Grizzly bear on elk carcass from Yellowstone National Park

Predators vs. Prey

Two similar ongoing success stories of wildlife conservation taking place in two different ecosystems involving two different species recently moved into the public spotlight through two very different perspectives on conservation.  If you caught my most recent post here, you are aware that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources recently announced that “after more than 22 years of elk reintroduction efforts, 2018 will mark Wisconsin’s first managed elk hunt in state history.”  Meanwhile, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has announced a proposed grizzly bear hunting season for the fall of 2018.  Both Wisconsin’s elk reintroduction management and Wyoming’s grizzly bear recovery management, as part of the greater Yellowstone-Grand Teton National Parks Idaho/Montana/Wyoming Demographic Monitoring Area, are conservation success stories, and the state agencies are now moving towards one of the greatest conservation management tools at their disposal – hunting.  However, the controversy surrounding these two conservation debates are as diverse as the battle between predator and prey.

According to the introduction for the Wyoming GFD YouTube video Yellowstone Grizzly Bears: A Success Story, published on May 14, 2013:

Grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem are thriving. The once-dwindling population of bears occupying areas of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming has been steadily increasing since 1981, when recovery efforts under the Endangered Species Act began. Managers are prepared with protections and practices in place to sustain a healthy Yellowstone grizzly bear population into the future. Years of collaboration and cooperation by multiple state and federal agencies — as well as public participation — contributed to the success of the species’ recovery. For more information on Yellowstone grizzly bears visit: Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee

Hunting as part of our outdoors heritage enables conservation management through humane population control while providing significant economic impact through hunt related expenses and hunter supported conservation programs.  Sportsmen and women have traditionally been the most significant supporters of conservation for wildlife and wildlife habitat throughout American history.  However, hunting as a conservation management tool remains as controversial as conservation management itself as demonstrated by tweets from the following conservation organizations and agencies:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Population control, coexistence, and economic impact are all realities of conservation management.  Boundaries must be established and maintained without being compromised to preserve our last bastions of wilderness.  Conservation requires a balance of management practices to sustain, nurture, and strengthen a population.  Conservation is only made possible through cooperation.

“Environment”

To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.

– Excerpt from the Seventh State of the Union Address by Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States, December 3rd, 1907.

This is my first journal entry in a new category entitled “People and the Environment.”  The category title comes from a Bemidji State University (BSU) course of the same name in which I have enrolled during summer session in order to complete my last liberal education requirement towards my bachelor’s degree.  The class fulfills the BSU Category 10 requirement of the liberal education requirements for bachelor degree graduates.  Category 10 also goes by the same name of People and the Environment, and is part of BSU’s commitment to an awareness of the planet’s global community and the future we are providing for ourselves and generations to come by acknowledging modern society’s influence on our planet’s limited natural resources in a global ecosystem.

In order to fulfill its mission and its responsibilities as a public university, Bemidji State University will:

  1. Promote an uncompromising pursuit of knowledge, excellence, civic responsibility, and environmental impact.

Excerpt from the Bemidji State University mission statement.

During the next month you will see journal entries made into this category stemming from lecture in association with the text Sustaining the Earth by G. Tyler Miller, Jr., reflections on activities and field trips into the discovery of the interweaving of our natural capital, and reactions to small group discussions from the global pollution perspective as I analyze my own ecological footprint.

With that introduction, in our first journal entry, we were asked to respond to the following question:

  • What does the term “environment” mean to you and why?

My environment.  When I think of my environment, I think of a place, a location, where I am in my element, or more specifically, where I feel the most comfortable spiritually and emotionally as well as where I get the most satisfaction physically and socially.

For me, my environment will always be the small town, countryside, and the wide open spaces of this wonderful world in which we live.  I grew up in a small town, a central Minnesota town of some industry and technology, but mostly a community supported by and risen from the surrounding industry of the agricultural community – the farming families.

I didn’t grow up on a farm myself, but I had many relatives and friends who did and both my parents came from families who worked the land.  My connection with this environment came through them and the countless days I spent in the woods, on the lake, the prairie, or on the farm itself.

Summers were filled with camping trip after camping trip in which our main activity was fishing.  My dad loved to camp and fish and if there was a weekend between fishing opener and football season that we weren’t gone fishing or on a excursion to some far away place, something was peculiar or amiss.  Falls meant football seven days a week unless we were in the woods harvesting timber to heat the family house for the long Minnesota winter ahead.  Winters were snowmobiling and ice-fishing, and spring meant crappie fishing with my dad and brother at our secret spot before the obligations of school and work.

