Here I am with Misty Sumner, our TPWD field biologist. She gave us these thoughts on predator management.
It is survey time of the year so I’m playing catch-up with email as I can. Yours are always interesting and much more thought provoking than most. I hope I’m not too late to join in on the discussion.
Richard summarized two excellent examples of ‘unintended consequences’ and I’m sure there are many more. Managers at Yellowstone are seeing riparian areas once over-used by elk rebound where wolves have been reintroduced apparently causing the elk to move around more, keeping them from camping out in one area and over utilizing their favourite food items.
My thoughts on predator management on the Circle….
If the goal of the ranch is still to be an investment of the Gill family of an “integrated agricultural, wildlife, hunting, and recreational enterprise” then using them wisely is no different than utilizing the surplus deer, quail, or any other wildlife species.
You have made the conscious decision to manipulate the natural processes that are occurring on the ranch at this time with the introduction of chukars, turkeys, elk, llamas, and alpacas. The decision to manage or manipulate your predator populations should be done with your goals for each of these species considered as well as your deer and quail populations not necessarily individually but as you see their part in your overall goals.
I agree 100% with Richard, the way to grow the ranch is through habitat improvement. I don’t think this precludes utilizing the predator populations, it does though mean doing it wisely.
You mention that Zach and Don think the deer numbers are down. I have yet to see this year’s survey numbers so my following thoughts are drawn from the surveys from 2005 through 2008….these surveys do not show a population decrease but a population shift. This may be because of rainfall patterns or a maybe a shift in the habitat because of elk or llama use. I’m not out there to observe and hope those involved in this discussion can add what their thoughts or observations are on whether or not there is a shift in where the deer occur on the landscape. At least during the survey timeframe, Sept-October, the deer appear to be not using the P-J/oak/high desert grassland and using the low, rolling yucca hills and desert scrub country more now than in year’s past.