Protecting Bears and Wolves with Kristin Combs
Episode 5: Show Notes.
The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is one of the few intact ecosystems that still has its entire cohort of wildlife, but many of these species are under threat due to practices like trophy hunting. Wolves and grizzly bears are just a few of the animals under threat, but the Wyoming Wildlife Advocates are helping to protect them by shaping legislation and changing perceptions about the perceived threats these creatures pose to humans. Today we are joined by Wyoming Wildlife Advocates Executive Director, Kristin Combs, and we spend this episode discussing the role of bears and wolves in the The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the threats posed to them, and the interventions she is making to help protect them. We discuss the tenuous status of bears as endangered and the recent delisting of wolves from the Endangered Species Act. This ongoing battle to keep bears and wolves listed as ‘recovered’ is partly a matter of state pressure being applied on the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, and we explore why lawmakers want the hunting of bears and wolves to continue, highlighting cultural prejudice, the ranching industry, and more. Digging more deeply, we critically assess the lack of connection between trophy hunting and livestock safety, while also highlighting some alternative methods of keeping cattle safe that have been proven to work. On the subject of the role that bears and wolves play in the natural landscape, we talk about how preserving bears helps preserve the land itself, and how protecting wolves actually strengthens herds of their prey – herds that are currently suffering from an upsurge in chronic waste disease which could get passed onto humans if the spread continues. Tune in for an informative and urgent conversation about the need to bridge the gap between wildlife management legislation and new understandings of the role of keystone species in the preservation of ecosystems.
Key Points From This Episode:
- Kristin’s love of animals and how she made environmental education and advocacy into a career.
- The biodiversity of the Yellowstone ecosystem and some of the environmental issues it faces.
- Spotting bears while hiking: How they behave, what they eat, how awe-inspiring they are.
- The negative effects of wolf and bear hunting in Wyoming; why Kristin started Wyoming Wildlife Advocates.
- What the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is; politics around naming a species ‘endangered’ or ‘recovered’.
- Why hunting seasons on animals begin immediately after they get delisted as endangered.
- The persistence of state-supported trophy hunting and the role of cultural values in this.
- Why some groups of humans hate wolves; anti-predator rhetoric informed by myths.
- Disjunctures between new conservation knowledge and wildlife management agency policy.
- Threats posed by the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in animals like deer and elk.
- How hard it is to contain CWD and the possibility of it being transferred to humans.
- Arguments for and against elk ‘feeding grounds’, which stop one disease but spread CWD.
- Understanding the concept of ‘predator cleansing’ and how it can keep herds healthier.
- The massive perceptive abilities wolves have to spot weaker animals in a herd.
- Key benefits of protecting grizzly bears: Protecting the large areas they live in too.
- The eating habits of grizzly bears and how these cultivate the land and regulate the ecosystem.
- Pressure the ranching industry put on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delist grizzly bears from the ESA.
- Alternative techniques to hunting that reduce conflict between bears and cattle.
- The lack of correlation between defending livestock and trophy hunting.
- The economic argument for conserving wildlife because of its tourism benefits.
- Upcoming projects in the fight to protect bears and wolves; how the public can get involved.
- How to find Wyoming Wildlife Advocates online.
“We really started getting involved in these issues of trophy hunting especially when it comes to issues of bears and wolves and the ecology and biology that goes behind that.” — @wywildlife [0:15:58]
“As westward expansion was happening, we just wanted to protect our livestock and so on the way we just wiped out – along with the bison, wolves were wiped out, grizzly bears were nearly extricated. Elk were hunted nearly to extinction.” — @wywildlife [0:17:49]
“There is just a deep-seated cultural hatred towards these animals.” — @wywildlife [0:30:40]
“We have learned a lot about how there are these keystone species that when you protect them, you also protect a lot of other species in that same environment. Grizzly bears are a good example of that.” — @wywildlife [0:43:26]
“We know that predator populations in large quantities help to make herds healthier.” — @wywildlife [1:04:37]
“Grizzly bears are also really great at cultivating land.” — @wywildlife [1:15:48]
“It can be devastating for a rancher that is losing a lot of livestock to a wolf or bear, however, now that we have techniques that we know work to help reduce conflicts, we should be using them as much as possible, and we shouldn’t jump at this idea that we need to hunt bears to make livestock safer.” — @wywildlife [1:24:21]
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode: