Weed Warrior

When wildlife become weeds

As the 2021 Hunting Season approaches, a couple of questions come to mind: 1) Are we treating wildlife as weeds, and 2) should we?

If we think wildlife doesn’t belong on the same planet as us, we are forgetting the Biblical lesson about the importance of Noah’s Ark.

So where does wildlife belong? Does it belong in our cities or on our properties? If it does or does not, does that include all wildlife or just some species?

I get that large predators are not usually welcome to roam near us, except in Churchill, Manitoba. But, what about prey species like deer and elk that might attract large predators? It would be hard to keep large predators away from us if prey species like deer and elk lived in our neighbourhoods full time.

How do we make sure deer and elk spend most of their time in the forests away from our communities, so that predators like bears, cougars, coyotes and wolves can eat too, without giving us trouble?

Local towns have found that live-trapping then radio collaring and transporting deer a hundred klicks away, doesn’t keep them away for long. Trapping and shooting urban deer out of season is not popular with a large segment of our municipal populations.

Perhaps we should consider what attracts prey animals to our cities. Food, and protection when raising their young are obvious potential answers.

The most common prey animals living near people in the RDEK are deer. The deer that visit our rural property eat lots of things: short grass, clover, flowers, willow leaves, crab apples, etc, but not enough of anything to make them want to stick around full time. Just maybe, it’s because my wife has learned to put a 3m high wire fence around the 6m x 6m patch of vegetables and flowers that she does not want to share. Perhaps that is a key point. If deer get some of what they want to eat in town, but find most of their food in the forest, maybe they will spend most of their time in the forest and other wildland settings.

Is there something about the way we people are managing regional forests, and other wildlands like meadows and wetlands that prevents wildlife from finding enough food outside of our local communities?

Is the way forestry companies clearcut and trample broadleaf trees and bushes with their big machines, then only plant a few species of conifer trees for future human generations, starving deer and elk and other wildlife out of the forest?

Are we destroying the diversity of too many grasslands that naturally feed wildlife a varied diet, just to plant monocrops for our exclusive use?

Are we humans filling in too many wetlands that protect wildlife, and help fill the water table, so we can plant more crops — just for us?

Should humans be content with a share of Mother Nature’s bounty, leaving lots for wildlife, or are we entitled to it all?

Yes, I have posed a lot of uncomfortable questions that maybe we should be addressing sooner, rather than later — when the damage might be unrepairable.

Next week, I’ll address what scientists have learned about when we don’t respect Mother Nature’s population control methods, and what can happen when people thoughtlessly get rid of some of their local predator species.

Weed Warrior Frank