Farm Progress

How emotions hurt communities and the environment

May 26, 2016

3 Min Read
<p>Getty Images Photo by David McNew.</p>

I’m going to come right out and say it: humans have an unnatural and unrealistic view of wildlife, which is negatively affecting whole communities and wreaking havoc on entire economies.

What do I mean by that?

Most of us are likely familiar with the story of the tourists who hauled a baby bison in their rented SUV to park rangers in Yellowstone National Park because they thought it was cold. That was a tragedy that wouldn’t have happened had those involved had a realistic view of nature.

I’ll let you read what one of my colleagues had to say about this online in her Beef Magazine blog. It has relevance to my point.

Jeannette Warnert of the University of California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Division points out in a recent blog this same unnatural affinity for nature based on a story in a southern California newspaper.

California’s fascination with nature doesn’t end with coyotes. Humans seem more concerned about mountain lions, wolves and fish than they do their own kind. For some reason wildlife generates warm, fuzzy feelings with humans, leading to dangerous and ridiculous policy decisions that affect us all. Meanwhile, the basic food and water needs of humans take a back seat in policy matters.

The University of California points out that the coyote presents a difficult dilemma for people because of the emotional issues attached to the predator. It didn’t present a dilemma for the farmer I was riding with recently on his farm when he slammed on the brakes in his pickup, jumped out the door with his rifle before I could keep my camera from sliding off the seat next to me.

The coyote in his field was a costly menace and needed to be dispatched.

California’s unnatural affinity for the mountain lion led to a voter-approved initiative in 1990 that banned all hunting of mountain lions for no other reason than human emotions. Since then well-meaning people with misguided ideas have helped push cougar populations to unsustainable levels in nature.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) claims to not know how many of the big cats are alive in California today, yet the agency does admit that the big cats are neither threatened nor endangered. They are considered a “specially protected species” under the voter-approved initiative.

There have been 15 verified mountain lion attacks by DFW against humans since 1986, three of them fatal. Meanwhile, the number of incidents involving lion encounters by humans totals over 700 since 2009.

The University of California says that wildlife policies like the ones that protect the lion and those that suggest coyotes are cute and shouldn’t be bothered has caused predators to become “habituated to humans,” meaning they don’t fear us like they once did. This causes problems for both the animals and humans alike.

While California livestock producers are rightly troubled by predators including lions, coyotes and now wolves, growers up and down the state are impacted by similar warm, fuzzy feelings about fish that have resulted in the court-ordered biological opinions responsible for vast water curtailments affecting farmers and urban residents alike.

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