Updated: Jul 6, 2020
The controversial, nasty "trophy" predator management
The commercialization of certain animals exists throughout the American culture in an astounding degree. With the indoctrination from film makers, toy makers and storytellers, we are raised to think of these, in most cases apex predators, as cute, cuddly and soft friends that are nothing more than helpless stuffed animals that are constantly in need of people to make sure that they are unharmed and uninterrupted. On one side of the coin, there are die-hard environmentalists who on large part believe that nature should be allowed to find equilibrium.
In a perfect world and in an unspoiled wilderness, equilibrium may be found without human intervention. To put this another way, if humans are not invading on unspoiled land where animals exist and never intervene (i.e. hunt), than the apex predators will kill only what they need to eat and once they start to become over populated, the ungulates that they feed on will start to become more sparse and the predators will start to starve and die until they reach a level of population that allows the ungulates to rebuild their population. Then equilibrium will be achieved. In a nutshell and without droning on with other factors, this is the belief.
There is a fatal flaw in the theory of equilibrium. Humans are still on the earth, and not only are we on the earth, but we are growing in numbers. The hypocrisy in the equilibrium theory is that almost all of the people that want this theory to happen are also reliant on the industrial machine that we would be extremely stressed to live without it. We now have ranchers that supply beef and mutton to the rest of the country. Besides the financial livelihood that these ranchers have to endure when they lose cattle or sheep to a pack of wolves, coyote, bear or mountain lion, the loss in livestock life means less available food for humans. Now, of course, this is the cost of doing business and no one complains, except the rancher, until the price per pound of meat or their taxes from the livestock reimbursements starts to creep up.
Now you may be thinking, do these animals really have that much of an impact on livestock? As a whole, the percentages are fairly low but with the increase of predatory animals, livestock deaths will increase. I recently read about a rancher in Dillon, Montana who lost 120 sheep in one night from 3 wolves which was reported by the Missoulian. https://missoulian.com/news/local/article_5ff01772-938f-11de-9aca-001cc4c03286.html (Eve Byron, 2009) This brings me to the actual point of this blog. The dreaded stigma behind trophy hunting.
Not too many people that I know, like the idea of just simply killing animals for the sake of killing them. However, would we think the same way about a rodent infestation in our home? I hesitate to think that very many people would be okay with letting rats into their home and adopting a live and let live policy. I am not saying that iconic predatory animals are disease carrying animals but I am saying that they are all animals but just have a different stigma attached to them.
Because of the balance of humans living in an area and wild animals living in the same area, balance has to be found. Equilibrium will not be able to be organically found due simply to the human interaction in these areas. Otherwise, you will be at great risk, like in some parts of North America, when you decide to take Fifi for a walk. It is an eerie feeling to be knowingly stalked by a predatory animal. This I can tell you from personal experience. It is also an extremely humbling experience when you see a full grown grizzly bear smack a full grown moose with its paw and break its back, as reported by archer/hunter John Dudley. The strength we have does not hold a candle to the strength of these animals.
The only way to find some sort of equilibrium is to maintain populations through regulated bag limits by hunters. These animals are considered trophy animals. But there are no groups of people that contribute more to the conservation of wildlife and habitat than hunters. “In 2013, the most recent year for which complete data are available, hunters spent about $821 million on licenses and permits and almost $813 million in excise taxes for a total financial contribution of around $1.65 billion to wildlife conservation.” (Mark Damian Duda, Marty Jones and Tom Beppler of Responsive Management, 2016) Compare that to the $1.6 billion that is currently being funded by the United States government to the Fish and Wildlife Service for wildlife conservation. https://www.fws.gov/news/ShowNews.cfm?ref=president-proposes-$1.2-billion-fy-2019-budget-for--u.s.-fish-and-w&_ID=36224 (Gavin Shire, 2018) The money that hunters spend for hunting licenses goes directly to the cause of wildlife conservation.
People tend to be up in arms about trophy hunting but in most cases, this stigma completely is fueled by emotion instead of logic and reason. Before we allow ourselves to become upset, we need to take a deep breath and look at all of the evidence from credible sources, and without blinders. No one that I know or have heard of is calling for the decimation of these iconic animals. But without trophy hunting, there is little hope of actual conservation.