Truth or consequences in predator control- Penisula Clarion

By Stephen F. Stringham, Penisula Clarion,  Nov 23rd, 2013

According to the Nov. 18 Clarion letter by Ted Spraker (Chair, Board of Game) and Doug Vincent-Lang (Director, Division of Wildlife Conservation, Alaska Department of Fish and Game), a several-fold increase in the Kenai brown bear quota this year has been a “market correction” to “stabilize” an otherwise increasing bear population. Really?

Economic “market corrections” occur when negotiable assets have been greatly over- or under-valued, usually as the result of someone manipulating the market through disinformation. That’s what happened when mortgage lenders and credit rating agencies colluded, leading to an enormous real estate bubble that burst in 2008. The needle which burst that balloon was truth. Had the truth about mortgage soundness emerged much sooner, the bubble could never have grown very large and the resulting damage would have been miniscule.

“Market corrections” are not manipulations by managers, but uncontrollable backlashes triggered by the unintended consequences of management. “Corrections” in Nature likewise occur when species or ecosystems are manipulated according to wishful thinking or political correctness rather than according to valid scientific understanding.

Recent BOG members have believed that the primary responsibility of game management is putting as much ungulate meat as possible on our tables. Allegedly, the less moose meat eaten by wolves and bears, the more will be left for us. If that seemingly common sense notion is true, then decimating predators might be the right thing to do.

However, there are numerous reasons for doubting that. Rates of reproduction and survival in a moose population depend heavily on the quality and quantity of food, both of which can be enhanced by predators.

■ Quality: depends on protein concentration. Plant protein production is limited by nitrogen. In our cold wet climate, transfer of nitrogen from air to soil is insufficient. That deficiency is best compensated where moose browse is fertilized with the dung of salmon-fed bears. How far can bear or salmon numbers be reduced without depriving moose of protein-rich forage? …Continue reading the whole article at Peninsula Clarion