road of ticking off animals that are “not needed” we’d be faced with a long and arduous discussion.

(4) DNR concurs that wolf populations are up. The hunting and trapping regulations (2009) acknowledge that fact very clearly.

(5) Regarding the note that you don’t find images shocking, vile, sad... I agree in part here that seeing dead animals is not all that shocking, and such images can be overused, or used out of context to incite riotous behavior. I disagree though, that the situation depicted in the images above is not vile, shocking or sad. I’m not sure exactly what I’d call it, but the phrase that comes to mind right now is that “it ain’t right.” (a) It’s illegal. Wanton waste is flat out against the law. (b) It’s disrespectful to throw anybody into a ditch. Deer corpses, coyote corpses, any corpses. Most every culture in the world takes care of dead bodies in good fashion. My take is that that should extend to any animals you might encounter and kill. At best, a corpse would be “used” within the confines of one’s operation. At second best, a corpse would be buried. At third best, a corpse would be left to lay where it falls. The last thing that ought to be done with a corpse of any kind is a ditch toss. (c) It’s disrespectful of a public water to throw anything into it, let alone dead bodies. Nobody puts dead bodies in my house or your house. The public waters belong to me as much as to anyone else. There is a lot of time and money spent to keep public waters in good condition for folks. Private life is based on private responsibility and when people shirk responsibility, they call out that they need governing. People who throw corpses in ditches or streams need governing, and I wish I’d been around to govern them. Maybe there is more sensitivity to this issue down here – I don’t think you guys find dead animals in your lakes, or a billion garbage bags and TVs in your streams and rivers at road crossings. We do.

(6) Regarding potential cruelty of wolves: I’ve never seen any documentation on it, but I’ve got two thoughts. (a) Being a human being, I’ll never hold up another animal specie as particularly cruel. Humans have demonstrated over the years that we have unlimited capacity for ruthless cruelty. Anything a wolf would do would pale in comparison. By all historical accounts, Chris Columbus and his boys were some of the most cruel and heartless SOBs that ever walked this green earth. We named a holiday after him though. I’d have a hard time telling my kids that wolves are cruel but Columbus means a day off school. (b) If an act is in fact cruel, and not just a product of how an animal operates, there is implied conscious decision-making by that animal (an interesting possibility on which I’ve got a number of thoughts… but it’s a whole discussion in itself).

(7) Leopold’s writing cannot be taken lightly. He lived all his life in the woods, making observations and managing his property. He didn’t have a political alignment. He’s about as objective as we can find it seems. So if a guy like Leopold, at the end of his life, after all his analysis, expresses regret about the policy of his youth that suggested “fewer wolves meant more deer” it deserves some pause and some thought.

(8) So that’s a lot of typing to say in so many words that I pretty much agree with what you said – in particular that management is key. I trust your management approach. Apart from that agreement is my judgment of the conduct documented in those photos though (BTW – sent to me by a contractor), and the tentative conclusions I can draw about the people who carried out the act. Important distinction: the act vs the associated conduct.

9:41 AM  
Blogger Wendy Berrell said...

Few pieces found Googling around... cannot verify or refute.


Pet dogs account for 31 deaths per year in the U.S. The Pit Bull is not a recognized breed of dog. There are many mutts that resemble the pit bull that kill people, so classification is difficult. The Pit bull variety is by far the largest killer of humans, followed by Rottweiler’s and Husky’s. Dozens of different breeds can kill people. Basset Hounds, Beagle’s, Dauschund’s, Labradors, and even Golden retrievers have killed humans.
Wolf deaths usually occur when people bring them home as pets. Three small children have been killed by pet wolves in the past 30 years. In the wild, there has not been a fatal wolf attack in the U.S. since 1888. (Two deaths have occurred in Canada in the past 10 years)
Average Number of Deaths per Year in the U.S
Bee/Wasp 53
Dogs 31
Spider 6.5
Rattlesnake 5.5
Mountain lion 1
Shark 1
Alligator 0.3
Bear 0.5
Scorpion 0.5
Centipede 0.5
Elephant 0.25
Wolf 0.1
Horse 20
Bull 3

CDC Study: More Than 100,000 Horse-Related Injuries per Year

9:43 AM  
Blogger amanda said...

When I read the original post & links I thought them over a few days, but when I came to pipe in, the comments were new. I feel I responded as much (if not more) to them as anything. I should've let those process a bit, as well, before typing away quickly as I did.

You're very right, & I agree completely, the acts of those images are a disrespect, a waste, & a poor, poor sight. Wastefulness, littering & contaminating, are among the things I detest most. Both the bodies & the beer can here have been dumped as litter, it's despicable. The water factor is even more so. I should have been more clear commenting from that angle. Instead I was influenced a bit by some quick responses on how horrendous it is to shoot coyotes, having a different view on that, aware there may be more to the story. That it's not that simple.

