The Ecology of Fear

If you want to maximize your deer population, include grazing as one of your mangement tools.

Researchers in Oregon have concluded, after extensive research, that prey species have a fear of predators and that prey species move away from their mortal enemies in an effort to survive. They have also concluded that this natural system has an important relationship to the success of other plant and animal life.

Impressive conclusion?

Interesting how a bit of research can lead to statements by politicians who are too eager to use science as a basis for social sculpturing. In our local paper (on a front-page feature article no less) Tri-Valley Herald reporter Suzanne Bohan uses the research to support her own conclusions.

” YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK – More fear of fangs is what’s needed to revive hoof-worn Western lands.”

What’s wrong with this? From what I see, the research related to this subject is most applied to wolves. There are and have never been wolves in Yosemite.

Bohan then goes on to apply the “Fear” theory to mountain lions. Then she concludes that we don’t have enough of them and we need more lions in the park for the benefit of botanical success.

Horse poop. Mountain lions are at equilibrium in California. Our habitat cannot support any more mountain lions. If you want to save the flora and fauna of Yosemite Valley, remove the tourists. They are what keeps the mountain lions away. Lions don’t like people.

Lions do move deer around and it is a benefit for the ecosystem. Human hunters do the same thing. After removing the tourists, we can then insert human hunters to assist the lions. The result will be a much improved Yosemite.

I’m all for it.

Hunting Along Alaska’s Pipeline Haul Road

On September 11, 2001 Rob and I were packed and ready to fly to Fairbanks. As we approached Oakland Airport, we came to realize that our trip would be delayed. It was four or five days later that we finally boarded a different plane and flew to Fairbanks.

Our trip was to be a self-guided archery moose and caribou hunt along the Alaska pipeline road to Prudhoe Bay. We outfitted ourselves and rented an SUV in Fairbanks. A day of driving later we crossed the Yukon River and headed into what seemed like no man’s land.

Archery hunting is permited along the haul road, but rifle hunters must travel 5 miles to be legal.

Along with sheep, musk ox, caribou, moose and black bear we observed several grizzly bears along the way.

The Brooks Range was quite scenic.



The pipeline was sometimes an impressive sight. This is the North slope.


We camped at the Arctic Circle and had lunch the next day in Coldfoot, supposedly the coldest place on the North American Continent. We finally found some caribou to hunt after passing the Brooks Range and arriving at the North Slope. We hunted caribou for a few days and had some close encounters, but failed to get off any shots. Since our trip was cut short by 9/11, we didn’t have long before we needed to head south to the Arctic Circle to hunt moose.

While camped at the Arctic Circle, Rob fed this gray jay.

Unfortunately, the unseasonably warm weather precluded typical moose rutting activity and we went home without seeing a single bull moose.

This was the Prudhoe Bay gas station where we filled up. Next gas, Coldfoot, a few hundred miles south.

It was a great adventure.

Musk ox sleeping a few yards off the haul road on the North Slope.

Tracking the Black Bear

While archery hunting for mule deer in the Hoover Wilderness in 1991, I noticed that the well-warn trail leading into the hunting area was littered with animal tracks each morning only to be erased by human travelers during the day.

One morning I arose early and took a few minutes to observe, measure and sketch a beautiful and perfect pattern of black bear tracks in the deep dust of the trail. Carrying a notebook, pencil, tape measure and string is what one needs to make an accurate record of tracks. I keep these items in a ziplock bag when I’m in the tracking mode.

Note that when the black bear walks he moves one side of his body and then the other as is the case with other wide-bodied animals like porcupines, beavers, wolverines and raccoons. This is his primary mode of travel, but when he shifts into high gear, his gait will change to a lope or a gallop.

Sportsmen Testify Before State Senate Appropriations Committee on Behalf of SB1172

SB1172 creates California Fish and Game Commission oversight over expenditure of funds generated from sale of all tags and stamps issued for take of big game animals in California including funds generated from Fundraising Tags, deer, elk, bear, sheep, antelope and pig tags as well as upland game bird stamps.


This video shows the testimony of Senator Dutton who authored the bill, Mark Hennelly of COHA who sponsored the bill and various conservation organization representatives who testified on behalf of the bill. Since this hearing the bill has passed through the Senate and will soon be tested in the Assembly.

