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Colorado wildlife officials "experiment" with predator-killing programs

posted Jun 7, 2017, 10:07 AM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Jun 7, 2017, 10:46 AM ]
Colorado's "experimental" predator-killing programs may be "experiments" but they're not scientific.

When the most recent of these articles appeared, it wasn't hard to see the pattern: wildlife officials in Colorado (federal, state, and local) are using science as an excuse to do what they've always done: kill the predators and assume that's the best solution to human/wildlife conflict (or whatever).

My comment in 2016:

The State Game & Fish agencies have figured out that they can keep doing this kind of thing forever as long as they call it "experimental." It allows them to deflect criticism that it's not supported by scientific evidence. 

It's not really "experimental," though, because it's only designed to gather information to support its foregone conclusion. This kind of "research" is funded by hunting-license revenue, and by taxes on firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, and fuel. In other words, its pre-project funding and post-project evaluation are controlled by like-minded officials. It's a "good ol' boy" version of "peer review."

Another example of this kind of "experiment": 
"Damage Control: Coyote Trapping - The Management Advantage #59."

And another: 
"Bold, aggressive coyotes targeted as wildlife managers seek peace with people: federal researchers working to eliminate unwanted traits within coyote populations, breeding."

My comment in 2017: 

The article claims that "Scientists... are trying to determine how much of... aggressiveness is rooted in genetics, versus learning..." but the only research mentioned is the observation of coyotes' responses to human objects and presence. That's not genetic research. 

Although the new Denver policy of killing only the most aggressive coyotes seems to be an improvement (vs. the old policy of killing all of the coyotes in the area), it wouldn't be proper to call it "research," or to refer to it as breeding or genetics.

The article doesn't even mention the likelihood that the most "aggressive" coyotes during breeding season are parents with young. Yes, if many of these animals were killed every year, reductions in human/wildlife conflicts could be expected--but how would that change the physical condition, accumulated learning, and behavior of the surviving population? Higher human/wildlife conflict rates? Better reductions could probably be achieved by restricting food sources, hazing, avoiding den areas, improving the supervision of pets, etc.--likely with improvements in the surviving population, including lower human/wildlife conflict rates. Either this article or the urban-wildlife authorities, or both, seem to be ignoring the non-lethal options, despite their potential benefits. 

Why aren't the wildlife authorities more open to non-lethal control? Because, in many ways, killing is easier. There are volunteers, public agencies, etc. eager to handle it in exchange for weapons funding and bragging rights. They're good at convincing policymakers that they're "doing what needs to be done," and that they've got all the information that really matters. On the other hand, there's a relative shortage of non-lethal experts with solid proposals for improved garbage management, monitoring and hazing, den identification and public warnings, and other education on how to keep domestic animals and wild animals separate. 

Why is there a shortage of the non-lethal experts? Because, traditionally, they haven't been so well funded? And/or because they're worn out, trying to broaden the scope of public policy debates. They don't have so many eager, unarmed volunteers and "wildlife biologists" to do the work; and they don't have so much freedom to work independently, "heroically," in such "manly" ways, free of the constraints of community involvement.

Another example of this kind of "experiment": 
"Colorado push to test 'predator control' by killing lions and bears faces barrage from CSU scientists, conservation groups."

Why do feel I'll be commenting again in another six months?


Headline from the Denver Post article "Bold, aggressive coyotes targeted as wildlife managers seek peace with people: federal researchers working to eliminate unwanted traits within coyote populations, breeding." 5/27/2017 by Bruce Finley. Photo by Joe Amon, The Denver Post.
Headline of the 5/27/2017 article by Bruce Finley. Photo by Joe Amon, The Denver Post.