The Boom and Bust Cycle

Trophy hunting is a dying hobby that’s struggling to justify itself in today’s age of empathy and education. There are some who use declining populations of game species (deer, waterfowl, etc.) as an excuse to justify the trophy hunting of their predators, such as bobcats and mountain lions, citing a non-existent danger that those predators will wipe out their prey base. Conservationists have known for decades, however, that ecology just doesn’t work that way.

The boom and bust cycle describes a pattern in population trends between predator and prey. The classic example cites the dynamic between Canadian lynx (the bobcat’s close cousin) and snowshoe hares, but the cycle applies to almost all predator-prey relationships in the animal kingdom.

When a predator’s (say, a bobcat’s) population rises, it’s true that more and more prey may be taken with time. When prey numbers fall from that¬†predation pressure, though, having less food to go around will affect the bobcat’s population and it too will fall alongisde declining resources.

The above model is a simplification of a complex interplay between a variety of species, but shows the general responses that predator and prey populations have to one another (notice the lag time between cycles as each population adjusts itself). The takeaway here is if you want to manage a healthy ecosystem, give it room to thrive and regulate itself instead of continuing to kill off its constituents!

Aaron Huelsman

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