Warthogs in South Africa

Warthogs and baboons feeding at Pillainsberg Wildlife Refuge near Sun City South Africa.

Although not considered high on the list of African trophy animals, warthogs are a very significant animal for several reasons. First of all you’ll see them often. They are interesting to watch and strange looking with their large tusks. And, they are fun to hunt.

While we stayed at the Nagala Camp, warthogs would occasionally roam through camp. The first video is a clip of a large warthog as it grazed in camp. Note how it feed from its knees.

The second video is a clip of a warthog I killed at Sitatanga Safaris. It is one of the two animals (both warthogs) I was able to bag while still hunting with my bow. Hunting from a blind over bait was more effective, but still hunting was the most fun and more satisfying. You will see that this was an enclosed ranch and it wasn’t large, only a few hundred acres, but the fences played no role related to the warthogs as they were frequently observed crawling under the fences.

I started the hunt at first light, not far from our camp. I spotted this pig about 60 yards away standing very still and broadside from me. At first I thought that he had seen me, but stepping back behind a bush, I was able to slowly approach to thirty yards.

At that range I decided to shoot and hit him, but it didn’t appear to be a great location. Off he went and it wasn’t until later in the day that we recovered him after a trail of about 300 yards or so. The South African speaking in the video was my professional hunter Kobus Grobler – a fun guy to hunt with.

Watching Delta Geese

On December 1, 2007, Tom Billingsley and I sat in camp and watched the geese lift off. I related this on an earlier blog. Recently I uploaded the short video I made right after the geese lifted off. Even though many, if not most, of the geese had already flown, you’ll get the idea of the goose numbers that were packed onto Webb Tract that weekend. Check it out.

The quality of this video is very poor, but you’ll get the idea of what was going on that day if you watch.

Roaring Lion at Kruger National Park

While in South Africa, we spent three nights at Nagala Tented Safaris. The camp was located in the bush and we had wart hogs and bushboks feeding right in camp. In fact, there was no fence so any animal could potentially walk through camp, except the elephant. To keep elephants out, an electric wire was strung about ten feet high around the camp.

One of the exciting moments we experienced while viewing wildlife at Kruger Park was watching a male lion roar from a distance of about ten to fifteen yards. The roar was quite loud. I don’t think the video does it justice.

The lions roared each night, apparently keeping track of their buddies. One night the lions roared very close to camp and one lion seemed to pass by within a couple hundred yards, but we could hear them for miles as well.

Apparently the lions keep track of their pride by roaring, but they also may be searching for female lions in other prides that are vulnerable to take over. If a male lion takes over a pride, it kills the cubs, so females with cubs often band together in groups (prides) so they can defend their young against intruders.

Lone female lions with cubs will avoid unknown male lions, as a single female lioness is less likely to be able to fight off an intruding male lion than a pride with several females.

Callippe Silverspot Butterfly

 Another Bay Area endangered butterfly is the callippe silverspot. The reason for its decline is clear. Its habitat is grasslands in San Francisco and other cities surrounding San Francisco Bay.

In the Livermore Hills we find a variety of callippe butterfly that is similar. As with the callippe silverspot, this callippe butterfly is associated with violets and we have plenty of them on our ranch.

Here’s a photo of a callippe taken by my brother, Rob. The butterflies commonly utilize the nectar of the buckeye trees in spring. This one is perched on a buckeye blossom.

The Checkerspot Butterfly

This is a photo of a chalcedon checkerspot butterfy. The photo was taken by Rob Fletcher on May 28, 2008 in the hills south of Livermore.

May is the time when the butterflies are out at the ranch.  A different (from the one in the photo) species of checkerspot, the bay checkerspot, is closely associated with serpentine soils. Some soils on our ranch have charactaristics similar to serpentine soils. These soils are found on rocky outcroppings. Some host plants for the endangered butterfly are found on our property.

These soil types have a low ratio of calcium to magnesium, low nitrogen levels and high levels of toxic minerals. Although there are numerous plants associated with serpentine soil types, the total plant biomass is typically low.

For various reasons, serpentine soils (which were never abundant) are becoming increasingly scarce, hence the listing of many associated flora and fauna, including the bay checkerspot.

Another photo taken by Rob Fletcher on June 28, 2008. These checkerspots are on coyotemint, a nectar plant for the butterfly. According to my resource these butterflies live in the adult stage for about one week.