An Intricate Balance Between Predator and PreyFriday, February 17, 2017
By Richard Rummel, MDWFP
Photo from MSU
Is the absence of predators always a good thing? Predator/prey
relationships are extremely complex and often misunderstood. Simply
removing or attempting to remove a predator species from the
landscape does not guarantee that it will benefit the prey species.
In fact, the long-term result may be just the opposite.
A classic example is in the first decade of the 1900's when a
million-acre game preserve was established by President Theodore
Roosevelt on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. In just over 10
years, government hunters zealously and systematically killed off
at least 600 cougars to "protect" the mule deer population. In less
than 20 years, the deer herd responded by increasing from 4,000 to
nearly 100,000 and in the process stripped the landscape clean
which resulted in a massive crash in the deer population and
decades for the forest vegetation to recover.
On a smaller scale, predators such as the bobcat and coyote
which certainly may include wild turkey, white-tailed deer fawns,
and rabbits in their diets, may be feeding primarily on cotton
rats, deer mice, and other small rodents. Left unchecked, these
small consumers of insects, seed heads, grasses, fungi, and other
vegetation may have the capacity to alter the habitat of
ground-nesting birds or fawn cover on a local scale.
Certainly, there are situations under whichpredator managementis
the appropriate course of action. However, before such action is
implemented, it would behoove us to keep in mind the words of the
early naturalist John Muir who said, "When we try to pick out
anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the