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Do you favor species reintroduction?

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Just curious. I'm very interested in seeing wolves return to New England and Britain, Grizzlies to California and the Rockies, and the Jaguar to the desert southwest (did you know that their range extended as far as Colorado in the 19th Century?).

However, it seems like a lot of people feel very strongly to the contrary, even when programs (grazing animal loss compensation, etc.) are put into place. Carnivores are big tourist dollar generators, but the anti-recovery lobby seems to be very potent. I guess I just don't get it - unless you're a rancher, why wouldn't you want more interesting and dynamic biodiversity in our wildlands?

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The introduction of a population of western elk into Pennsylvania, where the eastern elk subspecies went extinct in the 1800s, has gone reasonably well.

 

Personally, I'd like to see wolves return, but... I can understand how people have gotten comfortable with a reality where coyotes and domesticated dogs gone feral are the most dangerous predators around. Where I live, coyotes don't feel a lot of pressure, so they almost never hurt humans directly. We do have to be careful to protect our pets and livestock when coyotes are around, though.

 

In a potential sense, I suppose black bears can be dangerous as well, but in practice they are so intelligent and cautious that there's no reason to fear them around here.

 

A bit further south, feral hogs are the most dangerous animal in the wilderness. An argument could be made that reintroducing wolves might make those areas safer to walk outdoors overall after a few generations.

 

 

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Odd topic that somehow borders on religion....

Every few months, some long thought extinct species reappears somewhere.  Pseudo-scientists try to explain this away as a family or two being stranded or isolated by some 'natural' event - in some oddball island or valley.

But if their cousins were killed off by some avian carried disease...   well...  there is no place birds can't go.  They are even under the ocean.  That theory is busted.

What if before the KT extinction event, 69 million years ago, a supreme conscience of the Universe had a box built and wrapped it in a time displacement singularity.  Then had a few mated samples of desired animals..  say..  chickens for example..  loaded up back 69 million years ago.

The general theory is that up to 85% of all life was extinguished during the KT event..  The only large land-dwelling survivors are non-avian dinosaurs, some reptiles, some amphibians, and a few minor egg-laying mammals.  Most deep-sea aquatic life survived.  Most of the existent plant-life was also wiped out.  Cause is theorized to be comet/asteroid impact, coupled with volcanic activity in the Himalayas.  The Earth was generally uninhabitable (atmosphere unbreathable) for 20-ish years (wild speculation here - anywhere from 1-5,000 years with 20 as the best current bell curve estimates).

And so there was this box holding all the air-breathing survivors...  But wrapped in a time-warp singularity makes one year in the box is 69 million years real time.  15 seconds is around 85 years.  So creatures get out of the box, see the world sucks and get back in....  for a few more days..  this time (2 million years later), they like it and get out for good.  The box also moves around the planet - to various places.  It kind of looks like some huge cigar darting around in the sky.  This sprinkles the saved animals randomly around the regrown globe for better survival opportunities.

What if the box is still operational today.  Creatures can 'accidentally' get chased in there...  look around... rest..  get up and leave and hour later..  Oh there just went 40,000 years.  Oh look..  Pigmy elephants on some strange Pacific Island...  Hmmmmm...

So if we find this remnant device..  How can we use it?  It would make an excellent Fallout Shelter in case of a Global Nuclear War...   Just grab your family and sit out the next couple thousand years..  Then start over.

Edited by AVR_Project

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Interesting topic -- my general take on this is "it depends" - for the purposes of this comment, I'm going to clarify something - the term "species reintroduction" generally implies our help to reintroduce a species to a region -- but we're really talking about humans assisting in "introducing" a species to a area where the "balance of nature" has removed that species even though it once may have lived there.

When considering species reintroduction we have to account for humans as a species as well - our behavior as a species have been to use lands for development for our own needs - repurposing (& sometimes destroying) natural habitats to allow for living space as our population grew, agriculture and recreation (e.g. camping, hiking, etc).  To nature, we're just going to be another part of the ecosystem that nature will find a balance if a species is reintroduced into an area.  As such, the reason a species has disappeared from an area in the first place is often due to humans encroaching into their area and pushing back what the species needs to successfully survive out of the area.   To reintroduce a species - we're basically trying to recreate enough of a suitable environment for the species to survive in the area once agan.

As humans that are tinkering w/ natures balance - when a species is being introduced, the parameters of the reintroduction are not often fully understood (i.e. the impact of the reintroduction).   When a large herbivore species is introduced into the area -- is that going to affect significantly native plantlife or result in increased food competition that will crowd out another species.   If it's a species like wolves & bears - how will this affect the population balance of prey species balanced w/ human encounters which may not end well (speaking from personal experience as a former bushwhacking backpacker who usually had to "bear bag" in the day).

I think certain examples like what Yellowstone is doing to try to reintroduce some species in its area have been an interesting testbed, but past historical examples of "human assistance" of species have had far less thought to downstream effects & been, in many cases, disastrous.

  • Case in point - in Hawaii when sugar started to become a economic boom in the 1800s, they had a rat problem.  The genius idea was to import the mongoose who could prey on rats... the problem was a mongoose is not dumb & why chase a rat when bird eggs didn't run from you and were easy prey -- the result was the native bird population in Hawaii got decimated.  Today - the bird species which contributed the feathers (they weren't killed by the Hawaiians - they were trapped & certain colored feathers taken then released) went into the historical cloaks worn by the Hawaiian Monarchs are extinct.
  • Inadvertent "hitchhikers" such as certain clam species from ships have entered the US & are causing problems for native species not to mention some powerplants.
  • When people release their "pets" into the environment - snakes, caymans, etc when they get too big or they get tired of them, they have affected the ecosystem as they start breeding in the wild.

