Ranching for Wildlife, Continued


By Gervase Hittle

This writing will likely not be the last one in the series I have called Ranching for Wildlife. Thus far I have mentioned mostly those items that are easily demonstrated and viewed: planting native grasses on former row crop acres, possibly not putting up hay during ground bird nesting season, building fence so as to allow antelope and mule deer to crawl under it, which is their preferred way to cross.

Let’s turn to the less obvious. Here are some of the small scale things we do. We float a board or a forked branch in the water tanks, during the summer. That gives birds a perch for drinking. We also put in some sort of ladder device that allows small animals that fall or jump in to be able to climb out if the water is low in the tank.

Regarding the birthing period of quadrupeds, both large and small, we try not to disturb them unduly if we happen to stumble upon them. That is, we back away and go around, leaving them a wide berth, which may interrupt us if we are on a mission, but it’s worth the effort and the delay. This same practice applies, for instance, if we find ourselves on a lek, a sharp tail grouse dancing ground. Rather than blaring on through and disrupting the dance, we stop, look, and listen. It’s good for the spirit. Then we quietly back away and go around.

Personally, I feel the same way about predators. Predators help keep explosive rodent populations in check. Predators never eliminate their food supply. There’s no percentage in that. Most critters need only a suitable habitat/environment and food supply. Left alone predator and prey achieve an equilibrium, a natural balance.

This thinking gives rise to a kind of mantra for me: healthy ecosystems and demographic populations maintain a flexible balance. Disturbances, such as efforts to increase one population at the expense of another serves primarily to shock the system and can be maintained only by force feeding the preferred population.

Ecology takes care of Demography. The Cheyenne River Buffalo Ranch does everything it can to support that balance and then we step back and enjoy the dance.


  • Posted on by Mardelle
    So insightful. Makes me think of what I can do in the city to help the balance.

    Love these random essays. Thank you.

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