The manual, Lines of Defense: Coping With Predators in the Rocky Mountain Region, says it all. While UT has the mouthpiece to kill American Wild horses (Representative Chris Stewart) , it seems that the natural predators that would keep wild horse populations under check are also under fire, literally. Chris Stewart and others claim the ‘overpopulation’ of wild horses is due to the loss of natural predators. So why kill the predators?
It seems to be a vicious circle of killing. Kill apex predators. This causes an overpopulation of wild horses. Kill wild horses too. But what is at the center of all this killing The answer is in the :
“Abundant wildlife makes the west a unique and desirable place to live. However, it also presents daily challenges for ranchers and even homeowners, who live near wilderness areas. The livelihoods of cattle, goat and sheep ranchers are especially at risk because predators such as coyotes, wolves, bears and cougars are responsible for nearly $60 million in livestock losses nationally. ”
The statement made is always how much it costs livestock producers in death of livestock, but what is not often reported by the industry is that every predation is subsidized by taxpayers. On top of this we pay for and agency whose only task is to kill predators for the livestock industry.
“Sheep death loss during 2016 totaled 217 thousand head, down 5 percent from 2015. Lamb death loss decreased 1 percent from 374 thousand head to 372 thousand head in 2016.”
Released January 31, 2017, by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Agricultural Statistics Board, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“Cattle and calf losses from animal predators totaled nearly 220 thousand head during 2010. This represented 5.5 percent of the total deaths from all causes and resulted in a loss of $98.5 million to farmers and ranchers. Coyotes and dogs caused the majority of cattle and calf predator losses accounting for 53.1 percent and 9.9 percent respectively.”
Released May 12, 2011, by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Agricultural Statistics Board, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
These 2 reports indicate that sheep predation is down, and cattle predation is only reported every 5 years in these reports yet the 2016 report was not readily available so we cannot compare those numbers.
When we consider this from a scientific perspective there is yet another perpetual circle we must acknowledge. When we take any link of a chain away we alter the chain. For instance when we kill wolves we stop the natural predation of coyotes, thus allowing coyotes to expand their territories, thus causing more predation on livestock by coyotes. These examples are found in every species we take from their natural habitats, thus altering the ecosystem.
The problem is that we are not only altering these ecosystems, but we aren’t addressing the real problem, in fact as many reports have found we may be making things worse as one article on Phys Org pointed out:
“However, there is no clear evidence that lethal control works to reduce human-predator conflict. In fact, it can even make the problem worse. At the same time, research shows that predators play key roles in maintaining healthy ecosystems.”
National Geographic noted as well: “But in most cases, the article notes, killing predators is not a scientifically sound wildlife control method. Killing an adult male mountain lion, for example, tends to lead to more attacks on livestock because that established male kept out the more aggressive teenagers. Studies have shown that this is true for wolves and black bears too. “
We can also look at the nature of nature. When predator species are healthy they will hunt and keep other wildlife populations in check. When we take away those predators we have a cascade effect on the animals the would naturally hunt. This was the topic of discussion in a recent article discussing the epidemic levels of chronic wasting disease we are seeing in cervids (deer, elk, etc.)
“A major concern expressed by ecologists, and a topic of fierce debate, is that by keeping elk on a nutritional dole and by eliminating predators that often target the sick and weak, it has actually eroded the hardiness of animals by allowing the frail and vulnerable to better persist; in other words, leaving herds even more susceptible to disease.”
This is why Citizens Against Equine Slaughter, along with Western Watersheds Project and many other Environmental, wildlife preservation and other wild horse advocates have come together in an effort to stop the damage done by the commercial livestock industry on the western lands.
In 2017 we submitted a petition, signed by 20 organizations, to President Trump, Department of the Interior Secretary Zinke, and all members of the Congress and Senate, asking for them to rectify the problems caused by commercial livestock on public lands.
The issues were not only with wildlife, but also the decline of the land, water and biodiversity of plants, none of which have been addressed in this brief article.
That petition is now available on for your signature at: https://www.change.org/p/president-trump-rectify-commercial-grazing-issues-on-public-lands
“The fact that our predators are second-rate citizens on the public lands, while private ranchers and their livestock are given priority should outrage any thinking person.” – George Wuerther