Steve Nelle is a wildlife biologist with the NRCS. He is one of the most respected range and wildlife scientists in West Texas. Here are his thoughts:
Chris and others,
I’ll give my 2 cents worth, and that’s about all it’s worth.
Predation is a normal and good and beneficial part of the natural balance as nearly everyone would agree.
Management by man is also a part of the balance. Man is an active predator of several species. We actively control, manage, and manipulate our killing of deer, quail, bighorn, etc. Therefore we are already actively engaged in predator control / predator management simply by our hunting practices.
If you want humans to be the primary predator of mule deer, then it seems logical and proper to reduce excessive predation by coyotes or mountain lions.
There are side effects of nearly anything we do. As long as we stay very observant and diligent, we can usually anticipate problems and adjust to minimize negative consequences.
If deer numbers begin to build to excessive numbers as evidenced by excessive use on key browse and perennial forbs use, then you can either step up your harvest and/or lighten up on predator control.
We actively control native cowbirds in an effort to increase songbird reproduction; and it works wonderfully.
We actively control (manage) predator / prey species in a pond to increase the size or number of bass; and it works wonderfully.
Management involves man’s active participation in the natural balance, not just being a spectator.
One thing not brought up in the emails below is the role of fawning cover for mule deer. With a lack of adequate fawning cover, we invite coyotes to feast upon fawns. With an abundance of fawning cover we inhibit coyotes from finding and eating fawns.
Any form of grazing management which reduces the amount of standing vertical grass cover is going to allow for increased predation loss. While there may be some ecological benefits of trampling standing grass to the horizontal position on the soil surface, this practice does reduce the extent of fawning cover.
So, yet another variable to include in the planning process. We can either reduce the number of coyotes; and/or, we can increase the survival rate of fawns by improving fawning cover.