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  • Cost vs Benefits of "Predator Control"

    Okay folks,

    This is probably the biggie. I wanted to start off with the bear trapping thing because I thought it would be a relatively simple discussion. In some ways it was, but it too has a level of complexity that I didn't anticipate. Thanks for everyone who wrote in constructively. I learned a lot, and yes, my view was somewhat changed as a result. As far as a means of harvesting bears, I don't have as much resistance to it on humane grounds as I did. What remains to be seen / proven though is whether predator "control" is a worthwhile venture at all. To some it clearly is, but to others not. Let's see where this takes us... a civil discussion of the facts?

    I'm looking for the costs (financial, resource-wise, ecological, etc.) vs the benefits (raising ungulate numbers, etc.).

    Simplistic, perhaps? Enlighten me on what I may be missing (uh... without the black eye this time, please?)

    :-)

    -Mike
    Michael Strahan
    Site Owner
    Alaska Hunt Consultant
    1 (907) 229-4501

  • #2
    Predators

    Michael,

    Checking to see if you rcvd my email.

    I do not mean to hijack the thread.

    Thanks,

    Doug
    http://www.alaskasgreatoutdoors.com

    Comment


    • #3
      Cost/Benefit

      Bound and determined to open one worm can after another, aren't you, Mike?

      Alaska's constitution, Article 8, §4:
      Sustained Yield
      Fish, forests, wildlife, grasslands, and all other replenishable resources belonging to the State shall be utilized, developed, and maintained on the sustained yield principle, subject to preferences among beneficial uses.

      Like any constitutional language, it's clear as glacial runoff. But it answers two extreme questions: 1) Should we just let nature run its course? 2) Can't we just maximize the population of the critters people want most to use?

      The answer to both questions is no.

      Our constitution requires some management to ease the 'peaks and valleys' of naturally occurring population swings. Just as we're talking about 'predator control' in some GMUs, game managers are using cow permits and a (dangerous) derby-style 'any bull' hunt in Gustavus to keep the booming moose population from overbrowsing the area and crashing through the floor when a hard winter hits.

      The debate comes in the middle. How low a population level is less than 'sustainable'--Should we start 'predator control' because hunting is tougher than it used to be? How high is more than 'sustainable'--Ought there be a cow moose hunt on the Tanana flats?

      I don't pretend to have those answers. But we can't get them with the pittance this state spends on wildlife science. It's reprehensible that we don't have the science to win in court when one scientist working against predator control testifies that our surveys are inadequate. Some would say what’s reprehensible is going forward with the program with thin science…

      I’m not a predator control fan. I think it ought to be a last resort, and executed by state employees (who don’t take pelts home with them) in helicopters. The notion of pilot-gunner teams ‘hunting’ wolves gives hunters a bad name with those non-hunters we most need to talk to: the vast majority who aren’t against hunting, but don’t themselves partake.

      More science is expensive. No question there. But without adequate science our harvests will always be managed to err on the side of lower take, and efforts to respond to population emergencies (real or perceived) will be thrown out in court. We will also lose in the court of public opinion. I submit it’s more than worth the added costs to pay for science. (As an aside, we ought to pay our biologists more, too. We’re losing our best to the feds and the biotech world at a frightening rate…)

      I also think there have been some good ideas on this forum about lowering nonresident tag fees in certain GMUs for predator species so hunters actually hunt the predators in question. If that means there's a little less in the Fish & Game fund, we'll need to supplement with general funds. But we ought to do that anyway.

