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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

    Arb Notes

    <lves and Cougars and Bears, oh my! What an interesting first week for the Student Naturalists! Last Saturday we took a trip to the Wildlife Science Center. There Peggy Callahan (Carleton class of 1984), the founder and executive director, introduced us to the animals which the center houses, which include grey wolves, red wolves, and Mexican grey wolves, coyotes, black bears and cougars. We were pleased to meet Captain, a sixteen year old grey wolf who may be newly a father, despite his age, and Lucy, a black bear who lives amicably with a rooster, which she occasionally will pick up and carry around. The Center works with these animals doing research and education that promotes conservation. The Mexican grey wolves and the red wolves housed by the center are both endangered species. In the 1970’s there were only thirteen reproductively viable red wolves and seven Mexican grey wolves. The Center is a part of projects working to breed and reintroduce these species into the wild.

    The Wildlife Science Center reminds us of the importance of some of the most misunderstood animals in the world. Livestock owners have been the declared enemy of the wolf for centuries. The Center is engaged in research to provide nonlethal solutions to enable farmers and ranchers to live side by side with wolves and other large predators. Their coexistence is important, as predators are indispensable parts of ecosystems. Even our Arboretum suffers from their lack. Coyotes and badgers are the only large predators in the Arb. It is simply too small and has too much human activity for other predators native to the region, such as the black bear or the grey wolf, to live there. However, the restraint which humans’ presence puts on the large predators does not affect their prey in the same way. Grey wolves are perhaps the only natural check to the population growth of deer. Deer’s recent population explosion in the Midwest can be attributed in part to the decline of their natural predators, the grey wolf. Too many deer in one area can be damaging to forests such as those in the arboretum. Deer browsing eliminates the native understory of the forest, which can pave the way for the spread of invasive plant species. Solutions include the creations of corridors, which link forested areas, such as those in the Arboretum, with similar areas nearby and would allow predators to pass through the area. If such projects are to be successful, the work of the Wildlife Science Center and other organizations concerned with enabling humans and large predators to coexist is indispensible.

    -Mira Alecci, writing for the Student Naturalists

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