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Discussion Starter #1
Recent copy of Outdoor news has a PA Game Commission Biologist reporting that the clean water act and protection of birds of prey as key reasons for muskrat decline. The article also states about rabbits and pheasants being easy prey. I stated this in the past and have had many say its a habitat problem. What we have seen is the drastic declines in animals that are prey of raptors. First it was the Game commission fellow that was working with the wild pheasant recovery program, stating that raptors were the major predators. Next we may hear how raptors are responsible for Lyme disease increasing in numbers, because the raptors reduced the bird numbers. As we know birds are the main predator of ticks. I guess if smallgame numbers drop too low they may have to reduce bag limits or shorten seasons so the raptors can get more.
 

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I don't think that anyone would argue that avian predators don't depress game bird populations, however the issue is a bit more complicated. If you have great habitat the game birds, and non-game birds too, have protection from predators, hence fewer of them will be taken. You could put a bounty on hawks and owls, kill 90% of them, and if you had lousy habitat you'd still have a lot of trouble maintaining a good population of game birds. If I only had a limited amount of time to devote and were given a choice of going out and shooting a few hawks or participating in a habitat improvement program, I'd choose the latter. However, that's just my opinion, and everyone else is certainly entitled to theirs.
 

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bpottorff said:
First it was the Game commission fellow that was working with the wild pheasant recovery program, stating that raptors were the major predators.
Did anyone expect the major predator of pheasants in an area that is closed to hunting to be bengal tigers or perhaps great white sharks? Would it be better if the major predator was fox or coyote?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Of course it would be better for the major predator to be a fox or coyote because these can be hunted and trapped and their numbers controlled. Because the raptors aren't controlled in any way is why they are the major predator of most small species.
 

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Food for thought..........

The creeks I used to trap muskrats with my dad on 45 years ago have the EXACT same habitat they did back then.

The water quality has improved significantly on all of them........GREATLY on some of them.

There isn't a FRACTION of the muskrats now that there were then. There were significantly MORE trappers back then competing for the rats.

Now................... when was it that avian predators got complete federal protection ?? Anybody ??

About 45 years ago.

There's also an article I read a couple years ago by the Audubon Society chronicling the drastic drop in songbird numbers. They cited the early 70's as being when numbers really started to drop.

Hmmmmm............
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Yes Strut you have it right. And when the songbirds decreased the deer tick numbers rose leading to more Lyme disease. The anti hunters want the hawks and owls to control the smallgame so they can do away with hunting. Sometimes I wander how many anti hunters are on this site, as many have similar views to raptors as the out and out anti's.
 

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Here are a couple of statistics for ya...studies have shown that feral cats kill 500 millions songbirds a year in the United States. Other studies put that number at 1.3 billion to 4 billions songbirds killed. When you add mammals that number skyrockets to anywhere from 6.3 billion to 22.3 billion birds and mammals killed by cats. But yes, keep blaming everything on hawks and owls.

For all the people that want a hunting season on hawks and owls or some sort of stupid bounty, let me ask you this...if hunting has no impact on small game populations like many studies say, then why would you think that a season on raptors will control these species.

It is the lack of habitat (as I have said on this site many times) is the reason small game populations are low...good habitat equals lots of small game to hunt.

And Strut...I hate to tell ya but no habitat is the same as it was 45 years ago.
 

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Good video and he discusses the HABITAT factors that help protect quail from avian predators. You can moan and groan all you want about raptors being protected but it isn't going to change. Something we can do is improve habitat which is effective in protecting predators from prey. As I have stated here before, you can look at Hawk Mountain's migration counts for many years and the number of birds migrating in 1974 are very close to the numbers today. Raptor populations tend to fluctuate like prey species do. The fact is prey eat predators and they have for centuries and existed in sustainable numbers long before man's influence on habitat changes came along. Maybe the number of muskrats we have is what the habitat will support. Back in the early 70s there were a lot of complaints from people with ponds from damage to dams from muskrats. Maybe we had too many back in the 70s and the number we have now is where it should be.

