Monday, 10 August 2009

Hadn't we been on this ride before?

This comic panel from the ever-funny XKCD. Click for the whole strip...
The sad thing is, I know people like that. I'm boring by proxy!

Today I'm distracted from blogging by letter writing. Yet again, predator control is in the news for someone wanting to shut it down. Yet again, the whole thing is ignoring the science, and all about people's emotions. Management needs to be based on sound scientific principles, and not our whim of the day. Both the sides that think wolves should be protected because they're lovable and squeezable and the side that thinks wolves are awful and should all die are enemies of proper, rational, sound scientific based management which we claim is the goal. Cooler heads need to prevail; science frequently requires people to be dispassionately critical, something many people aren't used to being.

I really should have saved the last batch of letters, because I'm just going to say the same thing. Predator control works, but only some times. There appears to be instances where we've mis-applied it. Predator control is temporary, in an area, even if it might seem permanent as a program. The theoretical basis for predator control is strong, but only in some situations. Predator control is not the same wolf hunting the states engaged in during the 19th century. Predator control is incredibly expensive. Predator control is not about the predators, but about the game species. Predators in Alaska are not threatened like they are in the states.

If it sounds like I've been through this before, yes, I have. Endlessly. In fact, the first thing people ask me is often "Do you shoot wolves from a plane?" or some variation of that. Most of the time, by the end of the conversation, they're reading whatever answer they want to hear from my reply. People are too used to treating this as a visceral topic, and not used to treating it like a matter of science. I'd say that has to change, but honestly, I don't see it changing.


gpc said...

Okay, I am no scientist, not a hunter, not a naturalist, and not informed enough about this topic to make any comment. Which, it seems, makes me as much an expert at the politicians who are trying to change the law. I don't know if the aero program is a good or a bad idea, but doesn't Feinstein sum up the problem when she says, 'shooting wolves from airplanes is not sport',? But it seems to me that her argument supports the current policy -- it is NOT sport, and sport is not its core purpose, it is an effort to maintain a diverse ecosystem. Either I am missing something (likely) or congress is just so dumb as dirt that it makes me want to cry.

TwoYaks said...

Exactly. The idea of fair chase is a giant red herring. Predator control isn't about sport at all, it's a wildlife management technique.

But on the other side of the equation, predator control isn't a cure-all.

I don't know if they're ignorant by accident, or ignorant by choice. Optimistically, I'd like to hope it's ignorant by accident.