      Comment


      • #4
        Call it what you want but I have seen the downs

        I would agree that harvesting wolves from an airplane is not what everyone would consider hunting. Call it harvesting instead of hunting, but certainly use the wolf pelts and use the means necessary to harvest the necessary numbers to flatten peaks. To not utilize all usable parts of the wolves would certainly infuriate me and alot of others. Let me point to the three river valley's in Portage as an example. I have recreated outdoors here for 30+ years. As little as twelve years ago moose could be seen in herds out along the highway and back in these valleys during winter, it was not unusual to see 50 moose a day. As the wolf poulation began to grow I witnessed very quick changes in these numbers and in the animals behaviors. This moose herd was hunted by people in a tightly restricted drawing hunt. These were very resident moose and very resident wolves. The area Biologist who was sealing furs for me continually begged me to target wolves in there knowing the herd could not withstand the wolf numbers that had become present roughly 38 between two packs at peak.The moose herd quickly showed the strains of the predators with extreme herding and no calf survival. I was largely unable to trap wolves here because of user traffic into these areas, you can't trap wolves where lots of people may see them. In two years the moose herd was reduced to a small pocket of animals surving by hugging the portage road. The wolves were forced to clean up road kills right next to the highway. The few wolves that remained were hunting high on ridges I assume for goats, but soon left completely ie: no moose or wolves. Until the past two years I had not seen a moose or track in Placer or Twentymile in the winter. Now the moose are making a slow recovery, but let there be no doubt wolves will eat themselves out of home. They are in my opinion the hardest animal in the state to harvest so means should never interfere with harvest levels. For the past six or seven years there has been very few of either animal for anyone to enjoy in anyway. Bears are equally as effective predators and remote locations like Mcgrath may need to use every method possible to accomplish harvest numbers. My idea is to require the sealing of two predators the previous winter in the area you want to hunt moose the next fall. There is twenty fold effort expended on moose, and people interested in participating should equally exert effort on controlling predators. Wolves and Bears are incredible animals, and I have no interest in exterminating them anywhere but to manage for an average of more prey animals ensures predators will be.
        Bob

        Comment


        • #5
          Yep-

          Originally posted by dwhunter
          Michael,

          Checking to see if you rcvd my email.

          I do not mean to hijack the thread.

          Thanks,

          Doug
          Doug- got it and sent a reply today. I was traveling, so couldn't get back to you sooner. Apologies!

          -Mike
          Michael Strahan
          Site Owner
          Alaska Hunt Consultant
          1 (907) 229-4501

          Comment


          • #6
            Trapperbob,

            You're certainly right we shouldn't waste pelts where predator control is necessary. If you've got a biological emergency that requires intervention, the state can sell the pelts and skulls at public auction, send 'em to schools and museums for educators to use, etc, etc.

            But if a predator control harvest is necessary, nobody ought to be making $$ off it. Gives endless ammo to the PETA people.

            And I think trappers might be the very best predator control tool the state has. You've got rules and regs and a rich history - if the predator population needs to go down, liberalizing your seasons would certainly be more efficient than the ideas they're pursuing in the interior today.

            You had an interesting idea about requiring ungulate hunters to 'participate' in the predator side, too. Can't say I agree, though. My personal ethic says I shoot only animals I plan to eat (or something actively trying to eat me, but I hope I never have to do that.) I'm willing to have my harvest opportunities restricted - shorter seasons, restricted weapons, or even drawing permits - to sustain the resource.

            Alaska isn't a game farm, and we've always persevered through nature's cycles to some degree. That's OK with me as long as we don't get down to dangerous population crashes. I know you weren't suggesting management for maximum yield, but some have...

            You raised one other interesting issue: the interaction between urban growth and game management. That's probably one for another thread, but I grew up in Anchorage - I know the dynamics you're talking about with the massive growth in the number of people in every drainage.

            Comment


            • #7
              Trapping instead of pred control

              Instead of "predator control" why not just have a bear trapping season. Maybe 2 weeks in the spring. If there is some fear too many bears will be harvested(is that possible?) then have a limit. Of course, since this is trapping, we should clasify bears as a furbearer also, and let folks sell the hides.
              Why is it acceptable to trap and sell, marten, mink, fox, lynx, otter, beaver, muskrat, wolf, and wolverine, but not bears? What could be so wrong with a guy like takotna..........or me I hope..............making a few extra bucks to feed his family by trapping and selling bear skins and other parts?
              Most of you seem to want to keep bears as "trophies" as if they are something better, or more important, than other species. "Trophy" hunting is exactly the kind of hunting that most people who frown on consumptive wildlife use oppose the most.
              Rural alaskans are considered poor, at least in many areas they are. Turning bears into another sopurce of income for "poor" people.............hey, I'm one too........haha, would give a much more reasonable look to the consumptive use of bears.
              The use of bears and bear parts is also traditional in many alaskan native cultures. What would be so wrong with allowing rural people to profit from the harvest of bears?
              I'll attach a picture of my daughter and her mom from this past Feb. in Emmonak. Notice the handles of my daughters dance fans.
              Attached Files
              I can't help being a lazy, dumb, weekend warrior.......I have a JOB!
              I have less friends now!!