Lumberjacking with my dad and bothers was hard, strenuous, and sometimes dangerous work, but those days spent working together in the outdoors are some of my fondest memories of childhood.  Another of my fondest memories from childhood is making homemade summer sausage using the family recipe with beef from my Uncle Dan’s farm and smoking it in the old smokehouse at my Uncle Ray’s farm, the farm that previously belonged to my grandparents and where my father grew up.  It’s been 25 years or more since I set foot in that little old smokehouse that now has long since been gone – given back to the land from where it came – but I can still smell the penetrating aroma like it was yesterday.  This was also an important dietary staple as homemade summer sausage and homemade strawberry jam sandwiches were the required pail lunch for a day spent lumberjacking in the woods!

My upbringing in a place where environment meant the outdoors and a way of life has shaped the way I have chosen to live my own life.  I spent a decade in the metropolitan area of Minneapolis and St. Paul after leaving home.  Other than the first couple years of college when I spent summers at home, I was living the city life.  Although there were still weekend escapes, outdoor refuges inside the city, and even a career in the outdoors industry, it was never a sufficient substitute for the outdoors lifestyle of the lakes, woods, and countryside of rural Minnesota.

I relocated to Bemidji, Minnesota – a community similar to my hometown – in the early spring of 2003, with no intention ever to return to the city lifestyle.  The decision to fight for the opportunity to come back to where I’m from was a choice I made for the improvement of my life.  The fact that Bemidji is located in the middle of lake country in Minnesota’s North Woods amplified then, and now, the reasons why my environment is dependent on my surroundings, earth and timber instead of concrete and steel.

Urban Deer

So I have been away for a while preparing for the end of the semester crunch and finals, tending to family and friends, and working with my first Firearm Safety Training class of the year.  This is where I have been doing most of my blogging lately, over at the Hunter Education & Firearm Safety Training blog.

My personal outdoors activities have slowed to almost a halt, and it’s beginning to drive me a little nuts – the dog won’t even look me in the eye anymore.  Next weekend is the Minnesota fishing opener, and although in recent years I’ve chosen to leave opener to the rookies and one-timers, I’m chomping at the bit to get Pro-V – Year II under way.  It’s a good thing we still have ice on the lakes.  The late April snowstorm that closed out our total snow accumulation somewhere in the 5-6 feet range for April – just April – didn’t really dampen my spirits as I have had no time to do nothing else but dream of fishing.  Now, knee deep in finals, there will be no fishing until after turkey season, which gets under way, for me, the day after finals.

Even the scooter and the wheeler have been relegated to the doldrums of the garage.  Hell, the wheeler still has the plow attached – ready for that Memorial Day weekend blizzard!

But the snow has again mostly melted, and there are signs – albeit reluctant signs – of spring everywhere.  The urban deer have started to become more active and are now beginning to show up on the LPR Deer Cam.  They look a little ragged and strung out after another long winter, but don’t we all!

 Urban Deer

I have taken thousands of pictures of urban deer with the LPR Deer Cam over the years – a way of hunting from inside the city limits in one’s own backyard.  I will be sharing some of the new photos throughout the upcoming months as the backyard activity picks up.  This guy in the foreground of the picture above looks as though he is just starting this year’s antler growth.  Over the years, there have been some very nice photos – fawns only a few days old, foxes, the old club-footed doe – and some not so nice – neighbors chasing their dogs for instance!  But, the most amazing photos the LPR Deer Cam has ever taken were not the most brilliant pictures ever made, but the subject was jaw-dropping.

In 2004, the brute pictured below was part of a four-buck urban deer gang that ruled South Bemidji.  They roamed day or night, backyards – and front!  This guy even challenged me in my own driveway as he indulged on acorns when I arrived home from work one night.  Believe it or not, he was not the biggest one of the bunch.  There was a perfectly symmetrical and wider 12-pointer who was slightly larger in body mass and also ran with this group of thugs.  However I never managed to get him on film.  Which one was the leader?  Who was the boss?  I’ll never know.  The pictures below were taken shortly before the last time I saw either of them, when I could count 19 points on this atypical monster.  He lives on in legend as the Liberty Pines Ranch Buck.

The Liberty Pines Ranch Buck

 LPR Buck

LPR Buck III

LPR Buck V