It's easy to blame predators for declining prey populations but improving habitat is better for everything as compared to killing predators because they are better than us at killing prey
The next time you feel frustrated you can't shoot hawks, get even!! go build a brush pile!
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Barberry, what are the numbers that hawks and owls kill? Open the season on smallgame to anytime 365 days a year and human hunters would have an impact. After all hawks and owls hunt every day. In the past when hawks and owls were controlled, small game was more plentiful. I was alive back then and got to see it first hand. Let me know the number of songbirds killed each year by hawks. Most anti hunting folks won't disclose that information, so I doubt you will find that answer.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Lynn, maybe the early 90's is when the raptors spiked to a number higher than would be normal numbers. Maybe back then is when controlling numbers should have happened. The article talked of a spike in numbers. And when you create habitat for prey, the predators when not controlled will hunt the improved habitat harder and you will not get the gains as you would if you had good habitat combined with predator control. Habitat work at a local farm has resulted in much better cover and a higher production of rabbits, but by hunting season the rabbit numbers are way down. This farm this year with the best habitat in years produced less rabbits than in the past with poorer habitat. As has been noted by the numbers of pheasants in the reintroduction areas, its easy to see the program is not working as well as it should. And this is not due to the lack of effort as you guys are working hard, but you can't get the best results with the unbalanced raptor numbers. Look back at what reproduction numbers pheasants are capable of and you will see what I mean. Look at what a small number of sickly pheasants were able produce in a ten year period out on the west coast. I believe it may have been Washington state or Oregon. Something like in ten years hunters were able to harvest 50.000 birds. That was from 26 breeders, what are our numbers here with uncontrolled hawks?
 

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Barberry said:
And Strut...I hate to tell ya but no habitat is the same as it was 45 years ago.
Barberry........... I hate to tell ya but creeks running through cornfields don't change in 45 years. Not these ones.

This is a discussion that I have come to realize is a dead-end street.

There is one side which quotes biologists.

There is one side which draws from years of field observation.

Both know they are right. There is nowhere in the middle either side shall meet. I just find it peculiar how quickly biologists poo-poo the notion of avian predation. It's almost like there is an agenda of sorts. But since we all know that biologists overwhelmingly as a group embrace sport hunting, that's unlikely.
 

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One thing we may be failing to consider is that to many people shooting hawks and owls would be a lot more fun than planting native grasses or dogwood trees??? Just sayin'
 

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Lynnappelman said:
Here is a link from PGC Furbearer biologist Tom Hardisky. In the article Hardisky refers to hawks, owls and mink being big muskrat predators but he blames a change in HABITAT as the cause for the increased predation. He states the muskrat decline also started in the early 90s not 70's.

http://archives.timesleader.com/2010_29/2010_09_19_Muskrat_population_drop_a_mystery_-Sports.html
I have questioned if the decline in muskrat populations might have been at least partly the result of increased acid precipitation. If you really look at when the industrial smoke stacks were build high enough to put the impurities that resulted in the big increase in acid precipitation into the jet stream instead of them dropping out around the industrial centers it kind of coincides with the rapid decline in muskrat and even rabbit populations. We know that muskrats are dependant on a life cycle in the water and we also know that rabbits get the highest percentage of their water from the dew and rain on the vegetation.

Is it possible the acid precipitation is having an adverse affect on the reproductive rates or the young after birth for some species? I don’t know that anyone has ever even looked at that possibility but it is a question has been haunting me for several decades now.

Dick Bodenhorn
 

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roundup usage,was not around in the early 70's, now every home owner,food plot maker,to name a few puts roundup on those undesirables , alot of times at more than the labeled rate that and a change in farming more large less small,along with what has been mentioned/
 

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I have questions if the increase of mink populations may also be a factor. We have ink now in my neck of the woods where we did not have them before and the rat population is a shell of what it once was. As far as raptors, GH owls would be more effective on rats than hawks. Last year we founf two owl kills at my clubs pond.
 

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It really doesn't make sense to have no controls on hawks. What would be wrong with allowing one per year with a tag. We have fisher and bobcat seasons and they have a fraction of the population of hawks. Heck, we are even going to have an otter season soon.

I am surprised any small game survives based on the constant parade of hawks flying over the areas I hunt.
 
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