Sunday, November 4, 2012

Wildlife Populations in the U.S. Have Experienced an Astonishing Resurgence

At WSJ, "America Gone Wild":
This year, Princeton, N.J., has hired sharpshooters to cull 250 deer from the town's herd of 550 over the winter. The cost: $58,700. Columbia, S.C., is spending $1 million to rid its drainage systems of beavers and their dams. The 2009 "miracle on the Hudson," when US Airways flight 1549 had to make an emergency landing after its engines ingested Canada geese, saved 155 passengers and crew, but the $60 million A320 Airbus was a complete loss. In the U.S., the total cost of wildlife damage to crops, landscaping and infrastructure now exceeds $28 billion a year ($1.5 billion from deer-vehicle crashes alone), according to Michael Conover of Utah State University, who monitors conflicts between people and wildlife.

Those conflicts often pit neighbor against neighbor. After a small dog in Wheaton, Ill., was mauled by a coyote and had to be euthanized, officials hired a nuisance wildlife mitigation company. Its operator killed four coyotes and got voice-mail death threats. A brick was tossed through a city official's window, city-council members were peppered with threatening emails and letters, and the FBI was called in. After Princeton began culling deer 12 years ago, someone splattered the mayor's car with deer innards.

Welcome to the nature wars, in which Americans fight each other over too much of a good thing—expanding wildlife populations produced by our conservation and environmental successes. We now routinely encounter wild birds and animals that our parents and grandparents rarely saw. As their numbers have grown, wild creatures have spread far beyond their historic ranges into new habitats, including ours. It is very likely that in the eastern United States today more people live in closer proximity to more wildlife than anywhere on Earth at any time in history.

In a world full of eco-woes like species extinctions, this should be wonderful news—unless, perhaps, you are one of more than 4,000 drivers who will hit a deer today, or your child's soccer field is carpeted with goose droppings, or feral cats have turned your bird feeder into a fast-food outlet, or wild turkeys have eaten your newly planted seed corn, or beavers have flooded your driveway, or bears are looting your trash cans. And that's just the beginning.
More at the link.

There was a coyote outside on the sidewalk next to our parking lot as I was loading my kid up for school last week. We see them running through our neighborhood all time. I guess they scrounge around for food, but they're absolutely fearless of humans. They might run away when approached, but they know that people are not going to come after them with a shotgun. They're all around, the nasty little suckers. I'd hate for a child to be attacked by one of them, and some mothers over at my kid's school are frightened. Nature's right up in your face sometimes. Weird. I'm just glad it's not bears!