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One Less Angel

Capt. William E. Simpson, Preparedness & Survival author badge, myoutdoorboddy.com

t was a beautiful sunny morning in late April when little ‘Rain’ was born to ‘Cinder’ and ‘Majestic’, two of the most beautiful wild (‘feral’) horses in Northern California. In the summer of 2014, Cinder lost her 3-month-old foal to a mountain lion, and having witnessed her anguish back then, we wanted to do whatever we could to help her this time around, including worming her and giving her some whole oats so that her milk would ensure a healthy, strong foal.

It was about 5:30 AM three-weeks later when our dog 'Jack' woke Laura and I... we weren't sure what he was alerting us to... When we got up, Laura saw Majestic and Cinder coming up to our homestead from the pasture below much earlier than ever before... it was then we realized that Cinder's 3-wk old foal ‘Rain’ was not in-tow... and Cinder

Horses; Left to right: ‘Cinder’, newborn ‘Rain’ and ‘Majestic’ , photo by William E. Simpson
Left to right: ‘Cinder’, newborn ‘Rain’ and ‘Majestic’

was clearly frantic... they both came right-up to us, face to face, and seemed to be asking for our help... they were clearly ‘asking’ (in their way) if we knew where Rain was to be found... Cinder was calling-out occasionally with a loud whinny for her little foal... and it was tearing our hearts out...

Little ‘Rain’ at one-week old… a tiny horse , photo by William E. Simpson
Little ‘Rain’ at one-week old… a tiny horse

I threw on my coat and grabbed my rifle... as Cinder and Majestic stood near Laura, heads held high; they were straining to survey the surroundings in search of their baby foal...

7-month old ‘Jack’: a McNab Red-Healer, photo by William E. Simpson
7-month old ‘Jack’: a McNab Red-Healer

I told Cinder “find your baby”; amazingly she seemed to understand me and immediately took-off down the hill towards the lower pasture... I was running as fast as I could to keep-up enough to track her.... Majestic was following behind her... I tracked them through the forest and tree-line and out into an open area about a mile down the mountain... where she started sniffing around under a big juniper tree... I could see from the compaction of the grass and litter on the ground under the tree that they had spent the night there...

I started circling the area; increasing the radius out from where they spent the night... as I circled looking for any signs or tracks, I was hoping that Rain might have gotten tangled in the rocks or fell into a hole or ravine... in the back of my mind, I feared what I might find more than any wild animal... it would be crushing to find his tiny remains...

I searched and searched the rugged terrain for nearly two hours... there was no sign of Rain anywhere... as I searched, Cinder would let out a loud whinny ever so often and then quietly stand tall with her ears flicking fore and aft listening for any response.... there was none.... I was coming to the grisly conclusion that Rain had been taken by a lion.

Adult mountain lions are about 150 to 200 pounds and can easily carry-off a 50-pound baby horse, which virtually leaves no trace... Coyotes on the other hand will run the horses trying to create a separation between the foal and the mare, which they will quickly capitalize upon. The same method is used on deer and cattle as well... and while part of the pack continues to harass and confuse the parents, others will savage the baby tearing it to pieces... Thereafter, the vultures circle-in and the shredded remains are well-marked.

Having found nothing, I hiked back home... it was a most depressing hike, as I could hear Cinder calling for her baby in the distance... who being only 3-weeks old, needed to nurse from her regularly to survive. When I got home, Laura and I got into the truck with Jack and we renewed the search on a nearby 4X4 road, hoping for a miracle that was not to be.

It was clear that a lion had taken little Rain.

Cinder's foal 'Majestic Rain' - April 28 - May 19, 2015 - RIP, photo by William E. Simpson
Cinder's foal 'Majestic Rain' - April 28 - May 19, 2015 - RIP

People need to wise-up... environmentalists (with and without political agendas) have played God far too often, and in this case, we now have a severe imbalance between the predator populations and prey as a result of over protection and bad management by the Gov. agencies.

Interestingly even the zealots at CDFW are starting to see the light.... even though average Americans living in the mountains for generations could have told them that an imbalance was unfolding a long time ago without a bunch of expensive and time consuming studies that waste tax-payers hard-earned money…

Predator-Prey Imbalance:
The counties in Southern Oregon and Northern California are suffering from a documented severe decline in our deer herds... and there’s nothing wrong with reasonable conservation efforts. In 1990, when mountain lions were very-few in number, it made sense to give them a respite from hunters with ‘protected’ status. And they in fact made a swift recovery in their numbers… so intelligent logical managers would normally remove such a status when a population returns to a normal level. That however is not the case with lions, and the idiots who are in charge have allowed the pendulum to swing past center and it’s now pegged on the opposite side where we have severe over-populations of lions. This is not ‘management’… this is sheer reckless stupidity. Combined with predation by the overabundant lion population, coyotes are running rampant everywhere, and are as bad or worse in many ways.