 

Edited by hangglide42

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I have a few degrees in biology and have taught natural resources management, ecology, and environmental science. I can tell you that the first thing that you need to consider when thinking about a reintroduction is to assess why the species was extirpated from the area in the first place. If suitable habitat has not been restored then the reintroduction is going to fail.

If you want to see how the environment has changed you need to look no further than the species that have introduced themselves to area. In the area of the US where I live, white-winged doves are showing up and even breeding. Twenty years ago the closest white-winged doves were 400 miles to the south of here. Armadillos are also showing up, though when I was a kid they were only found far to the south. Not only that, but farmers can now grow cotton here, a crop that once was grown far to the south of here too. For my graduate research I mapping the distribution and looked at the morphological and genetic variation among certain populations of animals in order to determine where they came from and where they were going.

Human disturbance has been involved in extirpation many times, and not only in modern times. However, a great number of species have taken advantage of humans and our buildings and are doing quite well around us. When I was teaching out in the Pacific Northwest, I routinely saw deer, coyotes, cougars, elk, opossums, beavers, myriad waterfowl, nutria, and bears at the creek right behind my apartment, which was right in the middle of the city. Eurasian doves have established themselves, probably released from pet stores and at weddings, and are so well adapted to town life that they are here to stay. There is no getting rid of Eurasian doves, as there is no getting rid of pigeons.starlings, house sparrows, house mice, and Norway rats. The same goes for Asian carp -- these fish are going to be present in the Mississippi River drainage from now on. The native wildlife of the area will simply have to adapt to the changing conditions and the changing wildlife. I worked with an endangered bat once that had taken up residence in the storm sewers of a small city. Life adapts.

Edited by Snargfargle

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8 hours ago, Battleship_Elisabeth said:

I guess I just don't get it - unless you're a rancher, why wouldn't you want more interesting and dynamic biodiversity in our wildlands?

Simply put, before you (re)introduce a species into the environment you must ensure that you do not disrupt the already existing ecosystem. To give a few examples, all from Germany because I do not have insight into those things internationally.

The Raccoon. For people in the US a common animal, yet it only came to Germany in the 1930s for diversity reasons, and in total four individuals were set out. That along with a few that broke out of a fur farm are now leading to what is nothing short of a plague. The amount of natural enemies for the raccoon in Germany is limited, but at the same time they have no issues whatsoever disrupting the breeding of numerous birds here. The amount of raccoons shot every year is in the six-digits by now, trend going up, and their activities have caused damage both in the bird population and in cities where they harvest trashcans.

This plant, I do not what you call it, just open this link. No idea when it got here from India, or for what reason, but it is growing like mad. Look away for a second, and the entire field is pink. Might sound nice for someone who cares for colors, but they completely push away smaller plants that don't grow like mold on an old apple while their roots are not deep enough to put a minimum of strength into the ground (which is especially problematic around rivers). We have locally done all sorts of measures trying to get rid of them, no success, all that we can hope to do is limiting the spreading. 

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4 hours ago, SireneRacker said:

The Raccoon.

Even in North America, the raccoon has few natural enemies. Sure, a pack of wolves, coyotes, an eagle, or, occasionally, a cougar or bear, might pick off a young or lone raccoon but for the most part other predators leave them alone because they are pretty good-sized predators in their own right. A large male raccoon may be larger than a medium-sized female coyote. Not only this but they are among the most intelligent of mammals. I've watched raccoons go out onto the back of the boat and pull the fish baskets up by its rope, unlatch the latch, and help themselves to a fish.

Many species were introduced into America because settlers were familiar with them in the Old World and wanted them around. The carp is one such animal. Carp have become a nuisance in many areas but in general they are sort of liked as sport fish, both on rod and for bow-hunting, and as bait. They also provide forage. Other carp have been introduced with less success. Grass carp are useful in ponds and when I was working in fisheries management we introduced them for weed control. These were sterile hybrids though. The Asian carp, which I mentioned previously, is the most invasive fish introduction to the US ever. Asian carp are rapidly-growing filter feeders and have out-competed many of the native species of he Mississippi River drainage that rely on plankton for sustenance. Several native fish eat young Asian carp though, as do ospreys, eagles and otters, etc. so it's not entirely bad. Like it or not, the Asian carp is permanent now and the native wildlife will just have to adapt.

Europe needs to re-introduce many species if they can because most of the native species have been extirpated. One of my fellow grad students, a German, was studying small mammals in America. I asked him why he wasn't back in Germany studying them and he told me it was because there weren't all that many left.

Some introductions have been highly beneficial and have had almost no negative impact on native wildlife. The most successful introduction into North America is the ring-necked pheasant. Native grouse and quail really haven't been affected much from its introduction as they have separate enough niches so that there is little competition. Here, the ring-necked pheasants mainly stay in the cultivated fields and the weed rows while the Prairie Chickens (a type of grouse) mostly inhabit the native grass areas while the blue quail live mostly in the sand sage prairie and the bobwhite quail occupy the river bottoms, tree rows, and old house places.

Edited by Snargfargle

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