Response to the Mirror front page article under the headline “Wolves on the Island: fact or fiction.”
Are there no forest professionals out there willing to stand up and push back to the obvious attack on the logging industry disguised as an article on wolves. The article seems to indicate that the decline in marmots and deer are solely related to the conversion of ancient forests into a series of roads and tree plantations. The article suggests that there is decades of research that reveals little evidence that wolves cause declines in prey populations but quotes none.
Mr. Darimont, the main source for the article, contradicts himself in the very next line by saying predator prey populations are self regulating. Well what that means is that when prey is abundant predator populations increase which causes prey populations to decline. As prey populations decline the predator population soon follows. So the more predators, the less prey. There is a clear link between prey and predator populations. It is natural and cyclical that can be thrown out of balance for awhile by outside factors. I am over simplifying as it is way more complicated with many more factors but it is simply not fair to suggest logging practices are solely to blame for declining marmot and deer populations without providing a stick of research or data.
In a habitat and predator study of coastal black tail deer on Vancouver Island conducted between 1982 and 1990 and published in 1996 (the most recent directly related study on the issue I could find), they do talk about the need for old growth deer winter ranges and some of the problems caused by logging creating isolated winter ranges that concentrate deer in them which makes the deer easy prey for predators. The study also found little evidence to suggest habitat destruction was a source for deer population decline as malnutrition was the fourth leading cause of death amongst the studies population.
The study also concludes that in the short term, harvesting activities actually can enhance deer habitat quality: “The early seral forests created by clearcuts offer abundant high-quality forage for deer populations. However logging road systems built throughout lower valley elevations also provide easy access to deer by wolves, cougars and humans.” McNay and Voller concluded that it is road access and concentrated winter ranges and not the harvesting itself that affected deer mortality.
This radio collar study which had 2,182 months of data from 105 deer concluded that pregnancy rates for does was good with most having twins. In the study, predation by cougars and wolves accounted for 61 per cent of all deaths with cougar predation being the most significant (they didn’t split the two). Malnutrition was fourth on the list and after hunting.
McNay and Voller recommend that blocks of older intact forests particularly at lower elevations should be set aside because they are essential to rebuild deer populations. In the years following this report, government has made it a requirement to preserve riparian reserve zones, old growth management areas and ungulate winter ranges across the landscape. Not perfect by any means but, in my opinion, a good compromise that maintains harvesting and ungulate populations. Perhaps more could be done to restrict access but as we see that is met by significant public opposition when done on a wide scale.
To be transparent, I should point out that this study was a co-operative program of: B.C. Ministry of Forests; B.C. Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks; University of British Columbia; Canadian Forest Products Ltd.; TimberWest Forest Ltd and MacMillan Bloedel Ltd.
I also note that the article does indicate the Ministry of Forests (haven’t officially been called that for years now) does indicate that wolf populations are actually on the increase which to me would indicate pressure on their prey species including deer and I suppose marmots. I wonder what the cougar population is doing as it seems we are hearing about them a lot more these days. Perhaps they are also in a high population cycle causing even more pressure on deer populations. It could be in order to restore the balance a cougar and wolf cull is in order but I would suggest nature will take care of it. Bigger issue might be seven billion people on a planet built for two. Go space race. lol
Shame on you Mr Koch, as it is obvious from the slant on your story this was never about wolves but your dislike for logging old growth. Publishing an article slamming forest management under the cover of an article on wolves is unbecoming of good reporting. The travesty is that this article is portrayed as fact yet no facts are provided just a one-sided opinion.
I would suggest many factors are contributing to the deer populations being what they are including harvesting activities, mining, colonization, hunting, tourism, climate change so why just pick on forest practices?
Norman D Nalleweg, RFT