Wildlife Management

Cats are fine animals and make great pets. However, they belong in the house, not out in the field where they can prey on wildlife.

I received the following note on my website, www.nature-track.com, from Kari of San Antonio, Texas: “Just read your hit piece on skunks. Some nature blogger you are. Prepare to be famous among every skunk fancier (wild and domestic) from South Texas to Canada. I'll bet you'd have a nervous breakdown if anyone proposed treated (sic) free ranging feral cats the same way. What a creep!”

She was referring to a piece I wrote almost two years ago for the website under the Living with Wildlife section. In it, I outlined a humane way to remove a skunk from under a house and one way of disposing of a trapped skunk.

Kari makes a number of unsubstantiated assumptions in her diatribe, the worst being that I am somehow anti-skunk. That certainly isn’t the case. I think skunks are cool animals, worthy of our respect. With that said, I also don’t believe that there is anything that makes them better than any other animal.

 If you haven’t figured out my philosophy on wildlife I suppose it is time I made it clear. I don’t believe that any native species is superior to another and deserves different treatment. A wolf or a bison is not somehow magical or more special than say, a mink or a coyote.

I don’t want to appear insensitive and I may lose some readers over this, but I also believe that in most cases, wildlife must be managed to stay within the bounds of human tolerance. Wildlife management is all about populations, and seldom has the luxury of focusing on individual animals or emotions.

When it comes to feral cats, I am not exactly sure what I am being accused of, but I think she is saying that I support feral cats. I can only say that the natural world would be better off without this introduced predator, recognized globally as one of the top 100 worst invasive species ever. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, feral cats have been responsible for or contributed to 33 (14%) of modern bird, mammal and reptile extinctions. That is huge.

That situation is made even worse by people feeding these animals. In the biological world where I spent my career, we called these subsidized predators. Supplemental feeding sustains populations at substantially higher levels than a natural food supply would allow increasing pressure on their prey. Popular capture-neuter-return programs do little to alleviate the wildlife carnage feral cats inflict.

In a study published in 2012, researchers developed a scientific approach to determine the impact free-ranging (mostly feral) cats have on wild birds and mammals (you can read the paper at: www.nature.com/articles/ncomms2380). They estimated that cats kill 1.3-4.0 billion birds and 6.3–22.3 billion mammals annually(!) in the continental United States alone. Even the low end of these estimates is staggering. That study did not try to determine the number of amphibians and reptiles killed by cats.

With those kinds of numbers, it seems truly hypocritical for a declared wildlife enthusiast to in any way embrace feral cat populations. Now, before you point out that the cats are doing us a favor by keeping rodents at bay, I might remind you that there would be plenty of foxes, coyotes, skunks, owls, hawks, shrikes, weasels, snakes and more that would love to take that job if it were not for cats.

I guess I am who I am and I don’t feel the need to apologize. If my inbox fills up with hate mail, the delete key is only a stroke away.

Donate part of your tax return to support wildlife in Idaho!

On the second page of the Idaho Individual Tax form 40 you have the opportunity to donate to the “Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund”.

Check-off this box on your next return or ask your tax preparer to mark the Nongame check-off on your behalf.

If you are not from Idaho, check with your own state wildlife agency about how you can help. Many states have a similar program.

Help Idaho Wildlife

Sadly, when we traveled across the state in October, most of the vehicles we saw using the wildlife management areas did not have wildlife plates.

C'mon folks, let's help Idaho's wildlife by proudly buying and displaying a wildlife license plate on each of our vehicles! 

See below for information on Idaho plates. Most states have wildlife plates so if you live outside Idaho, check with your state's wildlife department or vehicle licensing division for availability of state wildlife plates where you live. 

Wildlife License Plates

Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.

No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.

Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.

Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program. Go figure. 

"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson

That is embarrassing but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.

Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.

Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.

Readers Write:

"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman

"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.

To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version 


Copies are also available at:

Post Register

Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls

Perfect Light Photo Supply

Museum of Idaho

Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming

Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah

Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho