The article last Monday in the ABQ Journal confused the number of years this study has been going, giving this data more credit than it currently deserves. This is the first year of the study in the Sandia Mts., while it has been going for three years in other mountain ranges of NM. The article stated that this the third year in the Sandias as well, but that just isn’t true. I’ve been participating in this study, along with 9 other groups/agencies, and the data is just now coming in for our first year (2014).
This is important because for Game and Fish to increase the bear hunt in the Sandia Mts. based on one year’s worth of data is just wrong.
Read the article from KCET here: California Bans Bobcat Trapping in 3-2 Vote. Bobcats are one of our “focal species” here at Pathways, because, even though they are a smaller, “mezzo-predator”, and don’t range as far and wide as our other focal species, we have included them because of the hunting/trapping pressure being put on them for the fur business. Being “common” is no protection for an animal, as most of the animals now extirpated were once “common”. Humans have literally become the balance of nature over the past century (especially), deciding which animals will live, in how many numbers, and which are not worth our trouble; but we are still confounded by “invasive species” and those we consider pests. We’re trying to control this ship yet, and we must try, but I don’t think anyone can or really ever has. Nature is a beautiful thing when she is in balance, and everyone has a chance to be who they are. But now, we’re drowning in human beings, nature is something “out there” or far away, and we don’t even know what animals are really here for. So yea for California, but lets think about what a bobcat is, all of the other plants and animals that make it possible for this mid-size cat to be in the hills, and at last, where do we fit in?
As iconic and well loved as the Jaguar is in Mexico, there are still those who would wantonly kill them. As the article points out however, in this case it could make the social contract with the jaguar in Mexico even stronger.
Between road kill, “removal” killing by State Game and Fish and Federal Fish and Wildlife Services, and legal hunting/trapping, the human caused mortality of wildlife adds up. Add in illegal/out of season hunting (poaching), and the numbers soar even higher. Then there is the natural death of wild animals, and the un-natural death due to human caused degradation and disruption of habitat, water supply, vegetation, etc. So the majority of animal deaths may go undocumented or unseen. Yet each year known numbers can be tallied up and compared to give some clues as to the total population movement. This gets tricky though, as lower total mortality numbers may mean a declining population, or it may mean a growing population, depending on how the killing is taking place. Higher mortality numbers may mean an increasing population, or it may mean a declining one. If the mortality numbers remain constant over a period of years, the population may be steady and “balanced”, or it may be nearing a collapse as the last of its numbers succumbs and is drawn in to human dominated areas. As some big cat population numbers decline, the females can start to kill their own cubs, further weakening total numbers, but maybe as a way to survive themselves for another year.
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The news on Black Bears from the state of NM, so far this year:
New Mexico Department of Game and Fish
2014-15 Bear Depredation and Roadkill Update
Compiled by: Rick Winslow, Bear and Cougar Biologist
Note: of 22 total bears killed to date, 6 (27.3%) have been female. This number includes depredation (12) and roadkill (10).
June 12, 2014
All this to highlight the fact that getting reliable documentation on wildlife populations is difficult at best, and nearly impossible for most. This is why most efforts at conservation have focused on habitat improvement and protection, but these data on actual numbers are always important, so when we have the opportunity to document road kill or hunting/trapping data, or sampling DNA from depredation kills, we should do so. All these data can give us clues and further inform the population mystery.
Read the next post to see how all this ties in to something more real than just an intellectual grasp of animal population numbers, and relates to how conservation measures can be taken in a very practical way.