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Scientists: Predators needed in U.S. lands

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SAN MATEO, Calif., June 22 (UPI) -- More large predators such as cougars are needed in wild lands in the western United States to enhance overall wildlife populations, two scientists say.

Two Oregon State University scientists have suggested if additional large predators were introduced to national parks in the western United States, other wildlife there would likely benefit from their presence, the San Mateo (Calif.) County Times reported Saturday.

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"We've lost many large predators," scientist Robert Beschta said. "And most of us didn't realize the effects that may have caused."

Beschta and fellow scientist William Ripple have hypothesized that a small predator population means the number of wild herbivores will increase dramatically. Those herbivores, in turn, decimate regional plant life since they are no longer restricted by such predators.

David Graber, who serves as the National Park Service's chief scientist for the Pacific West Region, told the Times the duo's hypothesis could revolutionize the view of predators in the wild.

"It's one of the most exciting new ideas in ecology within the last 25 years," Graber said. "The whole notion of how important large predators are on the landscape is extraordinary."

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