In my opinion, we do not need more predators in this country and when you read this column, I hope you will agree.
When you introduce or allow predators to multiply without being curtailed, the economic and social impact in regions of North America could be devastating. To understand what is happening in our country with regard to predation, you must approach the problem with an unbiased philosophy. That will allow you to understand the mindset of individuals who have chosen to adopt ideas closely related to:
The control of game animals in national parks, national forests, state forests and regions open to hunters;
The biological effect of predation on native species; and
The cost to the economy.
In recent years (1993-95), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, under pressure, introduced wolf packs into Yellowstone National Park and the vast wilderness areas of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. The contract was to maintain the packs at a level of 100 per state, or roughly 300 wolves, and management then was turned over to the states.
A plan was crafted to protect at least 50 percent of each pack. Recently. it was noted that there are more than six times the number promised.
As a result, a once healthy moose population in Yellowstone is near extinction. In Idaho, the mule deer and elk populations are so low that hunters are seeking the more productive states.
As a reader, you probably are thinking, "So what is the problem?" The problem quickly becomes economic because in Idaho alone it is estimated that a mule deer is worth close to $1,000, if you consider the money spent on a guide, equipment and visiting.
Considering the fact that most of this money is spent by out-of-state hunters, that equates to $5.8 million for the economy. That is big business from mule deer hunting alone.
How does predation affect us in Pennsylvania? We first must realize that other than the funding from the Pittman-Robertson Act, the state Game Commission operates on the sale of licenses, as do a majority of other states.
The pinch comes that when you have fewer animals to hunt, the hunters go to another state or country to enjoy their sport or they just quit - period - and agencies have less money.
That should be a good argument for stronger control in our state for better regulation of predators. That way, we could allow them to regulate populations of game birds, such as ring-necked pheasants, and deer fawns that supplement a vital class of older deer.
There are a variety of predators, in my opinion, that we really should concentrate on reducing in addition to the worm-infested coyotes. The curse in the mammal world is raccoons.
The raccoon reproduces at a fantastic rate, carries the rabies virus and will clean out a nest of game birds in minutes, as well as newborn mammals. The population has exploded in our state and along the eastern seaboard and appears not to have enough natural enemies to check their progress.
Predators can be controlled biologically and with a good market for furs. My trapping friend, Randy Timisso, of Wyoming state, tells me last season he hit the jackpot, trapping big cats that have put many ranchers out of business. Perhaps that's what we need to do instead of protecting predators under the Endangered Species Act and stocking game birds for them to eat without our help for survival.