Lions, Tigers, and Bears

There’s a recent article out arguing that since there is no gold-standard , randomized controlled study that shows that removing predators reduces livestock predation – so we should stop killing lions, tigers, and bears. Also wolves.

I guess that’s it for everything else we do that doesn’t have that kind of supporting evidence. No more arresting murderers!

Just kidding, of course. These guys are lying. Veeck effect, moving the fence up and down. They should be fired – and that’s no joke.

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85 Responses to Lions, Tigers, and Bears

  1. MawBTS says:

    “Profanity Peak Wolves” sounds like a Jungle Book remake starring George Carlin.

    Strangely, killing some of the wolves might actually make the survivors more effective hunters. Among wolves hunting elks in Yellowstone National Park, hunt success expressed as [P(kill|encounter)] peaked at 4 wolves. With 3 or fewer, success rapidly drops off, and with 5 or more, it gradually drops off. This was true for both individual wolves and the pack as a whole. Could be a freeloader effect, or a symptom of large packs being easier to detect.

    • RCB says:

      Pretty interesting. The negative effect of increasing pack size on pack success is equivocal; the confidence intervals actually allow the opposite possibility. That’s probably why the authors say that pack success “leveled off” rather than dropped. Also, note that the study is measuring success per encounter rates, i.e. the probability of a pack making a kill given that they’ve approached a herd (of elk). But I wonder if large packs approach herds more often. This might be expected if large packs really aren’t any more effective, because (equal food) / (more mouths) = (hungrier wolves), so they might hunt more often. On the whole, still seems like more wolves in an area -> more dead elk / livestock.

      • Ziel says:

        It’s really not clear what they’re measuring because they also frame it as per individual, suggesting that it’s the efficiency that levels off rather than the absolute number of kills. They’re very coy about what their actual data is.

        • RCB says:

          They look at both group and individual performance. Check the figures.

          • gcochran9 says:

            I’m going with an a priori model here, but I’m reasonably confident that if you kill every single wolf, wolf predation drops to zero.

            I see lots of articles with the same spirit. One of my favorites was an article in Nature claiming that one could make more money per hectare by selectively exploiting the Brazilian rain forest than you could by cutting it down and raising cattle – it merely assumed that the typical Brazilian farmer was extremely knowledgeable about many different rare tree species and their habits, and that there was an infinite demand for Brazil nuts.

            But compared to sociologists, pikers.

    • Cato says:

      Your comment refers to group size, not to absolute numbers (and to efficiency, not total kills). But still extremely interesting–George Miller’s research (in the 1950s) on the optimal decision-making group size came up with the range 5 to 9 persons. That a species with lesser cognitive capacity (wolves) would have lower optimal group sizes makes perfect sense.

  2. Jerome says:

    Perhaps the authors should consider publishing only half of the bullshit they generate, as a control. Then they could determine whether grant renewal really depends upon publication. If it turns out they can get their grants renewed without publishing the nonsense they come up with, that finding could revolutionize scientific publishing.

  3. marcel proust says:

    Isn’t this what you were looking for? I can’t imagine you were unaware of it. Even though it has little to do with biology, it is clearly related to physics. You must have forgotten about it.

  4. marcel proust says:

    This is the right link. My bad.

  5. Space Ghost says:

    Is there a word or phrase for the generic rhetorical strategy of proposing an absurd null hypothesis, and then arguing that there is no evidence to reject it?

  6. Kamran says:

    Can we domesticate bears?

  7. Anonymous says:

    So what’s the example of bringing up a midget to bat?

  8. TWS says:

    The author’s should be fired, out of a cannon. Some of the commenters should join them. One idiot suggested that people should all gather food from the wild.

    I guess they wish most of us dead.

  9. Jim says:

    As for not arresting murderers I think we’re pretty close to that in places like Chicago or Detroit.

  10. KoyoteKiller says:

    The “No proof that shooting predators saves livestock” is pure propaganda that will be pushed by vegan PETA enviro-hippies when it comes to suburban coyotes.

    Suburban coyotes are a growing problem precisely because they’re not being trained to fear the two-legged creature with the stick that goes boom.

    I noticed two coyote on my lawn and when I went outside, they barely even glanced at me. This bothered me since I have small children. I called up my city’s wildlife control and was informed by the resident vegan PETA enviro-hippy that:

    a) coyotes were here first and we should respect that
    b) I shouldn’t worry, they never bite humans
    c) culling them makes more of them

    In reality,

    1) Depending on where you live, like say, California — coyotes weren’t there first — they follow human habitation like cockroaches, rats, pigeons etc etc — and even if they ‘were here first’ — who the fuck cares? Once a decent sized canine stops showing fear of humans and in fact, preys on pets — time to cull.

    2) They DO occasionally bite humans.

    3) Humans make things go extinct ALL THE TIME — from mega-fauna thousands of years ago to the Tasmanian tiger not so ago — yet somehow, coyotes are like hydra, not only immune to culling, but anti-fragile to it!

    • TWS says:

      I have trapped coyotes for the bounty as a boy. You can thin their numbers with baits and traps but I think they are more like cockroaches than canines. They’re not like wolves. The wolves can be trapped out or hunted out but coyotes are cannier critters. I think it’s because they are smaller and cannot ‘muscle’ their way out of the trouble a wolf can. Not actually smarter but more cautious.

      • It is interesting how much better coyotes can survive in populated areas than wolves can. Another cockroach like phenomenon that breeds faster than it can be killed is feral pigs. They are a huge problem in the south and the best efforts cannot kill them nearly as fast as they breed. In one night they can destroy a whole farm field. We will be hearing a lot more about “pigs gone wild” in our lifetime. They probably won’t spread too far north because of lack of food supply in the winter but if they establish themselves in California, the sweet spot for so many of our cash crops, they could potentially wreak tremendous damage. It is quite a story that these feral pigs are able to outbreed armies of rednecks chasing them down in all terrain vehicles and blasting away with automatic weapons equipped with advanced night vision technology that makes every pig glow like a christmas tree. We breed our domesticated pigs to breed insanely fast so their independent kinfolk do the same.

        • dearieme says:

          We don’t have a feral pig problem in Britain, but we do have a growing problem with wild boars, originating in escapes from herds imported from the Continent. No coyotes, but the urban fox is becoming a mild pest, with occasional intrusions into houses and attacks on babies. Above all we suffer from an explosion in deer numbers, which damage woodland and kitchen gardens.

          Naturally there are people arguing for dealing with the deer by reintroducing wolves.

        • Wency says:

          It’s worth noting that hunters seem to be part of the problem here. There’s evidence in some areas that the pig problem got worse after open season was declared on them, since hunters then decided to then transport pigs and introduce them to more areas. Of course, I think the majority of people who hunt the pigs are doing so honestly, but a few bad actors can do a lot of damage.

          See this article:

          Systematic efforts are more effective at population control than a redneck with a pair of night-vision goggles and an AR.

          Likewise, it’s hunters who push for limits on killing does, so that for all the deer shot in America each year, the impact on the deer population is minimized. Having known someone who died in a car crash with a massive buck, I’m all for vastly culling the deer population.

          I enjoy hunting occasionally, but I think population control should take a priority over recreation.

          • I don’t like people very much, especially southern ones ,and I have never met a wild pig so right now I am on the side of the pigs. I am glad they are winning. It’s about time people lost a few battles with their mammal foes. What I hear is the property owners hate the damned beasts, because they act like an army of rototillers in their farm fields. But the trailer trash think they are just fine and dandy because you can kill one anytime you like and have a pig roast. If they get to my California grapes I’ll be pissed, until then I’m rooting for the rooters.

        • anonymous says:

          Feral pigs are already a huge problem in California. Open season all year, no limit, yet they still can’t stop the pig expansion.

    • Patrick L. Boyle says:

      I live in the big city. Not the suburbs and certainly not the country. I live in Oakland California.

      But even so the City of Oakland has a sign posted at the bottom of the hill to beware of the cougars. I’ve never seen a cougar hereabouts but I have seen the half eaten carcasses of deer in the surrounding woods. Maybe the deer are being killed by coyotes but I’ve never seen a coyote around here either.

      I built a deer proof fence around my house. It took a lot of redwood lumber but my wife wanted roses and the damn deer eat the roses. I have a scoped Remington rifle in 30-06. That’s an excellent deer rifle but the local authorities would frown on me firing it here (it’s the city remember). We just have to endure the damn deer.

      So I like the idea of cougars hunting in the neighborhood. I’m on the fence about wolves.

