Sunday, August 26, 2012

Human impacts on carnivores

Even though there are very few people here in Haines, their presence is still deeply felt by the local ecological community. Humans will come watch animals (forming traffic jams along the Chilkoot River to watch grizzly bears feed), fish for salmon, mine for gold and, of course, hunt predator and prey species alike. Different species  (and even individuals) react uniquely to these impacts. Male grizzlies and wolves avoid humans and roads to protect themselves from hunters. In contrast, female grizzlies take advantage of the lack of males to fatten up themselves and their cubs on the salmon rivers. Part of the reason we are conducting research in this region is because we want to observe how the growing impacts of human activities will alter the ecological balance of this community. 

However compared to many other parts of the world, Haines is still relatively untouched. For example, our lab also works in the Santa Cruz Mountains, which borders bustling Silicon Valley and San Francisco Bay Area. Here, humans far outnumber the animals, and any species that survives on this landscape has learned to adapt to human development. Specifically, we focus on mountain lions, the only apex predator remaining in California, and how their behavior is impacted by the people who live, work, play, and drive in these mountains. Today, an article highlighting the unique lifestyle of one of our study lions just made the front page of the Santa Cruz Sentinel and the San Jose Mercury News. We invite you to read the article here and to find more about 16M, the aforementioned mountain lion here.

16M in tree

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