Wild Horses a Problem for Ranchers? Wolves Could Fix That

I agree with Mr. Conniff’s response that predators could control the horse problem. First, the cattle have to go. The cattle use range resources that should support pronghorn and other wildlife species.
Cattle are probably as adapted to predators as other species, but as a preferred species, cattle numbers are artificially high. The result is that cattle, and more recently horses, have overused the range and eliminated other species.
Analysts report that cattle numbers on the ranges have been declining, and currently represent a tiny fraction of the national economy. No significant number of jobs or other economic or political issues would be impacted if we shutdown cattle ranching. Perhaps it’s time that we hired ranchers to become conservationists and work to maintain the range for wildlife. The ranchers I’ve met claim to know and care for the land. So why not suspend cattle grazing on the public lands and hire the ranchers as stewards of the land. This would give ranchers stable income, and it would benefit the national economy.

strange behaviors

wild_horses_0Today’s New York Times has a report on the wild horse population boom in the American West, and for once, I agree with the ranchers:  Bizarre federal policies over the last 40 years have caused wild horses to run out of control, causing rampant overgrazing while also running up out-of-control costs (currently $50 million a year) to house horses that have been taken off the land, but can’t be euthanized.

The federal policies are the result of misguided sentimental attitudes about a favored species, the same sort of attitudes that cause city people to feed feral cats in parks that would otherwise be havens for wildlife. If animal rights activists want to protect excess horses from being euthanized, or sold for meat, they should be picking up that $50 million cost of housing them, not taxpayers.

And here’s an idea for the ranchers: If you want to keep down the…

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Garry Rogers Nature Conservation News

What is the Nature Conservation News?

VultureMy online Scoop.It newspaper, Garry Rogers Nature Conservation News began operating last September.  It presents news stories called scoops.  My scoops are mostly concerned with animals and their interactions with humans.  I sometimes scoop interesting items about writing, and I scoop the rare items of science fiction news that involve stories and books with a nature conservation theme.  This post is a request for your help with scoop suggestions.  (Visit the news). Continue reading

Arizona Fish Update–November 2013

By Garry Rogers

Arizona Fish Habitat

A Beautiful Desert Stream Runs Through the Heart of Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona.

Small stretches of the Agua Fria River in central Arizona are perennial. The water is polluted by farm fertilizer and mine tailings. Invasive species are abundant.

The U. S. State of Arizona occupies a dry region with limited precipitation, high evaporation, and not much surface water.  Widespread winter rain and snow, and heavy summer rain can escape evaporation by penetrating the soil and accumulating in fractured rocks and sediments on slopes and in valley floors.  The moisture soaks down slope through the sediments, and appears in springs, intermittent streams, and a few perennial streams and small lakes.  Many isolated endemic and rare species are present in these small moist habitats across the state.  (The header image is a Beautiful Shiner (Cyprinella formosa) photographed by René Reyes of the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation.)

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Arizona Fish Endangered

Arizona Fish Extinctions

Noel M. Burkhead of the U. S. Geological Survey, recently performed an analysis of the extinction rate for North American fish (Burkhead 2012).  Burkhead used the fossil record to determine that throughout geological history, one fish species went extinct about every three million years.  During the past century, 57 fish became extinct, making the modern rate almost 900 times as fast as the historical rate.  Extinctions may have been abrupt in Earth’s past, but probably none were as abrupt as the current event.

The growing probability of extinction of Arizona’s native fish is easy to explain.  The exploding human population has caused widespread degradation and elimination of water habitats.  We have dammed and diverted streams, depleted the groundwater that created springs, and dumped wastes in or near stream channels.  We have introduced exotic species such as carp, bass, and trout that compete with natives, and we have damaged or destroyed the protective vegetation of the watersheds.  We call it progress when we replace natural habitats with houses and roads.   And we ignore the impact on watersheds by introduced fire-prone alien weeds, forest removal, and livestock grazing.

Gila Trout –

About 50 years ago, two Arizona scientists, Robert Miller and Charles Lowe, analyzed the status of Arizona fish.  They reported that elimination of habitats and introduction of exotic species was threatening many species and might soon extinguish the native gila trout (Salmo gilae), humpback chub (Gila cypha), Colorado squawfish (Ptychocheilus lucius), Little Colorado spinedace (Lepidomeda vittata, restricted to Arizona), desert pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius), and Gila topminnow (Poeciliopsis occidentalis) (Miller and Lowe 1964:  133). Continue reading

Invasive Species

Invasive Species:  Our Accidental Attack On Nature

The story of invasive species and their alteration of native habitats is one of the most disappointing tales to be told of human interaction with nature. It is full of surprises, unsolved mysteries, scientific research, and reactive management that too often exemplifies the adage, “too little too late.” This post summarizes the main elements of the plot and its conclusion. It begins about 500 years ago when people started crossing the oceans and taking boatloads of new species to North America and other parts of the world. Some of the new species invaded native habitats, replaced the natives, and became permanent residents. Of all the things people have done to the wildlife and wildlife habitat of the Agua Fria River Basin—road and building construction, ranching, logging, hunting, farming, fertilizing, recreation, burning, and water use—the most destructive has been the accidental introduction of invasive plants and animals.

Horehound (Marrubium vulgare) seeds.  This Asian invader is common in the arid uplands of central Arizona.

Horehound (Marrubium vulgare) seeds. This Asian invader is common in the arid uplands of central Arizona.

The photo shows the dry seeds of Horehound (Marubium vulgare).  The seeds have small hooks that catch on clothing and animal fur. Horehound is a small perennial shrub that forms pure stands when native vegetation is removed by livestock. The seeds often create persistent mats in animal fur, and they are irritating when they get in your socks. Cattle will eat a little Horehound when the plants are young, but they don’t eat enough to prevent the plant’s spread.

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