      • Wency says:

        I once lived in a neighborhood in the Mountain West where every now and then, a cougar would attack a dog someone left out in the yard. Not pretty. Usually the same cougar would then keep hunting dogs until someone shot it. I’m not sure about the legality of shooting cougars, but whoever shot it would be hero for a day.

      • TWS says:

        Had a cougar eat the cats off my porch. When I had enough I called the wildlife guy who was a friend. He asked if I followed the tracks I said no, I saw enough I know what it was. So he said, ‘follow them you won’t like what you find.’

        I followed them and the bastard had been crossing my yard every-damn-night and sitting in the tall grass in the field across from the house watching my animals and kids play.

        He tracked it to another neighborhood where it had been habitually watching kids and even pooping in the sand boxes. He shot it as soon as he saw it. ‘Spends too much time stalking kids’.

        He gave me hell about it everytime he saw me for a while because the cat had worn a grove in my yard and I never noticed. After the cat was shot the local coyotes started using the same track through my yard until my neighbors put a fence up.

        If there is a cat you’ll probably never see it. I’ve lived in cougar country most of my life and only saw three by accident.

      • R. says:

        I built a deer proof fence around my house. <<

        Electric fence doesn’t work on them?

        • another fred says:

          Need to be 8 feet high or they jump them.

          • Patrick L. Boyle says:

            In Oakland apparently by local ordinance you may only have a fence six feet tall. I solved this problem by having a ‘six foot fence’ that is as much as nine feet tall. New math.

  11. RCB says:

    I was always annoyed whenever some paper reported that, e.g. p = 0.12, and then concluded in no uncertain terms that the variable in question “had no effect.” Only once one crosses the 0.05 probability level (a number handed down from God) can one conclude that there is an effect.

    • marcel proust says:

      Not god, but close enough: Fisher

      • RCB says:

        I had heard that Fisher suggested the 0.05, but I didn’t realize he took it so seriously:
        “Personally, the writer prefers to set a low standard of significance at the 5 per cent point, and ignore entirely all results which fail to reach this level.”
        This seems sort of dumb to me; it’s trying to turn probabilistic inference into a matter of black and white. To “ignore entirely” all results of p = 0.051 but to suddenly take seriously all results of p = 0.05 seems unjustifiable. Why not simply accord hypotheses credit in proportion to the evidence? Hopefully he meant this just a rough guideline, not the rule by which science would operate for decades.

        • Jim says:

          Obviously it’s an arbitrary rule.

        • melendwyr says:

          The lower the standard, the easier it is to find the result you want by conducting tests until chance produces ‘significant’ results. It’s not so much intended to hold reality to a higher standard than researchers, who are desperate to publish and/or reinforce their cherished beliefs.

          • RCB says:

            But this problem is caused by using an arbitrary conventional p value as the test for “truth.” Suppose that instead of teaching…

            A. p <= k means it’s a real effect (publish). p > k means it’s not (try again?).

            we taught…

            B. p values are one way of measuring the strength of evidence against a null hypothesis; smaller p values suggest stronger evidence. (i.e., what it actually means)

  12. Jim says:

    Are bears significant predators on livestock?

  13. Jim says:

    In the Houston area where I lived until recently I often heard of people sighting coyotes. I only saw some once while living there for 22 years. Many years ago after some heavy rains and extensive flooding I saw what at first seemed to be two very large dogs from my office window on the south side of US 10. They seemed huge and then I realized they must be coyotes driven out of the reservoirs north of 10 by the flooding.

    I’ve never heard of anyone being attacked by coyotes in the Houston area. They seem no more dangerous than the alligators in the bayous.

    According to the Texas Wildlife Commission the fearsome chucacapras are coyotes with mange.

    • another fred says:

      “They seem no more dangerous than the alligators in the bayous.”

      Yeah, gators are so friendly.

      • dearieme says:

        I’ve seen complaints that some loonies have introduced African crocs to Florida. You’ll really have to worry if anyone releases Australian “salties” there.

        • another fred says:

          There are smallish native crocs at the very southernmost tip of Florida that are quite tolerant of salt water, although not to the extent of “salties”. Some have expressed concern about what might happen if the African crocs interbreed with them, although I suppose that is speculative.

          • another fred says:

            American crocodile – a not well known species.

