Proceedings of the First Park Naturalists’ Training Conference, November 1 to 30, 1929
SCIENTIFIC ASPECTS OF THE PARK PROTECTION PROGRAM
THE PREDATORY ANIMAL PROBLEM
By E. D. McKee
There was a time when many of the large predatory animals such as the wolf, the coyote, and the bobcat, were considered as being entirely harmful and injurious to the interests of man, and on this premise, bounties and other inducements were offered for their destruction. Within recent years, their numbers appear to have been diminished to a negligible amount in many places, and to have been lessened to the point of extinction in others. In brief, conditions involving the maintenance and preservation of American wild life have so changed recently that it is now not only desirable but imperative that those interested study these new conditions and take necessary steps immediately.
Then arises the question – How do predatory animals affect the balance of Nature? Obviously they have for untold ages performed the task of thinning out and keeping down the numbers of herbivorous and other animals. In places they have done a far better dub than man would like to see. As a result, man in turn has cut down their numbers until now in many places a natural balance is lost. The result of this has in some cases a given results which are entirely satisfactory to our desires, but in others have brought about new problems such as we now face with the Kaibab deer herd – the result of killing off the Cougar of that region.
From a national park standpoint it seems that the popular value of having many deer, antelope, and other such animals which are readily seen by park visitors is vastly superior to owning a group of predators such as lions, cats, and wolves which are seldom even seen. At the same time, however, I feel that as biologists we must agree with Mr. Vernon Bailey, United States Biological Survey, in his statement that no animal should be entirely exterminated. A middle course, then, should be to control the numbers of predatory animals in any region, and to do this requires a study of what conditions are desirable and then steps taken toward the necessary work of hunting or trapping. In both of these undertakings I feel that the park naturalist or members of his staff should take definite parts – at least share the work with the rangers. They are definitely Park Service projects and should be handled as such.
Predatory animals of Western United States. Vernon Bailey Bulletin of U.S. Biological Survey.
Vermin Published by “Amer. Game” and “California Fish and Game Commission.”