              Comment


              • #8
                predator control

                I think trapper bob knows the problem. Ya gotta harvest predators. Otherwise there is too much pressure on moose. Wolves, bears and humans all compete for moose. For instance, there may be as many black bears in Alaska as there are moose. Combine that with wolves and humans it’s a wonder there are any moose left at all. Humans harvest too few black bears (3000) per year to make a difference in the population. Many other much smaller states exceed Alaskas harvest in black bears. Without predator control program of some sort we will continue to have low moose harvests, permits and restricted hunts. We just need to make sure the predator control method is not so inhumane that voters start restricting out hunting methods.
                “I come home with an honestly earned feeling that something good has taken place. It makes no difference whether I got anything, it has to do with how the day was spent. “ Fred Bear

                Comment


                • #9
                  Sustained yield vs. MSY

                  Nice to see 8x57 post some common sense in here. Thanks for the uplift. I'm with you.

                  As far as "sustained yield" vs "maximum sustained yield" of ungulates, here goes:

                  The framers of our state constitution defined sustained yield as it was used in Article 8, Sec. 4: "For fish, for wildlife, and for some other replenishable resources…it is difficult or even impossible to measure accurately the factors by which a calculated sustained yield could be determined. Yet the term “sustained yield principle” is used in connection with management of such resources. When so used it denotes concious application insofar as practicable of principles of management intended to sustain the yield of the resource being managed. That broad meaning is the meaning of the term as used in the Article."

                  While the above is confusing, it doesn't imply at all that we manage for something like one moose per unit annually...it simply was a term that erred on the side of caution in resource management and recognized that there are some factors (like weather, deep snows) we could never control and biological data we could never collect. The most important aspect of sustained yield is that it denotes conservation of the total resource and quality of the habitat ("wise use"). Everything comes back to habitat...everything. That's why ADFG had a Habitat Division. Operative word is "had." Governor Murkowski moved the habitat division and handed it over to DNR. According to Carl Rosier at ADFG, the Dept. didn't believe this was a good idea, because "DNR's focus is on developing resources, while Fish and Game's is to protect the state's fish and wildlife resources." Protecting the state's fish and wildlife resources (habitat conservation) is, one would think, key to good management. Yet the agency (ADFG) that did this no longer does. Supposedly, DNR is going to do this, and many are comfortable with that. ADFG wasn't comfortable with it, and neither am I.

                  Maximum sustained yield (MSY) is a concept applicable to commercial harvests and is most often seen in commercial fisheries management. MSY and "optimum economic output" (or some such term) are often used interchangeably in commercial fisheries management, though the latter term may actually fall short of a real maximum yield. It should be noted that MSY requires meticulous biological data and research and accounting. MSY is the "greatest average annual yield" of a fisheries (or wildlife) resource without harming the population or habitat. In order for ADFG to practice MSY of moose and caribou, they'd have to have concrete data on all aspects of each area, from habitat studies to continuous population density estimates of predators and prey etc. They couldn't extrapolate population estimates as they do now...they'd actually have to do real density estimates unit-wide. This would cost big bucks, which the Division of Wildlife Conservation does not have. Without adequate data and studies, practicing MSY of wildlife is impractical and not "wise use" of the resource.

                  MSY of moose and caribou can be done, given enough funding to ADFG, but in order for it to happen we'd have to (along with the meticulous studies and surveys and accounting) permanently "control" wolves and bears in a way that would permanently diminish their numbers greatly. Many advocates for MSY of moose and caribou want to manage for "maximum carrying capacity of the habitat population." It would in essence seek to turn every area into the equivalent of 20A on the Tanana Flats---one in which moose overbrowse the habitat, begin experiencing nutritional deficiencies, low twinning rates, more disease, and simply await one deep-snow winter for a massive die off.

