Poisoning one bird to save another

This spring, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game will spend $100,000 to poison Ravens with “strategically placed” chicken eggs. The poison will only affect Corvids (Ravens, Crows, Magpies, etc.). Ravens are the biggest contributor to egg predation of Sage Grouse nests and the department claims Ravens have expanded their territory due to “human-related activities.” Structures such as power lines, houses, windmills, and water towers are results from human-related activities and provide nesting sites for Ravens.

In the attached article, the department states they are not sure Ravens are a cause for sage grouse population decline. They also say they are sure that once a pair of territorial Ravens is poisoned and killed it will immediately be replaced by another pair. Already, this sounds like a bad idea. Not only is the department releasing poison into the environment, they also don’t know if it will work!

Also in the article, Katie Fite, the biodiversity director for the Western Watersheds Project, says if there is a problem with egg predation, it isn’t because of the predator, but lack of cover for the nest. Sagebrush provides most of this cover for Sage Grouse and its depletion is caused mostly by cattle grazing. Fite believes poisoning Ravens is a project that dances around improving cattle grazing practices.

Cattle grazing is a sensitive topic between the government and ranchers. Some organizations such as the Sage Grouse Initiative and Pheasants Forever are already successfully working with ranchers to improve grazing practices, even in Idaho! These organizations are working with ranchers to prevent listing Sage Grouse under the Endangered Species Act by improving their population numbers. Preventing listing will help ranchers by preventing more regulation on public lands and sage grouse by improving their habitats.

While working with the BLM and interacting with ranchers in Oregon this past summer, I learned if you provide logical reasons and benefits to the public, the public will support and comply with government decisions. Also, I think when people don’t understand why a government agency is using a lot of money to implement an action they are less likely to obey regulations. Poisoning Ravens doesn’t seem logical and I don’t see a reason for why the Idaho Department of Fish and Game needs to implement this project or ignore combating cattle grazing. I think conducting such a project with tax dollars without further studies is very irresponsible for a government agency.