Off the coast of Maine lies the island of Mount Desert which includes the charming seaport of Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. While visiting last month, I learned that, in the island’s early days, maintaining a healthy population of white tail deer was no problem because the indigenous tribes of the Wabanaki Indians hunted the deer for food. But that was a long time ago.
In the 1600s, the island was discovered by the French and shortly after that the British and eventually surrendered to the Americans. By the late 1800s, the island had become a summer destination for the rich and the famous. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and others purchased land and built flamboyant summer “cottages.” From 1915 to 1933 Rockefeller led a campaign among his peers which resulted in a donation of 35,000 acres to the US government for the national park. He played a big role in the design of the park including financing many of the improvements, trails and bridges, personally.
But I digress….
With no Wabanaki hunters and the land now a federally managed park, the number of deer grew to the point where there was not enough food to sustain a healthy deer population and over-browsing was having considerable impact on the forests. Park rangers introduced coyote to the island to reduce the number of deer but being the opportunists they are, the coyote decided domestic dogs and cats were their preferred fare. Soon they had issues with two animal populations.
I asked a noted historian if the authorities considered managed hunting within the park to reduce the number of deer. That option has proven effective elsewhere, including in Missouri. He said the park staff met with the local community and this option was considered but rejected.
Though not everyone agrees with every management decision made by the Missouri Department of Conservation, we know considerable scientific research and conversation with Missouri citizens is made before action is taken. In the hunter education certification class our clinic participants learn about the important role humans and specifically hunters play in wildlife management. With this perspective, understanding and appreciation of the natural world we are better prepared to make wise management decisions.
Thank you for supporting our hunter education clinics. And thanks to all of you who participated in our 8th Annual Shoot for the Future Sporting Clays Tournament.
For more interesting examples of great mistakes in managing wildlife, consider reading Nature Wars by Jim Sterba.