Posted on 12 November 2015.
By Ranger Steve Mueller
Some of us hunt at farmer’s markets for produce, others seek nurseries to buy plants to grow, harvest and eat, others seek wild edibles. We harvest, kill, and eat both plants and animals. Presently many men and women are seeking wild, edible, deer during archery, rifle, and muzzle loading seasons.
Understanding the dynamics of healthy nature niches is elusive. Nature is more complex than the simplicity of computer technology or national energy grids. Applied technology keeps our communication, businesses, homes, and daily lives functioning, while nature works on a grander scale keeping our communities thriving.
Deer hunting impacts the health of nature niches. Too many deer result in reduction of important species. Habitats suffer when too many deer eliminate wild food that animals require to keep nature healthy. Wildflower over browsing by deer leads to a decline of insects, birds and other animals. In turn this prevents effective pollination and reproduction for many plants. Some people want more deer to hunt or see without concern regarding the impact on other species or ecosystems.
How do scientists gather evidence for proof of what makes habitats healthy? They hunt for plants, insects, birds, mammals, and every other kind of living creature using strict scientific research protocols. It is a different kind of hunting. Great value comes from watching plants and animals and recording detailed observations, but collection is sometimes essential and regulated.
The increase of citizen science observations has become extremely important. Additionally, scientists need some plant and animal collecting. Deer check stations allow wildlife biologists to gather information, with the aid of citizen science deer hunters.
Most of us kill hundreds of thousands of insects annually with our vehicles with no value to science or benefit for understanding how nature works. Many deer are killed on the road without salvage. One was killed on the road this week at Ody Brook. Road killed butterflies, bees, beetles, dragonflies, squirrels and birds are common.
Scientists collect a minuscule number of bees, butterflies, flies, beetles, and other species to determine the composition of ecosystems. It is takes decades of collecting species with ongoing analysis to understand ecosystem dynamics. The role of an organism is known as its niche. Every organism has a unique niche and we know very little about most species.
We deduce much by studying body structures and even by gathering pollen from their bodies. Knowing which animal does what, when and where, requires good collecting samples and data recording. The number of organisms removed by scientists from habitats is so small it barely registers as a percentage when compared to how many each of us kill with vehicles, pesticides, herbicides, and more importantly habitat destruction where native plants are replaced with lawns. Lawns are ecological deserts. In effect lawns are a hunting tool that kills wildlife without useful value much like hitting animals with a car. It is a form of hunting more deadly than a car or rifle because it kills whole communities instead of removing selected individuals. I did not eliminate lawn at Ody Brook but reduced its size by about 70% when when I moved here.
Some people oppose controlling deer numbers. These same people do not mourn the loss of thousands of species (mostly beneficial insects) and millions or billions of individuals when land is converted to lawns. Ecological stewardship becomes more important as our human population grows out of control.
Earth care are as part of religious, social, economic and ecological wellbeing is responsible stewardship. Consider your daily activities as a different way of hunting with impact on species. How many plants and animals does your yard enhance or kill? Healthy yards and ecosystems depend on personal choices.
Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at email@example.com – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.