The Department of Natural Resources announced their plan to decimate (literally) the state’s mute swan population. Yesterday, the Barry County Board of Commissioners voted to invite the DNR to destroy its entire mute swan population, as part of a state plan to reduce the number of birds from the current 15,500 statewide to around 2,000. The rationale is that the birds are classified as an invasive species because they were introduced by humans over a hundred years ago. Due to the proliferation of the species, it certainly can be argued that some control measures may be appropriate, but they are now part of the food web — a player in local eco-systems, and to remove them will upset other species.
As Democracy Tree recently reported, government agencies tend to not exercise prudence in their wildlife management practices. They all too frequently employ a “kill first” policy, with no sound science or evidence in support.
The DNR announced today that they will have to temporarily postpone the sale of wolf hunting permits from starting this Saturday to September 28th instead because they anticipate a wild rush to purchase the limited number of licenses. They expect to rapidly sell-out the 1200 permits at $100 a piece for residents and $500 for non-residents — a nice little money-maker considering the kill is limited to 43 animals.
When the wolf was removed from the federal endangered species list and their management was turned-over to states, these agencies monetized the decision, removing science from the equation and inserting politics in its place. State wildlife agencies fund themselves largely through hunting license fees, and since wolves are the natural predator for much of that game, these agencies are in direct competition with the wolf for a limited resource. Putting those same bureaucrats in charge of wolf population decisions is, pardon the expression, like letting the wolf guard the henhouse.
They spin it differently:
The Michigan wolf hunt bill is a prime example of this twisting of the facts — perpetuating the myth of the big, bad wolf. The reason given behind this new law is that wolves are supposedly attacking lots of livestock. Yet, two studies conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of wolf predation on Idaho sheep and in Wyoming on cattle found that claim to be utterly false. Here are their findings:
The most recent comprehensive data tracking all unexpected loss of sheep shows that wolves were responsible for sheep predation in Idaho 270 times in 2004, the lowest number of all predators, with coyotes taking 7,100, dogs 1,400, bears 1,100, mountain lions 400. Total predation came to 12,100 sheep, representing 55 percent of all livestock losses. But the take-away number is that wolf predation accounted for less than 1 percent of sheep loss.
In Wyoming the numbers looked roughly the same. Wolves took 54 calves/cattle, coyotes 2,300, mountain lions 500, and dogs 100. Again, wolves came in under 1 percent of all losses.
There is a strong argument to be made that the hunting of wolves disrupts their natural hunting pack dynamic, and loss of key members pushes wolves to more aggressively predate domestic animals. But hey, that’s just animal behavior science — something of little interest to those in charge.
Michigan’s wildlife management is a disgrace. And they get away with it because the media too often reports verbatim what they are told by officials without questioning the motives.
Amy Kerr Hardin