Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Urban Wildlife and Human Interactions

Monday, December 24 2007 USA Today reports:

Anchorage, Alaska - The Army restricted recreational activities at Fort Richardson because of recent wolf attacks on dogs. All training areas west and north of the Artillery Road area are off limits. Three women running with dogs encountered at least seven wolves. A dog on a chain was killed a few miles away. Two other dogs were killed in the area in the past month.

Comment: This are sad and regretable incidents. Wolves are ecologically important creatures. As top predators they serve an important role by keeping populations of deer, moose, and caribou in check. Alaska is a very open and compared to the lower 48 states, is less densely populated. I have a friend and colleague who teaches for the University of Alaska and she says there are parts of Alaska so untouched that some wild animals still haven't really suffered from human interactions. But I do commend the military administrators for taking action. Restricting opportunities for humans (and their companion animals) to interact with wildlife (and I emphasize WILD) is one of the best solutions. Typically, wildlife managers do their very best to avoid a solution that results in removing the problem animals. And by removing I mean relocation or death. And wolf hunting in Alaska is a real and legal activity. I'm not anti-hunting, but I don't like the idea of hunting top predators. I'm biased, I'll admit it. On a final note, I do extend my sympathies to the families of the pet dogs who were killed by wolves. I don't doubt that these animals were trying to protect their families from their wild cousins.

Hartford, Conneticut - Bird lovers are battling over the fate of mute swans in the state. The Connecticut Audubon Society wants the state to remove the swans from critical marine habitats, claiming the graceful birds are invaders that cause environmental harm. But the swans are protected in Connecticut, and defenders say any move against the birds is unacceptable.

Comment: This is hard one because it is two important ecological issues that are in conflict with one another. In this situation ecologists are concerned for 2 important matters. Issue 1: Protect at-risk habitats so that the plant and wildlife that call that place home can establish or keep its balance. Issue 2: There are laws that protect some wildlife species. In this case it is the mute swan. Like many other waterfowl there are laws (federal and state) that make it absolutely unacceptable to mess with an animal almost any circumstance. But the problem is the mute swan is an unwanted animal in this at-risk habitat. The mute swan is actually the problem - in this case. Sometimes (and I hope things work out), exceptions can and have been made. There are cases where wildlife officers will demonstrate that they can safely remove animals and certain times of year so that the habitat can be restored and the birds are not harmed. And since the Audobon Society is a well-respected organization and usually does this in the most proper and scientific and legal way, I feel sure they will work toward a feasible solution to deal with both issues

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