Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wisconsin Deer Hunting and Competition

This morning I listened to Joy Cardin's call-in radio show about deer hunting in the state of Wisconsin. One of the issues that was brought up during the show was that there are to many deer in the state, so hunters need to shoot more deer to bring the numbers down. The part of the show that caught my attention was Frank's (He was from Portage, WI) call at about 45 or so minutes into the hour long program. What I heard Frank saying in his comment is that part of the problem is that we're not letting the natural predators like wolves, bear, and cougars do their job of consuming deer because we have taken over their territories, therefore bringing their numbers down so they can't make an impact on the deer herd. He also mentioned that we keep taking from the land and its inhabitants, and we have been doing this since we decided to take the land from the Native Americans that lived here.

I was disappointed with Keith Warnke's response to Frank. Keith is a Big Game Specialist who works for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The main reason why is that he didn't mention our total dependence on agriculture to produce our food. And most importantly, because of this dependence on agriculture we are breaking The Biological Law of Limited Competition. The law simply states:

You may compete to the full extent of your capabilities, but you may not hunt down your competitors or destroy their food or deny them access to food. Lions and hyenas will kill competitors opportunistically (as will other creatures, like baboons), but the law as stated holds true: they do not HUNT their competitors the way they hunt their prey. That is, they'll kill a competitor if they come across one (especially in conflict over food when food is scarce), but in the absence of a competitor, they won't go looking for one to kill. Such behavior would be evolutionarily unstable. (See THE SELFISH GENE by R. Dawkins.) As a strategy, it just doesn't pay off to use your time and energy hunting competitors that you DON'T eat (and that will fight back to the death) instead of using your time and energy to hunt prey that you DO eat. It's not a matter of ethics, it's a matter of calories.*


Spraying pesticides on fields, killing wolves because they kill whitetail deer, shooting deer because they eat our corn, are all examples of killing our competitors because we don't want them to have our food. That's breaking the Law of Limited Competition. The problem is that over time a species will go extinct from breaking this law. Experts and citizens alike, I think, really need to start talking about this more.

I would like to be a guest on Wisconsin Public Radio talking about this and other ideas brought up in Daniel Quinn's work. Perhaps there needs to be an organization started in the state that focuses on those ideas. Anybody out there with any ideas? In the ten years I have been listening to WPR I have not heard a guest voice the B Attitudes, but I have heard callers like Frank touch on them.

*Source

6 comments:

Filip T. said...

I have been mulling over this post and keep re-reading it.

>>I was disappointed with Keith Warnke's response to Frank. Keith is a Big Game Specialist who works for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The main reason why is that he didn't mention our total dependence on agriculture to produce our food. And most importantly, because of this dependence on agriculture we are breaking The Biological Law of Limited Competition.<<

I feel that same disappointment, and have many times in the past. I don't think Keith knows about that stuff. He is the DNR Big Game Specialist. I imagine he is in the system to help run the system. Even if you shared this with him, he might not agree.

The type of logic that the hunters are using when they say they need to kill the deer to keep their numbers down is the same stuff I see throughout the western USA too. Yellowstone is one spots that there is a lot of press on regarding deer/elk/bison numbers and wolves. One of the major problems there is that ranchers want the ungulates to stay in the park, along with the wolves. Its kind of a ridiculous notion to assume we can keep nature as a kind of penned-in amusement park or over-sized zoo.

Even a park as large as the 2.2 million acre Yellowstone is small for animals like wolves, grizzlies and wolverines. It is not even large enough for some of the elk and bison herds, which as part of their natural annual migration leave the high country of the park to overwinter in the lowlands. Some get "culled" because ranches complain that their livestock gets diseases from the herds.

Ironically, some studies have shown it to be the other way around.

Its definitely a sore point for me. Here in WA state, ranchers and loggers voted down re-introducing wolves into Olympic NP. I was pretty bummed about that. Though, I have heard rumors recently that they might try again sometime soon.

We finally have a official pack in the state now, up near Mt. Baker. Hopefully, the pups from that pack will disperse into our area. Wouldn't that be something!?!

Curt said...

Hi FilipT.,

You wrote: "I feel that same disappointment, and have many times in the past. I don't think Keith knows about that stuff. He is the DNR Big Game Specialist. I imagine he is in the system to help run the system. Even if you shared this with him, he might not agree."

Me: Given his responses throughout the radio program, I don't think he would agree.

