Managing one species for the benefit of another raises some serious questions.
Rapid encroachment by human development together with climate change has made life even harder for ungulate populations. There are struggling herds in many areas, especially in the western united states where ungulates still share the landscape with natural predators. We have come to expect, although not agree with, the degree of palliative removal of predators that goes along with the livestock growing history of the west. Unprotected domestic livestock share our rich public lands with indigenous wildlife and conflict often ensues. In this scenario, the predators are removed for the sake of the producer.
Sadly, this mentality has now migrated to the protection of wild ungulates. The word ‘hunting’ suggests that just as it is for predator and prey-there are no guarantees. But the powerful lobby of the sportsman has put pressure on wildlife managers to provide, not only ‘opportunity’ but also a greater degree of ‘success’. It is human nature to want someone or something to blame and in the case of declining deer, elk and moose, the large carnivore is a useful scapegoat. Many states are actively pursuing policies that will reduce mortality of ungulates by exerting additive pressure on predators. This increases the number of ungulates for man to kill.
We must look very carefully at this shift to managing game species simply as ‘free ranging livestock’. They are not.
There is a significant difference between ‘managing’ wildlife and ‘manipulating’ it in response to social driven harvest demands.