            “The habitat of the American crocodile consists largely of coastal areas.[3] It is also found in river systems, but has a tendency to prefer, not merely to tolerate, some level of salinity, resulting in the species’s congregating in brackish lakes, mangrove swamps, lagoons, cays, and small islands. Other crocodiles also have tolerance to salt water due to salt glands underneath the tongue, but the American crocodile is the only species other than the saltwater crocodile (C. porosus) to commonly live and thrive in salt water.[4]”


            • Jim says:

              Isn’t the American crocodile the same species as found in Mexico and Central America? They can’t tolerate any frost so in Florida they are mostly found in the southeastern part of the state south of the Ten Thousand Islands (there are actually 18,000 islands according to satellite observations)

      • Jim says:

        I’ve never heard of a person in the Houston area killed by an alligator. Of course if one goes down into the bayous in addition to alligators one might run into water moccasins.

    • Wency says:

      Multiple people die from alligator attacks each decade, but it looks like only 1 American and 1 Canadian have been confirmed dead from coyote attacks.

      In Chicago, they’re a huge problem, primarily in the suburbs, but also in the city. I even had a pair on one occasion try to follow me into my suburban home there. Took me a moment to realize they weren’t dogs, as they acted mostly like a pushy pair of dogs.

      As with cougars, while they can be a threat to people (especially children), it seems they’re a bigger threat to pets.

      • william munny says:

        In the northeast US, they have been floating the idea that reintroducing cougars would reduce deer numbers. The argument is that it would save human lives, and the number of deaths from cougars would never equal the amount saved by reducing car accidents involving deer. It is utterly ridiculous. If they wanted to decrease deer numbers, they could increase the amount of deer hunter are allowed to take and/or extend the hunting seasons. That would also increase revenue, etc. Coyote numbers are increasing, and they are moving closer to full-time open season on them, after a handful of incidents involving children and pets.

    • RCB says:

      If it looks like a large dog, it’s probably not a coyote.

      • Jim says:

        I saw them from a distance and there were two of them very similar in appearance. They would have been very unusual looking dogs so it is odd that two such dogs would be right together. They were on the north side of 10 where the reservoirs are and where nobody lives.

  14. Sean says:

    As I understand it only one alpha pair in a wolf pack breeds, so they can’t recover quickly Coyotes are different, which is why they are being killed by farmers on sight, yet there are still zillions of them. The more wolves* around the less cattle killed by coyotes (* wolves in this context Includes the domesticated wolves called guard dogs, which coyotes fear as much as wolves, who kill coyotes on sight)..Addilson Motter has some interesting ideas about exterminating one species to protect the rest of the ecosystem.

    • Ziel says:

      Yet they mate and have hybrid offspring

      • Sean says:

        “I found a dead coyote on a well-used game trail. This relatively fresh coyote carcass had been there for maybe one or two days. It lay on its back, limbs outspread and neck outstretched. Its throat had been ripped out and it had been eviscerated. No other flesh had been removed. All around it lay evidence of the perpetrator of this carnage: wolf feces and tracks. The coyote appeared to have been a young adult male in relatively good health that had perished because it had had the misfortune to come upon a wolf. In most systems wolves make it their business to kill coyotes. This particular carcass had been left on a primary game trail as a grisly marker and warning to other coyotes that wolves rule this system—they are the apex predator.”

  15. RaceRealist says:

    Hi Professor Cochran I had a quick question I wanted to know if you could shed some light on it.

    Are Australoids and Pacific islanders Negroid? Some people may say due to their phenotype that they are negroid however, those populations cluster nowhere near Africans.

    What are your thoughts?

  16. Yudi says:

    One ironically good result of the Veeck Effect is that it forces the deprecated side to do very careful scientific research, since the Establishment is in such strong opposition to it and thus needs a lot of convincing. Linda Gottfredson pointed this out in regards to IQ research some years ago, and guess which aspect of psychology has weathered the replication crisis the best?

    • gcochran9 says:

      Hereditary influence on cognition and behavior are strong, obvious, and disliked by the typical university graduate. I wonder if they dislike the second law of thermodynamics too.

      Since the average Bushman is closer to the truth than the average Yalie on these questions, being careful about the statistics is really not the key point.

      • Yudi says:

        I’m more pointing out that it’s nice to know the findings we pay attention to are founded upon solid research methods and replication, unlike those of the stereotype threat believers. Build your house upon a solid rock, not shifting sand. That’s a good thing to do even if no one else is paying attention.

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