                  Another aspect of MSY that isn't bandied about is the HARVEST OBJECTIVES and how those will be met. Intensive Management law and MSY are virtually the same thing. In order to meet the IM harvest objectives, we need to triple and quadruple the amount of hunters in many units! The only way to harvest all those animals is to put hunters in every nook and cranny of every IM area every fall. How will they get there? How will they access the backcountry? At what point do we say, "This is too many hunters for this unit"?

                  Take Unit 20E for example. About 43% of sussessful hunters use atvs for access. Another 4% use orvs. Management reports speak to these mode of access as their greatest management concern. One orv (a SUSV tracked vehicle over 1500lbs) alone damaged untold wetlands last fall. We now seek to raise the harvests in 20E substantially for both moose and caribou (Fortymile herd). This would require an increase of thousands of hunters, and very likely 43% of those thousands would be using atvs for access and 4% orvs. At what point does this cause habitat damage? At what point are we then forced to shut the area down to atv or orv access? If we end up making it a controlled-use area, then how are hunters gonna kill all those moose and caribou out there? If we don't end up making it a controlled use area...then what will happen when 7,000-10,000 hunters head out there each fall to meet the IM harvest objectives?

                  To my mind, the long-term costs of current extreme pred-control plans far outweight the short-term benefits to hunters.

                  Mark
                  Mark Richards
                  www.residenthuntersofalaska.org

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Maximum Sustained Yield

                    Mark,

                    Thanks for writing in on this. One issue I really have a problem with is the Maximum Sustained Yield principle. You're correct that in order to effectively do this, a lot of data would need to be gathered initially, and be maintained on an ongoing basis. In Alaska, for a number of reasons, that information will not be gathered. I first ran into this concept several years ago when the newly-formed Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation was trying to garner support at the Sportsman Show in Anchorage. Their goal was (and is, "to ethically and professionally optimize salmon production in Area E for the long-term well-being of all user groups" < http://www.pwsrcac.org/about/pwsac.html >. This philosophy seems very similar to the "Maximum Sustained Yield" concept you speak of (if it's not, somebody please chime in here). My question to the PWSAC folks was whether or not they'd done adequate research to determine the long-term consequences on wild stocks, of dumping millions of additional fish into the system. The only answer I was able to get out of them was, "Well, the ocean is a really big place; it would be too expensive to do such a project." I thought of the Pacific Northwest, where salmon hatcheries have all but replaced natural production (hatcheries that became "necessary" because we destroyed habitat and access to spawning areas with hydroelectric projects). I thought back to when the buffalo were wiped out and how at that time the thinking was that the prairie was a "really big place"; nobody really knew the long-term consequences of the commercial hunting that was going on. Consequences that subsequent generations have had to work with. So I said, "So, your answer is to just dump 'em in anyway and see how it works out?" They said nothing, because of course that's their answer. I'm baffled. We have a lot of smart folks out there; how is it that we keep making the same mistakes, based on the same flawed reasoning? The fact is that we don't have enough information to know (without making some huge potentially disastrous mistakes) what the sustained yield of an area is, much less the maximum sustained yield of an area is. But we're willing to chance it anyway?

                    When it comes to hunting, nobody is advocating stocking animals, and the impetus for increasing the "yield" of ungulates isn't as strong as it would be if larger commercial entities were involved (as they are with PWSAC). Therefore , the process will be somewhat slower. But I fear that such efforts will garner support of recreational hunters, just as recreational fishermen supported PWSAC, because both efforts result in increased opportunities for recreational use. But we need to think this through. Wildlife cycles in Alaska are very complex, and when you look only at a segment of the ecosystem (moose or caribou) without fully understanding the complex interrelationships between all species, can we be that far off from making some huge mistakes? The man-made disaster on Arizona's Kaibab Plateau in the early 1900's is an excellent example of decisions made with seemingly good intentions. Decisions that, for the lack of good data and understanding, had catastrophic results for wildlife.

