Managing populations not easy

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I watched a video the other day discussing how reintroducing wolves into Yellowstone National Park completely changed the landscape over the last 20 years. We have many stories such as this throughout our short history here in America, and it is both wonderful to study and amazing to see results of how conservation works.

There may be those that disagree that reintroducing a species is a form of conservation, but it entirely is. You see, our ecosystems are so complex and elaborate, that they are a bit fragile as well when just one thing changes.

Just a couple of decades ago, the whitetail deer was not as abundant in numbers as it is today in the Carolinas. Our management plan was skewed. However, when the plan was changed, the numbers changed quickly.

But that also caused other issues. Sure, we gained more deer. But due to the increase, and along with the dwindling farmlands and woodlands, the deer began to overpopulate. Consequences from this resulted in less healthy deer and this in turn allowed easier transmission of disease from one animal to the next. This eventually turns into massive kills such as we have every few years.

The deer also fed heavily on the underbrush and saplings within the woodlands. Now this may not seem like a terrible thing, except there are many species that use this for cover to survive. One such is the once abundant quail that is hard to find in the wild these days.

Along with the great numbers of deer and the greater number of young and weak deer, predators such as coyotes gradually made their way into the Carolinas and found it very hospitable. In the process, the coyotes also have run off and killed both grey and red foxes, dwindled populations of species such as muskrat, and have even encroached on suburbs.

Something like this becomes a nightmare to a wildlife biologist. Well, either a nightmare or a happy dream one. Their decisions can affect our ecosystems in ways that most people cannot imagine. They rely on both sound science, extrapolated math, and hopeful theories in developing the plans that in just one year can affect us for decades to come.

This is one reason it is so important for wildlife commissioners to not just listen to wildlife and marine biologists, but to understand the suggestions given.

Bill Howard is an avid bowhunter and outdoorsman. He teaches hunter education (IHEA) and bowhunter education (IBEP) in North Carolina. He is a member of North Carolina Bowhunters Association and Pope & Young, and is an official measurer for both.