SCV Outdoor Report: Varmints
By: Wendy Langhans
What do Elmer Fudd and Spider-Man have in common? (besides being comic book characters)
Answer- They both struggle against vermin. Spider-man battles against Vermin, a genetically-altered humanoid rat, and Elmer Fudd is forever hunting that “wascally wabbit”, Bugs Bunny.
From a human perspective, vermin are defined as disease carrying rodents or insects. An example of this could be a rat carrying bubonic plague. But the term is also used for animals whose numbers are out of balance with our preferred environment, often consuming resources wanted by humans. An example of this could be a squirrel munching apricots on a tree in your backyard.
“Varmint” is an American colloquialism and is generally used for predatory animals that raid farms, such as foxes and coyotes. But it can also be used for herbivores such as deer or “wabbits”.
When it comes to varmint control, sometimes humans can be as effective as Elmer Fudd. We often react without thinking and there are unintended consequences to what we do. Two situations come to mind.
Suppose you are a sheepherder and you want to protect your flock. You assume the best way to remove coyotes from a place is to kill as many as possible. But studies have shown that coyotes are territorial pack animals ruled by a breeding pair - the alpha male and female. Studies have shown that almost every sheep is killed by the alpha coyote. These alpha coyotes are the most suspicious, cunning and hardest to kill. So if you kill 10 out of 12 coyotes, guess which ones are the most likely to remain alive?
Or suppose you live near a canyon or open space and wonder why you don’t hear the sounds of quail anymore. Studies in San Diego found that coyotes evict the mesopredators, the smaller predators such as foxes, bobcats and raccoons, which eat quail and other ground-nesting birds. Without coyotes to keep the population of smaller predators in check, what you hear are the sounds of silence as ground-nesting birds disappear.
And in some situations, getting rid of one varmint only increases the population of others. In western Texas, studies found that in the absence of coyotes, the number of black-tailed jackrabbits tripled. Somebody please call Elmer, quick. Or maybe not.
Our next Bird Hike is scheduled at Towsley Canyon on Saturday, October 20 from 8:00-10:00 AM. Towsley Canyon is located on the Old Road, west of I-5 and about 1/4 mile south of the Calgrove exit.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The Hike Report", brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
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