John Aberth: Wildlife management should be dictated by science, not politics

This comment is from John Aberth, a licensed volunteer wildlife rehabilitator who rehabilitates beavers, raptors and other animals at Flint Brook Wildlife Rescue in Roxbury.

In its comment of October 9, “There is no silver bullet for beaver conservation, coexistence and management,” states Kim Royar, “Our current beaver harvesting season helps maintain and coexist with Vermont’s abundant and healthy beaver population by minimizing the need for of considering beavers as a ‘nuisance’ in conflict situations.”

However, there is absolutely no credible scientific evidence to show that capture plays a significant role in wildlife management and control. In fact, the mere fact that city road crews across Vermont kill, on average, between 500 and 600 “nuisance” beavers each year is a fairly high “minimum” compensation for the 1,400 beavers killed by recreational hunters each year. year.

In the Bryant White’s words Principal Investigator for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, “Wide generalizations about the effectiveness of vocation traps in reducing human-wildlife conflicts are unwise.”

Beavers, like all fur bearers, self-regulate their populations according to the carrying capacity of the land, that is, the amount of food available in the landscape to maintain their numbers. This is a fundamental biological principle with which all biologists should be familiar.

In the case of beavers, some of the best available field research shows this to be the case. On the Quabbin Reservation in Massachusetts and Sagehen Creek in California, field surveys and beaver colony counts over the course of nearly 50 years, from the 1940s to the 1990s, showed that beaver populations follow a cyclical pattern, reaching a peak before falling back to almost the original population level.

Since no trapping was allowed at either site, this was all done entirely through beaver self-regulation, with no human intervention.

Of course, it is true that when beaver populations expand, the opportunities for conflict with man-made infrastructure, such as highway culverts, will increase. Fortunately, high-quality flow devices can be built and adapted to almost any conflict situation to resolve such conflicts in a non-lethal and sustainable manner, thereby preserving both human infrastructure and the valuable wetlands that beavers create.

However, this requires willingness and commitment to non-lethal humane solutions rather than traps, but it is something that will pay off for cities in the long run, both in terms of cost savings and habitat protection.

It has long been a dogma of state wildlife agencies that banning traps will result in Beaver Armageddon, when beaver populations will immediately “explode” to the point that human-beaver conflicts will become overwhelming. This is a fantasy that has no basis in fact.

Many state biologists, including Royar, point to the example of Massachusetts, where a take ban called the Wildlife Protection Act was voted through in 1996. In a graph produced by the Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife, the beaver population in the state reportedly increased by 50% in the year immediately following the ban, while in the year before, it reportedly grew by only 2, 4%.

Like Vermont, Massachusetts relied entirely on catch data to estimate beaver population trends across the state; however, this database was obviously destroyed by the ban, going from 1,136 pelts in 1995-1996 to just 98 in 1996-1997 (when beavers were only caught with cage traps).

In a 2021 communication, Dave Wattles, Massachusetts fur biologisthe admitted to me that it was a “valid question” as to how the “very reduced” trapping harvest after 1996 affected beaver population estimates, which he was “unwilling even to speculate about.”

The public must have confidence that state wildlife agencies are making policy decisions about wildlife management based on science, not political pressure from lobbying groups like hunting associations, which represent a minuscule proportion of our general population.

In its own 2018 Media and Communications survey, the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife found that 53% of respondents expressed concern about the influence of politics. A ban on trapping would have the immeasurable benefit of removing politics from the wildlife management equation. It would also be enormously popular, with the support of 75% of Vermonters. Additionally, across the Northeast, 79% of those surveyed oppose recreational taking.

It’s about time we had a recreational take ban. Our wildlife and the humans interconnected with them deserve no less.

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Tags: beaver armageddon, beavers, high quality flow devices, john’s sacrifice, kim reyar, annoying beavers, capture


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