When necessary, certain animal populations need to be limited by an outside factor. Controls are often put in place to save endangered species or wildlife endangered in a certain region. There are several forms of population control including hunting, relocation, and sterilization. The issue itself is very controversial and argued over, but some methods are more widely accepted than others. Nonetheless, controlling populations are proving their effectiveness more with each trial. Although some may argue that animal population control is inhumane, animal population control causes prey populations to grow again because the predators are being controlled, there is more vegetation to sustain them, and there may be new prey for the growing population to feed on.
What may be the most effective way to make an animal population grow is to reduce or eliminate the predator. The relationship between the number of predators and number of pray is irrefutable. A prime example can be seen between the wolf population and the forty mile caribou herd in Alaska. The herd is essential for the life of many villages in Alaska and Canada alike. Without any other source to depend on, the caribou’s unremitting decline in number over the past decade has caused many of these small villages to experience food shortages. Through this experiment, the researchers were able to see a rise in the caribou herd of about sixty seven percent in just four years, from 1996 to 2000 (Beortje & Gardner, 2000). This was with minimal wolf relocation and fertilization. Also, noticing that the change happened so rapidly and is still growing exponentially, it is clear that this hypothesis has proven to be true. If the control continues, the herd will eventually reach its original state and once again be true to the name “forty mile caribou herd.”
Another case in point is when one population is controlled, more vegetation is able to grow and therefore provide more food for the remaining animals. Often, humans are annoyed with certain animals raiding and destroying their gardens or yards (Associated Content, 2010). More importantly, in the wild, one species can be a competition to another concerning eating the vegetation. Frequently in nature, a habitat cannot sustain the growing populations of multiple species. The plants are being eaten and trampled on by too many animals. If an area is overpopulated it is in the best interest of all the wildlife to have some form of population control. Relocating a percentage of one population can allow the vegetation to develop again. It will also provide the relocated animals with a new area to feed on. If sterilization is the method used, it will also benefit multiple species inhabiting the area. The controlled population will not be lowered in number, but only slowed in their growth, also allowing some of the vegetation to grow. In either circumstance, no population is being eliminated through death and they, too, will be helped by the change.
Right along with the growth of the main prey population, the other prey populations that they feed on are allowed to grow as well. A rise of their shared game is also seen because there will now only be one or at least fewer threats to them. This also means there is less competition for them so with the growth in numbers there is a higher percentage of prey available without contest. The relationship between a predator and the prey’s prey is prevalent in many parts of the food web. Larger or more aggressive predators, such as bears or wolves, often eat larger or medium sized prey, such as deer or lynx, along with the smaller prey which may be animals in the rodent family. The large to medium sized prey can be left with little food of its own when its predator has snatched it all right from underneath them. If the main predator is controlled, it lets multiple prey populations multiply leaving more food for the larger prey.
No matter which method of population control is used, others are able to reap the benefits. Along with the prey population’s growth, humans are able to live virtually pest free and safely in these population-controlled areas. Even the controlled population usually gains from the act. The concept falls right into line with spaying and neutering house pets such as cats and dogs, which is highly publicized and encouraged among animal rights activists. The principal animal rights group itself, The Humane Society, even supports the theory if deemed necessary (The Humane Society, 2010). Therefore, despite the debate, controlling certain animal populations when necessary is advantageous for us and for nature.
Associated Content. (2010). Animal population control. Retrieved from http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1762252/animal_population_control_pg2.html?cat=2
Beortje, Rodney D. Gardner, Craig L. Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Wildlife Conservation. (2000). Reducing mortality on the forty mile caribou herd. Retrieved from http://www.wc.adfg.state.ak.us/management/control/pdfs/3.43_00.pdf
Hoset, K.S., Koivisto, E., Huiti, O., Ylonen, H., & Korpimaki, E. Multiple predators induce risk reduction in coexisting vole species. Oikos, 118(9), 1421-1429. Doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0706.2009.17263.x
Harding, E. K., Doak, D. F., & Albertson, Joy D. (2001). Evaluation the Effectiveness of Predator Control: the Non-Native Red Fox as a Case Study. Conservation Biology, 15(4), 1114-1122. Doi: 10.1046/j.1523-1739.2001.0150041114.x
The Humane Society of the United States. (2010). Wildlife overpopulation. Retrieved from http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/wildlife_overpopulation/