Lions on the Great Plains?

Old Aug 18th, 2005, 05:52 AM
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Lions on the Great Plains?

Saw this story this morning and was surprised to say the least. Would love to hear PredatorBiologist's take on this:
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Old Aug 18th, 2005, 01:03 PM
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dsquared: thanks for posting this, I had just seen it right before coming to this board.

Since I am in Colorado and not too far away my first thought is awesome -- I can study African animals without 20 hours of travel. That would be fun.

However, this has to be one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen suggested. Its a cool notional idea and would be really interesting to see what would happen -- like people are always asking me "Who would win, a grizzly bear or a lion" but I'm sure the results would be a disaster. It sounds like these ecologists do not know much about the North American prairie.

1) None of the African species developed here and it is a huge assumption that they would adapt o.k. While the prairie in summer may be like Africa it can go well below 0 in winter with blinding blowing snow. Those mastadons had a lot of fur, elephants barely have any hair. I'm not sure how many of these animals could make it through the winter, especially hunting prey that is adapted for it.

2) Some North American animals could be out competed and go extinct as well. This is what is happening on a lot of islands where mongooses were introduced. Meant to hunt snakes they devastated birds not used to predators instead.

3) What is really insulting is the rationale that cheetah are being persecuted as vermin and need our protection. Last I checked we were just better at that than Africans because we are wolf and grizzly free virtually everywhere. We continue to allow the extermination of prairie dogs even though they are the keystone prairie species with over 100 other species dependent upon them. I just talked to a rancher who kills them with a shovel if he sees them show up on his property and you better believe he would shoot the first cheetah that comes near his sheep just like he does the coyotes.

4) Along those lines -- prairie ecosystems are the most endangered habitat type in the U.S. If we cannot even conserve them for our native species why can we do it for African species?

5) I'm a lot more worried about us returning bears, wolves, and bison to more places where they belong than moving something else to where it doesn't belong.

6) This is just not practical. It would be so difficult to secure these large tracts of land and then keep the wildlife on the property. Even Yellowstone can't hold the bison and they are shot rather allowed to mix with ranchers cattle. Similarly many wolves have left the park and some of them have been shot. Ironic that we worry about the safety of animals where the people have such a lower wealth standard and yet our people who have the benefit of grazing their cattle on public land still insist on killing much native wildlife. Even on one of the Ted Turner ranches they shoot mountain lion (cougar) if it preys on the endangered desert bighorn sheep.

7) If they can actually find the money and time (no way the culture changes this much) to make this happen I wish they would allocate it to both restore and conserve our North American systems and help African wildlife. With time and money there is no reason African's can't conserve their wildlife to at least the poor level that we have achieved. I'd say they are well ahead of us at this point.

The only good part to this is after folks hear this extreme view they may not think bringing back a grizzly or wolf is quite as bad. I'm about to go give an endangered species lecture to an oil & gas company - I'll be sure and include this at the end of the presentation.

P.S. For anyone really interested. The pronghorn antelope is an ancient species and while it may have evolved with the ancient cheetah since it is the second fastest mammal in the world at about 60mph, just a notch below the cheetah its more recent evolution is tied to wolves and thus to stay ahead of the pack members taking turns running, the pronghorn (not a true antelope) can run about 40-50 miles an hour for a 4 or 5 hour period.
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Old Aug 18th, 2005, 01:42 PM
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Well said, Predator Biologist. I have to think that article is a joke. Nevertheless, PB makes some very important points. Wildlife policy and conservation in the U.S. is absolutely abysmal at best.
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Old Aug 18th, 2005, 03:44 PM
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Thank you, P.B. I talked to a friend of mine today who is a wildlife biologist here in Florida, and she thought it was possibly one of the worst ideas she's heard.
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Old Aug 19th, 2005, 02:57 AM
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Sheesh, coz we haven't learned from our previous meddling that introducing non-native species nearly always results in an unmitigated disaster for one or other native species - something that just hadn't been considered.

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