                    A fairly alarming and disappointing account of our past failures at selectively managing wildlife can be found at < http://www.cr.nps.gov/history/online...ars/chap3g.htm >. It demands that we question our capability of having any lasting positive effect on complex ecosystems at all. Are we smarter or better equipped now than those folks were back then? I hope so, but I'm not really sure...

                    If the only thing we've learned from such things is that we don't know much, then perhaps that will be enough to keep us from making similar mistakes in the future? Present efforts in Alaska may say otherwise. Will present predator control efforts be too much? Without our intervention, will ungulate populations be exterminated by predators to the point that recovery will take decades? If predator populations crash, what (if any) measures will be taken to re-establish them? Complex questions that demand well-thought-out solutions.

                    -Mike
                    Michael Strahan
                    Site Owner
                    Alaska Hunt Consultant
                    1 (907) 229-4501

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Pred control

                      I am for it. I have seen the antler restrictions placed on the populations I hunt, shorter seasons, and now its 4 brow tines in unit 13! That's a trophy hunt!

                      I agree w/tbob too. If I knew how and where to go I would harvest predators in the winter. I have no means to access the area I hunt in the fall.

                      I have no problem with people making money on using planes to shoot wolves; gas ain't cheap and it doesn't cost the state hardly anything to administer the program compared to putting biologists in helicopters on the state's dime.

                      I would like to see a bounty placed on wolves in units where it may be necessary (McGrath?).

                      Anyway, good discussion. For the record I voted for Murkowski because I knew he would place hunters/trappers on the Board of Game and get rid of the former hunters, photographers, and other suspects nominated by Knowles.


                      Tim

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        It Costs the State a lot to run

                        Originally posted by tccak71
                        I have no problem with people making money on using planes to shoot wolves; gas ain't cheap and it doesn't cost the state hardly anything to administer the program compared to putting biologists in helicopters on the state's dime.
                        Tim,

                        Many aren't aware of the true costs. When the Board approves all these pred-control programs, they don't give ADFG the funding to adequately administer them. It isn't just about keeping records, permits, etc, it's also about intensive aerial surveying, collaring studies, tracking, bear density studies, dna studies and on and on down the line. They can't do the extensive pred-control programs without major, ongoing studies. ADFG doesn't have the money to do this; they are short-funded as it is.

                        The guys I know gunning wolves are losing money. It's why many didn't get out this winter---the price of avgas has hit the roof. They can't pick up every wolf they shoot, either. Many wolves are shot in areas where there is no area nearby to land. The carcasses just rot, hides go to waste, but some feel that a dead wolf is still better than a live wolf, whether utilized or not. Figure gas and insurance for a super cub, the amount of hours spent looking for wolves...and the price of a wolf hide (if you can recover the wolf), and it adds up to bigtime loss of dollars for the pilots.

                        Best, Mark
                        Mark Richards
                        www.residenthuntersofalaska.org

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Perhaps I'm wrong, I'm sure bushrat will correct me if I am, but only ONE area (around McGrath) is open to ariel hunting, shooting from the air. Most of the pilots participating in that hunt are from Anch. I don't doubt they aren't going out as much, but I'm skeptical they are shooting wolves they cannot pick up. I'd sure like to know just who, Mark, you know who does that. I could see a McG local just shooting any wolf, since he may benefit down the road by getting more moose. A guy from Ach would want that hide to help pay the bill.
                          The other areas of the state that currently allow aircraft use for wolves are all land and shoot. I find it a stretch to think that a guy who shoots a wolf from the ground, isn't able to walk over and pick it up. I know some guys who participated in the hunt in the nelchina area. They brought back every wolf they shot.
                          I know there are reporting requirements for these programs. How does a hunter, assuming bushrats statement on "carcasses just rot" is true, prove he actually killed a wolf?
                          We've heard from 2 people on this forum who live in the McGrath area, that the pred control programs are having a positive effect on moose numbers. I wonder if they think the cost was too high?
                          I can't help being a lazy, dumb, weekend warrior.......I have a JOB!
                          I have less friends now!!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Aerial &quot;gunning&quot; ofwolves

                            MT,

                            There are currently five areas where wolf control is taking place right now: http://www.wildlife.alaska.gov/index...g=wolf.control
                            At least three allow aerial gunning.

