I will apologize in advanced because this is likely to be long winded.
First THANK YOU to Mr STEPHEN M. ARTHUR, one of our fish and game biologists for his fantastic work on this project!!
***please not that all quotes in this post should be attributed to Mr STEPHEN M. ARTHUR, or Laura R. Prugh though I may take liberty with adding underlines or bolding some text for emphasis.
I started following along with the limited information published annually on the sheep studies taking place in the Central Alaska Range [CAR] in 2007. I have made a number of assumptions in the past based on those reports and referenced them here a number of times. I have been waiting on the final study report and after 4 years my wait is finally over! I got the best Christmas Present today when I checked the ADF&G website and was looking through old reports. I noted that the 2009 report had a line I hadn’t noticed before.
As you can imagine this sent me running to the web looking for how to get a copy of that article! Well $25 and I had my very own copy of “Predator-Mediated Indirect Effects of Snowshoe Hares on Dall’s Sheep in Alaska” before me!! I have spent the past several hours contemplating it. Unfortunately I can’t post the whole thing here so I will hit a few high points and encourage you all to get a copy!A manuscript was prepared for submission to The Journal of Wildlife Management.
Additional data analysis and manuscript preparation/revision will continue in fiscal year
To start this document CLEARLY points to the influx of coyotes as being THE key element to the decrease in sheep populations in the Central Alaska Range and I feel strongly that it is accurate for all ranges where they coyotes currently exist. The only range that does not have drastically reduced sheep numbers is the Brooks, which is the one major range that is still coyote free. **note: there were no coyotes in Alaska prior to the early 1900's!
I have brought up in the past that coyotes were the biggest problem with our sheep and was met with conflict from a number of people who stated that I was underestimating the effects of Golden Eagles.They asserted that since we would not be able to reduce the Golden Eagle population that Coyote predator control would be a waste of time.The following clearly disputes that argument because the lambs that survive the first month are unlikely to be killed by an Eagle. Yet more than ½ of the lambs killed by coyotes are over 1 month old and mostly out of the “danger zone” when it comes to eagle predation.
This makes it clear that Coyotes prey on sheep that would have been reasonably likely to survive golden eagle predation over 50% of the time!Of the 82 lamb mortalities, 59 (72%) occurred during May–August, when radiotracking flights were most frequent.Eagles mainly preyed on young lambs, whereas coyotes killed lambs throughout the year. Most predation by eagles occurred during the first month after lambing (x¯ over all yr = 73% of eagle kills, SE = 13%, n = 6 yr), and no lambs >6 months old were killed by eagles. In contrast, only 44% (SE = 10%, n = 6 yr) of coyote predation occurred during the first month after lambing.
Soak this next excerpt in as well. I am so stoked with the fantastic work done by our Bio’s on this project! It has been a long time in coming!! Also note that FNAWS has helped in this study as well which is just one more reason why we all need to get involved and help restore that org to its potential!!
This is an interesting correlation and does a good job of showing the important data that we as hunters provide to our biologists.Despite these limitations, the magnitude of the apparent decline and consistency of counts within each period suggest that the reduction in population size cannot be attributed entirely to differences in sightability or movements of sheep. Rather, these data suggest that predation by coyotes is causing the sheep population to fluctuate around a lower mean density than was typical before coyotes became abundant. Predation of adult sheep by larger predators, especially wolves, might be important in limiting some sheep populations (Murie 1944, Bergerud and Elliott 1998). However, in our area, wolves ate primarily moose and caribou (Valkenburg et al. 2002, McNay and Ver Hoef 2003), and survival of adult female sheep was high (cf., Hoefs and Bayer 1983). Thus, extremely low lamb survival during years of high hare abundance was the main factor limiting sheep population size (cf., Linnell et al. 1995).
.Since at least 1983, changes in harvests of sheep in the CAR closely matched changes in hare abundance, with peaks in harvests preceding peaks in hare abundance by approximately 1 year (Fig. 3). This synchrony may have occurred because most sheep are harvested at approximately 8 years of age (Heimer and Smith 1975; Young 2005, 2008). Thus, harvests reflect recruitment of cohorts born 8 years previously, which approximates the period of the hare cycle
This is something that I have stated in the past (though not as effectively) and it is great to see it validated here with the science to back it up! (patting myself on back)
Personally I am of the opinion that coyotes be listed as an invasive species and actively eradicated w/ no close season, no bag limits and no regulation on method and means beyond restricting those that could harm other native species like poisons or nondiscriminatory traps. Things that need to be immediately done in my opinion are the following:Effective management of large predators to increase ungulate populations requires understanding effects of alternate prey and stage-specific differences in predation regimes on ungulate population dynamics. In the CAR, control of coyotes to reduce predation on Dall's sheep would likely be most cost-effective during peak years of hare abundance, when losses to predation were greatest (cf., Hamlin et al. 1984). Furthermore, wolf control without accompanying efforts to reduce coyote predation is unlikely to increase abundance of this sheep population and may have the opposite effect over the long term.
1. No bag limit, no closed season
2. Authorize denning or at the very least don’t make it “illegal”.
3. Authorize the use of dogs for hunting and locating dens
4. A plan for State funded predator control during peak hare cycles in prime lambing grounds of all the major south central, Kenai, and southern interior ranges.
5. No salvage requirements beyond those needed by fish and game for their purposes
The BOG will be in session soon! There are some proposals in now that would be a huge step in the right direction! We need to get out there this time and push this stuff through!