The Utopian Suggestion of Natural Predator Reintroduction

Jonathan Vandina

The deer population in the Northeast has exploded. Some maintain that one of the reasons is due to the previous housing boom. During the boom, thousands of acres of land were cleared with the intentions of building homes that were never built.  This cleared land permitted sunlight to hit the ground, which facilitated grass growth leading to the population explosion.

There are more deer in the Northeast today than there were when the settlers first arrived. Although development and land clearing may be partially to blame, we cannot forget the fact that humans also extirpated the main predator, mountain lions (Puma concolor). Due to the over-explosion of deer, the lack of natural predators and the inability of the land to sustain them, many of these animals will die slow deaths of starvation. Sick deer may also spread disease which can adversely affect the rest of the population.  Although hunting may eliminate a small portion of this manmade suffering, some people claim there is a better way; that is to reintroduce their natural predators. Continue reading

Panthers in the Suburbs

[The op-ed below appeared in the Westchester Herald (ten or so pages after Ed Koch’s movie review and immediately following  Congressmember Nina Lowey’s piece on health care reform).  It deals with recent sightings of what appear to be a large cat in the New York suburbs.  For some good background on the issue, see this New Yorker article and this piece in a local Hudson Valley newspaper.]

pantherReactions to the unconfirmed sightings of panthers in the Palisades and local townships bring a serious ecological dilemma into focus.  Assuming this animal(s) is an eastern panther and not an escaped exotic pet, it is a member of a population of animals once thought extirpated from the Northeast.  That would make any plan to trap the cat and place it in captivity both ecologically misguided and potentially violative of the Endangered Species Act.  The plan also represents a hyperventilated response to understandable community unease.  It would be much better to slow down and carefully consider the implications of the animal’s presence as well as what to do about it.

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