Saturday, November 12, 2011

Intensive Mismangement: It's All About Misinformation

Bob Ermold has an OpEd in a recent PC about predator control and the Peninsula moose population. It's kinda funny in a way, one thing he complains about is when facts or figures are applied incorrectly or out of context, yet his whole piece, which supports aerial shooting of wolves, is nothing but facts and figures being applied incorrectly and out of context.

First,  I hope that no one believes that Bob actually wrote this without considerable help.  If you have ever seen anything that he has written in his context as an education administrator, you might not have to wonder why schools are in trouble.

But let's focus on the facts that he presented.

The first is accurate - the moose population is in decline. Well, maybe just bull moose are in decline. Everything after that is propaganda, however.

Bob goes on to claim that nothing has been done to alter the decline - that's not true of course.  Every hunting regulation and every decision about habitat (road and subdivision development, forest fire control, etc) has had some degree of influence on the moose population.  It might be more accurate to say that nothing has been done that has increased the moose population.

But we really don't know if aerial shooting of wolves does much to increase the population either.  It might appear to be a logical assumption, but there have been no significant studies done in areas that have had this to see if it has actually had the results that the AK Board of Game claim will happen.

Don't you find that curious that the BoG, a panel of political appointees and comprised of mostly big game guides, doesn't want AK F&G to actually study the results?

The consensus, and this comes from the data that Bob claims is not necessarily inter-connected, is that loss of habitat is the primary reason that the moose population is on the decline.

And just how many road kills are there on the Kenai year in and year out - over 300 per year!  Maybe we are hunting the wrong predator.

Here is what is known and supported by years of data collecting.

1) Yes, by controlling predators (wolves and bears) there is usually an increase in moose population.  But long-term data suggest that the increase becomes limited by habitat.  An area can only support so many moose and other factors (weather, road kills here on the Kenai, hunting, disease) are significant.

2)Accurate studies of the effects of predator control are rare. Despite Bob's claim that other factors are not connected, they most certainly are.  Heck, Bob, rump fat indices measure how much browse the animals have access to.  You don't think the availability of food is an indication of moose survival rates?  Let's spell this one out.  Let's say predator control was done in an area and 50% of the predators were eliminated.  But lets say it was also a low-snow year and there was plenty of browse.  The next season there are more moose.  How much is attributed to predator control, how much to having plenty of food?  Long-term studies that examine all aspects of moose populations are absolutely necessary.  But since non-biologists are in charge of the BoG and AK DoF&G, funding to actually study the results have been cut and biologists must clear any and all reports and studies through the appointed political apparatchiks. 

Bob quotes Corey Rossi, the former head of AK DoF&G.  Remember him? He was the guy Palin hired to head that department, yet he would not qualify for an entry-level biologist position.  His background was promoting big game guiding.  That's it.  Check out Craig Medred's piece about how politicized the AK Dep't of F&G has become.

Of course, Cora Campbell, the current commissioner of that office is another political appointee without any real qualifications.

Bob goes on to mention the clause in the state constitution that states wildlife should be managed for maximum sustained yield, and for maximum benefit of the people.

But just what does that mean?  The only absolute is that increasing habitat will increase moose populations, yet Bob doesn't like the solutions to that (less development and more wildfires). The BoG is comprised entirely of big-game guides, maybe some one might argue that wildlife viewing (including wolves and bears) is a benefit to the people (tourism and such).

Make no mistake, Bob, whose background is as a special ed teacher (he's no scientist), is a tool of big game guide lobbyists whose only motivation is bringing wealthy big game hunters to Alaska.

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