I also didn't mean to come down harshly on the wolf. I do respect wolves. I spent part of my honeymoon at the National Wolf Center, & had one of the twins been a girl, would've named them after the Alpha female. They are fascinating creatures. I think Wolf Day, opposed to Columbus Day would be very interesting. People should learn more about critters.
I just feel a different view, living where & how we do. We like the idea of living off the land, the way things seemed originally intended. Farming & agriculture are a big part of what's ruined habitat. Ruined man. (deep topic, but I read something on this that was very eye opening)
Hunting & gathering what's native to the landscape is good in our eyes.
In that viewpoint, considering how natives lived.. they would have starved here in winter had they not competed with the wolf, eliminating some of them to preserve some food for their own survival. The wolf kills coyotes & bears & fights cougars because they are it's predatory competition for food. Our family harvested one deer this year, which doesn't go far to feed seven. Mitch has invested hours of days of months of years of his time & senses in the woods, and has never seen a year like this. Coyotes & wolf sign everywhere. Little to no venison for us humans. That's when, if we'd been natives living not-so-long ago, we'd have had to contend with the wolf. These days, we can supplement our food supply, I suppose.
But we should be able to eat wild game here, and the fall of the white tail in wolf protected land is a valid concern.
We've had alarming reports to the north, onward to the Kabetogama area. Deer have been scarce.
I didn't mean to sound paranoid about the kids getting eaten by wolves. I've lived all of my life in land of wild animals, & know it's not likely. I thought "city folks" who were afraid of bears & wolves were foolish. I've never worried about it, until now.
When we see them out our window in the field just feet from our living room, where our kids play hide & seek in the grass & our small daughter picks daisies... When they're not afraid of us or scared off, & when there are wolf attacks within few square miles, it's a concern & our common sense & protective instincts have told us to take safety precautions.

2:08 AM  
Blogger amanda said...

Relating to the stats on animal related deaths, I have to consider factors like ratios of comparison. Most people are not likely to ever even SEE a timber wolf in their life, let alone be attacked by one. But they'll likely encounter several domestic animals.
Up in Pickle Lake, Ontario, our neighbor had his dog killed by wolves this past year just like our neighbor at home in MN. Our odds vary in the different areas we spend our time.
Most people are around numerous domestic animals on a daily basis in towns, neighborhood yards, or next door to the daycare. We are different in that our kids have better odds of crossing paths with wolves & coyotes than domestic animals any day. No stray pit bulls roaming through the land. It's different when the street you walk to the bus stop is in the middle of thousands of acres of forested land . The people to animal ratio has to be taken into account on some level.
Our area has had wolf attacks. I suspect there'll be more of them.
The management is questionable, the PR letting the public know how things are being managed is questionable. We'll continue to have individuals taking matters into their own hands, like down your way in the photos. Not all of them with good judgment.
This person obviously had really terrible judgment in wasting & dumping them, but I have some understanding WHY some people might end up killing coyotes, and that to be caught with them could be severe, and so we're going to have stupid acts like this continue until the population is under better managed control or until people understand better how it's being managed.

Bummer to hear about the beavers down there. I've always been fond of the busy buggers. My sister's family used to live on a large pond on the Morrison Brook, until the DNR came through their property & killed all the beavers.
One thing to note about the DNR, is that I'm not sure they dispose of the hundreds of animals they trap & kill much better than this pair of coyotes. (locally anyway)
I've heard terrible accounts of enormous piles of wasted animals.
There are just so many crummy aspects to the whole cycle of discussion stemming from all of this.
I don't think any species should be irradiated. But having them 100% protected doesn't seem the answer to us either. The thriving concentration of wolves in certain areas needs some control. Happy medium, like you suggested.

All wolves aren't bad. All coyotes aren't bad. I'm not a fan of pit bulls, but I have to give the benefit of the doubt & say I don't even think all pit bulls are bad.
I have hope that all humans aren't bad either & can come together to take better care of the natural resources around us. (I know a few people who would be in favor of human management as well... but that's a whole 'nother story)

Interesting discussion, I don't have answers, but thanks for letting me share some opinions from up here where we're at.

2:11 AM  
Blogger Wendy Berrell said...

More good notes.

Seems like what needs to be said has been said.

Important topic to grapple with.

One parting bit...

Throwing Away the Mail

Nothing is simple,
Not even simplification.
Thus, throwing away
the mail, I exchange
the complexity of duty
for the simplicity of guilt.

-W. Berry

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