Friday, August 19, 2016

WSB study: How do you study elusive bobcats? Ask hunters

By Nala Rogers

A bobcat creeps across a snowy backyard in Sutton, N.H. This photo is one of many submitted by the public while the researchers were collecting bobcat sightings. ©Robin Gray
When it comes to monitoring elusive wildlife, the simple approach is sometimes best. Researchers in New Hampshire have found that hunter surveys are a reliable tool for studying bobcats (Lynx rufus), yielding solid data even when high-tech approaches fail.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Of bears and biases

From the Huffington Post - Very interesting section on the intersection of ethics and science - Eric

Of bears and biases: scientific judgment and the fate of Yellowstone’s grizzlies

 06/21/2016 01:25 pm ET | Updated Jun 21, 2016
In March, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced its intent to remove protections afforded by the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) to grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE).
Citing four decades of growth in the bear population, the USFWS Director Dan Ashe heralded the decision as “a historic success for partnership-driven wildlife conservation.”
However, conservation organizations oppose “delisting” GYE grizzlies. They citepersistent threats to grizzlies, public opposition to delisting and ongoing scientific uncertainty regarding the population’s viability. Indeed, scientific uncertainty, especially threats posed by a changing climate, is one reason a federal courtreversed a similar decision back in 2009, returning federal protections to GYE grizzlies.
...A second source of underappreciated insights is from the academic discipline of conservation ethics. A broadly applicable insight from that discipline is that robust conservation decisions result from sound and valid arguments that are necessarily comprised both of scientific premises and ethical premises.
The implication is that in many instances the best an expert can do is explain their judgment fully. That is, to lay bare all of the premises (scientific and otherwise) necessary to arrive at the judgment being proffered; and in so doing, demonstrate the robustness of the judgment (or reveal its flaws).
So an expert judgment is not merely a judgment made within the area of one’s expertise. Rather, an expert judgment is one whose underlying argument can be laid bare and demonstrated to be sound and valid for an audience of nonexperts. Importantly, this includes both scientific assessments as well as value judgments. Sadly, courses that convey skills in analyzing ethical arguments (i.e., courses in critical thinking and environmental ethics) are not typically part of the curricula that produce conservation professionals.
The grizzly, or brown, bear in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is posed to lose protections under the Endangered Species Act. Jim Peaco, Yellowstone National Park via flickr

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Hunting and Environmentalism: Conflict or Misperceptions

Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 14:12–20, 2009
Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC

Joint Graduate Program in Communication and Culture, York University/
Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

This work examined some assumptions that underpin the conflict between hunters and
anti-hunting movement. The moral contradictions of anti-hunting activism are positioned
in the complex context of consumer culture, managed environmental protection,
and industrial food production. The assumption that environmental groups are by definition
opposed to hunting is investigated. Given that both hunters and environmental
groups are interested in land conservation, and given the rapid habitat loss around the
globe, the question is asked whether joint conservation efforts would prove beneficial
not only to both groups’ interests, but also to the fragile North American ecosystems
and the species that reside in them.

There are two billion chickens that are being slaughtered. Why is the fuzzy
seal photo-op the important one? Why aren’t you down in a slaughterhouse
where cows are being killed or calves are being killed or lambs are being
killed or chickens are being killed? (Williams, 2006, p. 10)
Danny Williams, the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador faced off with Paul and
Heather McCartney on Larry King Live in March of 2006. The McCartneys were visiting
to protest the annual harp seal hunt that for several years has been a favourite among activist
celebrities. Photos of red pools of seal blood on white snow and celebrities posing with
baby seals are usually meant to present the hunt as a practice of obtaining seal fur,
frequently obscuring the fact that many residents of the Canadian east coast and the north
consume seal meat on regular basis and that seal oil has a variety of medicinal and other
uses, to say nothing of the local cultural and economic significance of the annual hunt.
Harp seals are not endangered, and if anything they have in recent years seen higher
competition for food due to the shrinking habitat that has resulted from global warming.

...Violence and death associated with hunting is so overt and immediate that it makes
hunting an easy target for criticism. That criticism in turn ignores the “great paradox of
eating” (Kass, 1994). Death of living creatures is fundamental to continuation of life. Pete
Dunne, the director of Cape May Bird Observatory and as avid a hunter as he is a birdwatcher
writes, “Today, most people fail to recognize death as a natural part of life, to
view hunting as a mechanism that makes people an integral part of that natural process”
(2005, p. 662). Our detachment from our food sources has made it possible for us to eat
meat and somehow pretend that killing is not a part of the process. Aldo Leopold noted
that there are dangers in not owning a farm, one being “the danger of supposing that
breakfast comes from the grocery” (1968, p. 6).

...Culture creates an atmosphere where: “Nature is viewed by the mechanism of social domination
as a healthy contrast to society, and it is therefore denatured” (Adorno & Horkheimer,
1944, p. 19). These understandings of nature misdirect energy and resources into a conflict
rather than cooperation. Questioning our relationship with nature as well as our food system
is more productive than the persistent questioning, by both hunters and environmentalists,
of each other’s motives. That process can only benefit the population segment profits from
stalled conservation efforts (i.e., land developers and corporate polluters).
Our general understanding of and relationship to nature needs to be re-examined lest
our nostalgia continues to justify the commercial, utilitarian attitude that has become so
essential to how we treat our environment. For that task to be performed properly, prejudices
against hunting must be re-examined. To critique hunting without comprehensively
critiquing the larger context within which hunting exist is to gloss over more pressing
social and environmental issues by picking an easy scapegoat issue.

Read full paper -Human Dimensions of Wildlife
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Monday, February 1, 2016

Blind Men and the Elephant of Conservation

Blind Men and the Elephant of Conservation: Toward Ideological Diversity

By Tovar Cerulli, 2015 Mi Casita Writer-in-Residence
As conservationists, we take it for granted that diversity is good. Biological diversity, at least.
We know that diverse, intact ecosystems are adaptable and resilient, benefiting not only us but all members of what Leopold called “the land community.” We take it on faith that all community members should be respected and that they have, as he put it, an inherent “right to continued existence.”
When I walk down to the beaver pond near home and look out at the water and surrounding land, I know that each plant, fungus, insect, amphibian, reptile, fish, bird, and mammal—even each unseen microbe in the soil—is part of that community, part of a larger, dynamic, evolving organism. As such, each deserves my respect: pine and alder, mayfly and jewelwing, salamander and turtle, minnow and trout, heron and mallard, mouse and coyote.
A snapping turtle lays its eggs near the Leopold Center.
Concerning ideological and cultural diversity, we are ambivalent at best.