John Aberth: Wildlife management should be dictated by science, not politics

This commentary is by John Aberth, a licensed wildlife rehabilitation volunteer who rehabilitates beavers, raptors and other animals at Flint Brook Wildlife Rescue in Roxbury.

In which October 9 comment, “There is no magic bullet for beaver conservation, coexistence and management,” claims Kim Royer, “Our current beaver hunting season helps maintain and coexist with healthy and abundant Vermont beavers by reducing the need to take beavers as a ‘nuisance’ in conflict situations. .”

However, there is absolutely no reliable scientific evidence to show that trapping plays any meaningful role in the management and control of wildlife. In fact, the mere fact that road crews across Vermont kill, on average, 500 to 600 “nuisance” beavers each year is the “minimum” trade-off for the 1,400 beavers killed by recreational hunters each year .

In the Bryant White’s words Principal investigator at the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, “Broad generalizations about the efficacy of professional trapping in reducing human-wildlife conflicts are unwise.”

Beavers, like all farmers, self-organize their populations according to the carrying capacity of the land – that is, the amount of food available in the landscape to maintain their numbers. This is a basic biological principle that all biologists should be aware of.

In the case of beavers, some of the best field research available to us proves this to be the case. At Quabbin Reservation in Massachusetts and Sagehen Creek in California, studies of land and beaver colonies over a period of nearly 50 years, from the 1940s to the 1990s, have shown that beaver populations follow a cyclical pattern, rising to a peak before declining nearly to the level of the original population.

Since baiting is not allowed in either location, this was all done entirely by the beaver’s self-regulation, without human intervention.

Of course, it is true that as beaver populations expand, the chances of conflict with human-built infrastructure, such as road sewers, will increase. Fortunately, high-quality stream devices can be built and adapted to almost any conflict situation in order to resolve such conflicts in a non-lethal and sustainable manner, thus preserving both the human infrastructure and the valuable wetlands that beavers create.

However, this requires willingness and commitment to humane, non-lethal solutions to trapping, but one that will reward cities in the long term, both in terms of cost savings and habitat protection.

It has long been a rule of state wildlife agencies that a ban on trapping will result in beaver armageddon, when beaver populations “explode” instantly to the point that beaver-human struggles will become overwhelming. This is a fiction that has no basis in reality.

Several biologists in the state, including Royar, point to the example of Massachusetts, where a trapping ban called the Wildlife Conservation Act was passed by ballot in 1996. In a graph prepared by the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, the beaver population is supposed to In the state it increased 50% in the year immediately following the ban, while in just the year before, it allegedly grew by just 2.4%.

Massachusetts, like Vermont, relied entirely on trapping data to estimate statewide beaver population trends. However, this database has clearly been decimated by ban, going from 1,136 lashes in 1995-96 to just 98 in 1996-97 (when beavers were caught by cage traps only).

In a communiqué from 2021, Dave Wattles, a Massachusetts State biologistLee admitted that it was a “correct question” about how the “great decline” in the catch after 1996 affected beaver population estimates, which he was not willing to “speculate.”

The public should have confidence that state wildlife agencies make policy decisions about wildlife management based on science, not political pressure from pressure groups such as hunters’ associations, which represent a tiny percentage of our total population.

In a 2018 media and communications survey, the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife found that 53% of respondents expressed concern that they were affected by the policy. Banning poaching would have the incalculable benefit of taking politics out of the wildlife management equation. It will also be very popular, backed by 75% of Vermonters. Additionally, across the Northeast, 79% of those surveyed oppose recreational baiting.

It has been a long time since there was a ban on recreational trapping. Our wild lives, and the humans associated with them, deserve nothing less.

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Tags: Beaver ArmageddonAnd the beaversAnd the High quality streaming devicesAnd the John AberthAnd the Kim RoyerAnd the Annoying beaversAnd the besieged


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