You wrote: "Its kind of a ridiculous notion to assume we can keep nature as a kind of penned-in amusement park or over-sized zoo."

Me: It really is ridiculous.

You wrote: "We finally have a official pack in the state now, up near Mt. Baker. Hopefully, the pups from that pack will disperse into our area. Wouldn't that be something!?!"

It sure would! There was a time in Wisconsin when there were no known wolves. Today there are close to 600 of them. This makes me happy.

Brishen Hoff said...

Hi Curt, in response to your comment:

"I'm particularily interested in why the world is so messed up and what we can do about it."

In my opinion, it has a lot to do with human overpopulation, which is easy to reverse on a country-by-country basis using government policy that reduces immigration and reduces the birth rate using a system of taxation-and-bonuses.

This could bring us back into balance with nature. In 8,000 BC there were 5 million humans world-wide when unsustainable cultivation agriculture began. The reason it is unsustainable is because it caused our populations to grow beyond a level that can be supported in the long-term. Since the earth's population was 5 million, we have degraded the earth's capacity by at least 50%; There's less than half the quantity of forest there used to be, less than half the fish, etc. Therefore, I think a new sustainable population of hunter-gatherers would be 2.5 million worldwide. Therefore, pro-rated, I believe USA's sustainable and optimum population would be just over 100,000.
Hunting and gathering is the only sustainable lifestyle for humans on earth. Of course there are too many of us for everyone to survive as a hunter-gatherer today. Earth has 148429000 Sq. Km of land and 6.7 billion people. At 247.105381 acres per square kilometer, there is 36,677,604,596 acres of land on earth, which is about 5 acres of land per person. This is not enough to survive on sustainably in any lifestyle given that the average land on earth is either too cold, too wet, too dry, too hot, too rocky, too steep, too infertile, or some combination of the above.

Here is my blog: http://ecologicalcrash.blogspot.com

By the way, I found your blog by reading this forum: http://www.rewild.info/conversations/index.php?topic=22.msg12978

Curt said...

Brishen,

I agree, human overpopulation is a big problem for us and nonhumans.

Jeremy said...

The mentality exists not only in the field of wildlife management, but also in Forestry. The mentality that you can control nature or work against the natural balances that exist. My example and experience is related to Fire Management (wildland fire). Wildland fire management in Wisconsin is a responsibilty of the DNR. I should say wildland fire suppression is their responsibility. They are motivated to suppress fires because they think this protects the forest (particularly the timber resource). In reality, this creates a risk (from other natural disturbances like wind, insect, disease, and fire), this creates an unbalanced situation that we do not know what the consequences are. Related to hunting, again the mentality was that we (the "takers") knew what was best. The wolf was bad, the cougers are bad, fire is bad. Now we are in a situation where the deer are over populated (much like many of the forests are over crownded with trees). We are not removing the sick and older deer (like nature and natives used to "manage"), the large healthy bucks are the desired target.

Curt said...

Hi Jeremy,

Back and Forth:

You wrote: "The mentality exists not only in the field of wildlife management, but also in Forestry. The mentality that you can control nature or work against the natural balances that exist. My example and experience is related to Fire Management (wildland fire). Wildland fire management in Wisconsin is a responsibilty of the DNR. I should say wildland fire suppression is their responsibility. They are motivated to suppress fires because they think this protects the forest (particularly the timber resource). In reality, this creates a risk (from other natural disturbances like wind, insect, disease, and fire), this creates an unbalanced situation that we do not know what the consequences are."

ME: I hear what you're saying here. For the most part, and from what I know about the WDNR's opinion on wildfires, they're against them. But I will say this, my neighbor has been experimenting with fire and prairie restoration through controlled burning. It has been a big success. And last spring the park service joined him and they burned off some federal land too.

My neighbor is going to help me burn off a small piece of land hopefully this spring or the next. I'm looking forward to this.

---

You wrote: "Related to hunting, again the mentality was that we (the "takers") knew what was best. The wolf was bad, the cougers are bad, fire is bad. Now we are in a situation where the deer are over populated (much like many of the forests are over crownded with trees). We are not removing the sick and older deer (like nature and natives used to "manage"), the large healthy bucks are the desired target."

Me: Most hunters that I know are just not on the same page about this, probably because most don't understand the basics of ecology. And I'm not saying that I'm some ecological wizard here. I'm just assuming that if they had the same compulsory schooling experience that I've had, then how could have this ecological knowledge?