Predators and PreyDecember 16th, 2011 by Grant Woods
I posted an image on Facebook of Matt, my intern, with a bobcat he’d trapped this week. I was surprised that image resulted in name calling and arguing among readers of that page. Folks were either thrilled with the removal of a predator or offended that someone would trap a predator.
I trap and call predators for many reasons. I enjoy the challenge of matching skills with a predator. My family and I really like the pelts and we enjoy giving them as gifts. Just as importantly, I wish to attempt to balance the predator/prey relationship on my land so there are plenty of prey (turkey and venison) for my family, our guests, and for the remaining predators to eat.
When I was a younger boy (I’m 50 now), raccoon hides sold for $40+ in my neighborhood and gas was $0.70 per gallon. Now raccoons bring less than $10 in the same area and gas is $3.00 per gallon. We all know the price of fuel, steel, etc., has increased dramatically. There is very little incentive for trappers, except for the love of the work, to remove predators. Predator species have few predators in most areas.
“Balance” is a tough objective to achieve in most aspects of wildlife management. This is because the habitat and populations are always changing. It is a fantasy that wildlife populations or habitat will remain balanced without man’s intervention. Allowing either predator or prey species to build up too high always results in bad results. This has been documented time and time again in species like deer, rabbits, wolves, etc.
However, given that the habitat resources are becoming more and more limited, big swings in population levels don’t recover as easily. I don’t wish for predators – bobcats, opossomus, fox, raccoons, coyotes – to remove most of the prey species -turkey poults, and whitetail fawns – at my farm. I want there to be enough turkey and whitetails for me and the predators. There aren’t many predators of bobcats and coyotes where I live. There certainly aren’t many trappers in my neighborhood. So my efforts to trap some predators will certainly not hurt the coyote or bobcat population in the county.
We tend to actively manage the game species, but have shifted to a protection mindset for predators in some states. On my property, I will work to maintain a reasonable balance between predators and prey. The balance to me means there are plenty of prey (turkey and venison) for my family and the predators to eat. Having just enough prey for only the predators to eat and me shifting to playing ping pong is not an option. I’m going to work to provide good quality habitat which benefits both the predators and prey species, and trap and call to make sure the predators have a predator. Are you managing all the species on your property, or just the prey?
Growing Deer together,