Proceedings of the First Park Naturalists’ Training Conference, November 1 to 30, 1929
SCIENTIFIC ASPECTS OF THE PARK PROTECTION PROGRAM
THE PREDATORY ANIMAL PROBLEM AND ITS BEARING ON THE NATURAL BALANCE
By Frank Been
Because of the entrance of man into the natural scheme, the balance of nature, which perhaps has never been perfect, is completely overthrown. The best that we can hope to do is to arrange a balance of nature according to our ideas. These ideas are apt to be influenced by analysis no matter how much we try to avoid it. By looking forward into the future, we cannot help but see that the pressure of the demands for unutilized natural resources and the struggle for food may result in the complete destruction of the balance of nature. The only chance of preserving predatory animals which are necessary to the balance of nature is by creating preserves where these animals are protected. Our national parks are the logically and most advantageously situated to afford this protection. The world of science is becoming more generally respected. If science decrees that certain areas should remain untouched by man, it is quite likely that these areas will withstand the pressure of economic progress demanding that the areas be used industrially.
In protecting the predatory animal, we must consider the effect upon the territory bordering the park where there may be live stock ranches of some description. It is easily possible that animals protected in the park may cause serious losses to the ranger, who would be justified in killing the predator. Our effort to maintain a balance of nature is destroyed at that point, and we are helpless to change the situation because we cannot expect a ranger to support a scientific project to the extent of losing much of his stock.
If, however, this problem does not enter, to what extent will we go to maintain the natural balance? This history of this nation shows that certain kinds of game were at one time less plentiful than now because predatory animals were more numerous than before the appearance of man; he decreased the numbers of predators, thus permitting the increase in non-predators. In our national parks we shall determine the number of predators by their effect upon the non-predator, but that is not very likely to be a true balance of nature. Again the predator may become so numerous as to be dangerous or at least a serious nuisance, to the people of the park. If this occurs, steps must be taken to reduce the numbers, because the parks must be kept safe for the people, but such steps would not support a balance of nature.
Should predatory animals be protected in our national parks? They must be protected if we are to support our policy of education, not to mention the balance of nature. C. C. Adams presented three reasons why predators should be protected:
- Scientific value – necessary in study of anatomy, ecology. evolutionary problems, and other scientific studies.
- Educational and social values – people are generally greatly interested in animals which are needed to complete zoological gardens, and examples are often taken from animals in human social conduct.
- Economic value – prevents over-population of herbivorous animals and rodents; source of fur and medicines.