Howling and yowling

July 29, 2009
Howling and yowling

Re: “Big Cats on the Prowl,” July 2-8

I am compelled to respond to some of the myriad inaccuracies in Willi Boepple’s letter about cougars, Sitka black-tailed deer and my article on both species which recently appeared in Monday.

Ms. Boepple’s statement that “West Coast old growth forest is singularly inhospitable to deer” and her inference that clearcut logging is ultimately preferential for deer are simply untrue. In fact, there is an abundance of scientific literature that contradicts her assertions.

Scientific studies published by the United States Forest Service in the temperate rainforests of the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska have shown that “short-rotation clearcut logging of old growth forests… will reduce habitat capability for Sitka black-tailed deer. This conclusion is supported by an extensive body of research spanning 30 years on forest succession following logging, silvicultural practices, deer-habitat relations and nutritional ecology of deer.”

Although forage in early cut-over areas may be temporarily abundant, typically it is of lesser nutritional value. The Ministry of Environment has acknowledged that Vancouver Island’s cougar population has been in decline as a result of a drop in the deer population, which is linked to the clearcut logging of old-growth forests and accompanying habitat loss and fragmentation.

Regarding Ms. Boepple’s declaration that Vancouver Island is teeming with cougars, no scientific basis exists for such an assertion as no systematic Island-wide surveys have been carried out. The “densest population” meme has become popular “fact” by repeated but unsubstantiated claims.

Chris Genovali, Executive Director
Raincoast Conservation

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