November 12, 2002
Who's encroaching on whom?

A couple of interesting stories in the NYT about wildlife proliferation. First, this story about how an explosion in the white tailed deer population is wreaking havoc on ecosystems in the East and Midwest. Humans are pretty much the main predator of deer these days, and we're not doing the job we once did:

Expanded hunting, considered by many experts to be the best hope of controlling numbers, has its limits as well. For example, most hunters, and most states' hunting regulations, still favor shooting bucks, even though the best way to control populations is to kill females.

Some states are changing regulations in ways that could cut deer numbers, but hunters are resisting. Others are expanding seasons and the number of deer a hunter can kill, but federal wildlife officials note that hunters are a graying population, with fewer each year to make a dent. In any case, controlled hunts staged in suburbs often run up against strident opposition from animal welfare groups.

Is that really true about hunters being a "graying population"? I had no idea. Any hunters care to comment on that?

The other article, about a boom in the mountain lion population, is more about how ever-expanding development, mostly out west, into wilder areas is not only bringing humans into increasing contact with the big cats, it's removing their natural fear of us. Good for them, since we're a tasty and readily available treat. Not so good for us.

When Greg McCoy found Oreo, his daughter's house cat, in the jaws of a mountain lion early this year, he grabbed the big cat by the tail with both hands, dragged it onto his front lawn and jumped on top of it.

With his left arm, he tried to hold the writhing lion in a headlock. With his right hand, he attempted to yank Oreo from the lion's mouth.

As Mr. McCoy, 37, and 215 pounds, tugged on the bloodied house cat, the lion an adult female weighing perhaps 100 pounds struggled out of his headlock. Before it ran off to eat Oreo, it swatted Mr. McCoy across the face with a rear paw.

"It felt like a fist with four nails in it and it brought me to my senses and I decided I better let go," said Mr. McCoy, a founder of a small company that offers wireless broadband Internet access to people who live, as he does, in the mountains on the outskirts of Boulder. "I had read about how to deal with a mountain lion, but none of that entered my head when I saw one with my daughter's cat. I was plain mad stupid."

He was also lucky. The lion left four scratches on his right cheek, which have since healed without leaving scars. Wildlife experts say that swat could easily have torn off much of his face.

Man. And they say that people who imitate what they see on Jackass are examples of Darwin in action.

Anyway, the good news is that the mountain lions also like eating deer. There's not enough of them yet to make a real impact on the deer population, but give it time. Meanwhile, I'll stay right here in the city, thankyouverymuch. I'll take my chances with the panhandlers and SUV drivers.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 12, 2002 to National news | TrackBack

Seems to me that re-introducing bears would help a bunch, as bears are naturally human-adverse, and they like chomping on deer.

Unless, of course, the bears figure out how to eat out of garbage cans...

Posted by: Frankenstein on November 13, 2002 9:59 AM

Bears are already pretty good at getting into garbage. I did a quick Google search on "+bears +garbage +nuisance" and found hits from state wildlife agencies ranging from New York to California, plus Nova Scotia. Here's one example.

Anyway, if this is a guide, there's a lot of black bears out there, too.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on November 13, 2002 12:17 PM

I've been thinking about that cat thing a lot in the last couple of days. You'd have to count me in the Darwin Awards camp if I saw a mountain lion coming after one of my cats, I think. It wouldn't be deliberate; I'd just do it.

Of course, I don't let my cats run outside becase Bad Things happen to outdoor kitties.

Posted by: Ginger on November 13, 2002 6:12 PM