                            The one I'm personally familiar with is the one in Unit 20E and northern part of Unit 12 where aerial gunning takes place. This aerial gunning has just been expanded to include ALL of the range of the Fortymile caribou herd in Alaska, some 18,000+ square miles.

                            If you and others doubt that some wolves are not being picked up, then I suggest you read a proposal put forth by the Upper-Tanana Advisory Committee that requested the use of helicopters to pick up wolf carcasses. Not only is this request telling, but at the cost-per-hour for helicopters I found it rather odd---you'd have to sell a lot of wolf hides to recover the cost of helicopter charters!

                            When you get planes in remote areas, gunning for wolves from the air, it is understandable that some wolves will be shot that can't be recovered. What was being done is that they'd gps the kill site and try to send a guy out to get to it on snowmachine. As you can imagine, this was not always possible due to distance, and sometimes weather would preclude a trip for several days. Carcass would be eaten, covered with snow/drifts, not able to be found....

                            Yes, the pilot/gunner teams are supposed to pick up every wolf, and they are supposed to document every wolf killed. You might recall the pilot who was Indicted and Convicted of shooting wolves outside a designated pred-control area around McGrath. Common sense and past experiences and talking with participants in the aerial gunning program tells me that not only are some wolves never picked up, but some wolf kills are likely never reported. If you've ever talked to any door-gunners, as I have, and pilots who in the past have shot wolves from the air, you know that many wolves are wounded from buckshot and never found. Another BIZARRE aspect of this is that some pilots actually shoot from the pilot's seat, and some have mounted semi-auto rifles with large capacity magazines to struts which can be fired remotely (I don't know how they do it but you can check out the supercub forum for tons of info on this and the companies that sell this type of system for aerial coyote "hunting.") One can only imagine what machine-gunning into a wolf pack might do and how many wounded wolves escape to die later.

                            Shooting wolves from the air is very dangerous business. It's actually quite complicated, requires a lot of cross-control maneuvering, and I have reams of respect for pilots with the skills to do it without killing themselves and passenger. I've interviewed pilots who have crashed doing it, and many older pilots who say they consider it too dangerous. They leave it to the "bold" pilots. They tell me it's only a matter of time until a pilot/gunner team goes down, especially as new vast areas are added to the program that require more participants.

                            The facts: Some wolves are never picked up. Some wolves are wounded and die and these aren't recorded. This isn't land-and-shoot I'm talking about, but aerial gunning over tens of thousands of square miles. Are most of the pilot/gunner teams honest, sincere, dedicated folks? Yes indeed. I know many of them and respect them. But you don't shoot wolves from the air over tens of thousands of square miles and have the ability to always land to pick them up; I think as a pilot you would at least acknowledge that. I'd also think you'd acknowledge the likelihood that some wolves are wounded and then die later from these wounds. It IS happening.

                            The McGrath program is the smallest in area. I expect some in the McGrath area would say the cost is too high, and some would say otherwise. This is the same everywhere, Mike. Just because an Advisory Committee recommends pred-control doesn't mean it is needed, or that it won't have lasting negative repercussions. We know that if we kill off lots of wolves and/or bears, it is likely the moose and caribou will increase. This is your "positive" effect. Many like you only look to that one postive effect and disregard any of the negative effects or repercussions. Why that is I don't honestly know; perhaps you don't sincerely believe there can be any negative effects. In any case, I hope this information helps to clarify some things.

                            Best, Mark
                            Mark Richards
                            www.residenthuntersofalaska.org

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              martentrapper, Tim, etc. - Mark brings up a good question in his last paragraph: Do you believe that there are NO potential negative effects of predator control that we should be concerned about? If not, what are the potential negatives and how can we address them if we are to move forward with this? Isn't there value in at least having the discussion about the negatives so that we can anticipate and plan for them, and thereby make the program more successful? It seems like most who support aerial gunning and land-and-shoot wolf/bear control aren't even willing to discuss potential concerns. So, what about it? Are there ANY potential concerns that you can see?

                              -Brian

                              Comment

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