Predator, Prey, and the People of Iowa: CEC member advances education for biodiversity

24 October 2010 | News story

Predator, Prey, and the People of Iowa is a series of educational programs from elementary school to university level. The programs are carried out by CEC member Ron DeArmond's organization, Pella Wildlife Company.

Moose, elk, black bear, cougar and wolf all have been gone for over 100 years in Iowa -- extirpated and forgotten until now. Pella Wildlife Company focuses on the biodiversity of Iowa wildlife, the history of wildlife, the mistakes in management, and the future as species try to return to former habitat.

Predator, Prey, and People is a series of programs designed to educate and study the return of predators to Iowa, the prey species that at one time and currently live in Iowa, and the response of Iowans’ to this change in wildlife diversity and the impact on agriculture and people.

Education programs begin at the elementary level with a focus on the purpose each species has in an ecosystem. In middle and high school we look at the basics of wildlife management, habitat, carrying capacity and limiting factors. At the university level the focus is on research and public surveys to asses the current level of tolerance for species and conservation issues.

Overcoming the myths and misconceptions passed down through generations is the biggest obstacle to overcome. The need for balanced wildlife education is evident from the request for programs featuring live wildlife ambassadors. According to Project Wild “Studying animals in the classroom enables students to develop skills of observation and comparison; a sense of stewardship; and an appreciation for the unity, interrelationships, and complexity of life.” Accurate and factual information is the foundation of all programs. Measurable results will come from the tolerance of all wildlife found in future generations.

Field research is another element of the Predator, Prey and People programs. Research and tracking of predator species (wolves, black bears and cougars) by using GPS collars and acquiring DNA samples will help determine diversity of gene pools as well as location of territories, like species, and den sites. Prey species diversity and population counts will help determine the likelihood of depredation to livestock as a result of the rise and fall cycles of wildlife prey. All extirpated species (predator and prey) will need to be allowed to reach sustainable numbers should the existing habitats be able to support them.

Currently Pella Wildlife Company is working with state agencies, universities, agricultural entities and other conservation organizations to work together and find common ground that will benefit wildlife, agriculture, all Iowans’ and tourists to our state. Positive steps are being made that may lead to legislation that will allow the sustainability of all Iowa wildlife in wild places. Under current Iowa code many of the species trying to re-establish themselves in Iowa are not in a management plan and therefore can be indiscriminately killed. Education and communication are key in dispelling the myths, eliminating the fear and providing hope to a common sense approach to wildlife management. 

For more information, contact Ron DeArmond ron@pellawildlifecompany.org