The Rise of the Mesopredator

Apex predators have experienced catastrophic declines throughout the world as a result of human persecution and habitat loss. These collapses in top predator populations are commonly associated with dramatic increases in the abundance of smaller predators. Known as “mesopredator release,” this trophic interaction has been recorded across a range of communities and ecosystems. Mesopredator outbreaks often lead to declining prey populations, sometimes destabilizing communities and driving local extinctions. We present an overview of mesopredator release and illustrate how its underlying concepts can be used to improve predator management in an increasingly fragmented world.

The loss of apex predators, wolves and other large carnivores, as a result of persecution and habitat conversion has created outbreaks of mesopredator populations throughout the world. An example of this is the strong suppression of wolves, mountain lions and black bears, whereby their range has decreased by 42.3%, 36.6%, and 39.5% respectively. On the other hand, the range of coyotes has increased by almost exactly the same amount, 40.2%. Throughout North America, 60% of mesopredator ranges has increased over the past 200 years. In short, when one predator is eradicated another rises to take its place.

The ecological release of mesopredators has negatively affected our oceans, rivers, forests, and grasslands, placing added strains on prey species that in many cases are already struggling. As songbird populations precipitously decline and other prey populations collapse as a result of, in part, elevation predation rates, the full ecological, social, and economic implications of mesopredator release are beginning to emerge. Restoration of apex predators to areas where thy have been extirpated could do much to stem the tide of undesirable consequences of mesopredator release. However, the daunting task of apex predator conservation will require substantial habitat restoration, greater public acceptance of large carnivores, and compromises among the people most directly affected by these predators. Careful application of trophic theory and strategies to balance the trade-offs inherent to the management of apex and meso- predators are urgently needed; reversing and preventing mesopredator release is becoming increasingly difficult and costly as the world’s top predators continue to edge toward obliteration.

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Bears and wolves find a voice in the wilderness

By Kathleen Parker Opinion writer for the Washington Post:

If politicians preying upon your attentions this season fail to inspire, you might seek common cause with the beasts — the four-legged variety rather than those running for office.

Ballot initiatives aimed at protecting bears and wolves from hounding, trapping and other inhumane hunting practices are up for a vote in two states — Maine and Michigan.

Oh, be still thy twitching trigger finger. This isn’t an anti-hunting column; it’s a pro-humanity column. Ours. And the referendums, driven by the Humane Society of the United States, are aimed only at minimizing animal suffering and restoring a measure of decency and fair play in our dealings with creatures.

First the bears. Maine is the only state that still allows bear baiting, hounding and trapping. More than half of the 32 states with legal bear hunting allow hounding, a dozen allow baiting, and only Maine allows trapping for sport.

For clarification, hounding refers to the use of dogs that have been trained to chase bears relentlessly and then to corner or fight the poor beast. The bears have no choice but to turn to face a murderous pack or, exhausted, escape up a tree.

That’s when the hunter, who, thanks to electronic tracking equipment, has been able to follow at a leisurely pace and safe distance, points his rifle and shoots the bear from a tree limb. Frances Macomber, the cowardly hunter of Hemingway’s short, unhappy story, looks like a Maasai warrior by comparison.

Baiting means that a hunting guide strews rotting food in the woods and places a 55-gallon drum filled with jelly doughnuts, pizza, grease, fish guts and rotting beaver carcasses in a target spot. The “hunter,” who likely has paid a fee to the “guide” for a “guaranteed kill,” is provided a comfy seat to wait for the bear. Bam!

It’s ironic — or something — that the same state fish and wildlife agency folks who post signs warning tourists not to feed the bears will allow other tourists to feed them for about $2,000 to $4,000 a pop. New signage might read: Kill what you feed.

More… HERE for full story.