One of the ‘big-dogs’ at CDFW (Robert Schaefer) has written and talked about Siskiyou County's problem with predators and over-predation of the deer herds. Of course there’s much more than just deer being eaten… cattle, sheep and people’s pets are also on the menu now. So it's clear the thinking along these lines is now very widespread.

"As seen in the pilot phase, increasing trends in selenium deficiency and predator impacts are of interest to the black-tailed deer study,” said Schaefer.

Deer torn apart by coyote. Photo by William E. Simpson
I found 4 Coyote kills like this one on our land alone (last 4 months)

I had made calls to people at the CDFW a couple months back regarding the numerous deer carcasses that I have found (predated) on and around our lands by coyotes, which are also known to attack people and pets. Nobody seemed to be very interested in my story. Possibly because agency officials really don’t care, or are somewhat desensitized from hearing the same story before, over and over... which is why I am puzzled... why no effective action? Why allow this to continue? Why more excuses and studies? I thought the ‘plan’ was to rebuild the decimated deer herds?

Nevertheless, the lions (aka: Cougars) and coyotes in the Pacific Northwest are continuing to decimate the deer populations as I write this. This hunting season (up here at least) will certainly be the worst ever. And these predators, being unchecked in the growth of their populations, are now encroaching upon and threatening the safety of humans and pets.

Cougar attacks are on the rise as a result of greatly increased populations since about 1990, coupled with less prey. In fact, lions are starting to infiltrate into major cities, including Los Angeles! This is a bit of a public safety problem... It may lead to a multi-million dollar civil lawsuit for mismanagement against the CDFW when someone is killed, and that is merely a matter of time. I was recently regaled by one sheriff’s deputy about a lion in a tree at the local school-yard in Yreka, during school hours! There are many stories about lions presenting serious risks... Only a complete fool (or grossly inconsiderate) waits until there is loss of life before finally erecting a stop-sign at a known dangerous intersection. Of course civil litigation is what seems to move agencies these days… and they really don’t seem to care much about that either, since they fight and pay settlements to litigants using our tax dollars! It would be a different story if we could hold administrators personally liable.

The ranch above us has red and black Angus cattle that spend time around our place... so I put out mineral blocks and a watering trough for them; due to less than normal deer populations, I need more mammals to graze our pastures to reduce fire hazard in the Summer... About a month or so back, one of their cows had a calf in our pasture; it was killed and hauled-off within hours... Meantime, the cow was running around with an udder full of milk, which is not good for the cow... I raised cattle in the past, and losing calves is losing money!

Coat of foal showing tear marks caused by coyotes, Photo by William E. Simpson
The three foals that were born this year were all killed by predators! The coyotes savaged this foal.

In conclusion something needs to be done:
Land-owners in Siskiyou County (and many other counties) are paying an unspecified price to help sustain and grow the deer herds via the very real development restrictions that are placed on lands zoned to enhance deer populations. In the case of zoning for 'Critical Deer Wintering Habitat', land-owners in some counties cannot divide down less than 40-acres without a whole bunch of costly, time consuming environmental studies and requirements related to obtaining a variance from the existing zoning.

And as I have stated, I am 101% in favor of increasing the deer herd size and health to historic standards; there are many practical and economic benefits to healthy deer herds, including the support of a robust hunting industry, which puts millions of dollars into the local economies. However, if counties fail to cooperate, or are ineffective in that same effort by not allowing, and/or conducting reasonable management of the current over-population of predators, then there is a serious conflict with the stated intent and purpose of the zoning ordinance. I would really be disappointed to find that it's (Deer Zoning) merely another socialist-environmentalist ruse to control the use of privately owned property of Americans.

Forcing land owners to limit land-use under the auspices of improving herd size while concurrently and knowingly allowing predators to decimate the same herds is most unreasonable and certainly illogical. And delaying or deferring any effective action with more studies are merely a way of funding environmentalists engaged in bad-science with little or no impact on a growing problem.

I do realize that the newspaper article and quote herein (link) also mentions local 'selenium' deficiency as a possible contributing factor, but that statement is contradicted in light of the facts: the mineral composition of the geology in most locales has not changed in the last 10,000 years, and the recent historic deer populations numbered 10-fold current populations with the same levels of localized selenium. So we are presented with a conundrum.

As to the alleged "selenium" deficiency theory having any causality in the decline of deer populations; this statement is scientifically unsound in non-agricultural habitats (natural deer habitats)... and here is why I believe that to be true:

First of all, anyone that has been to the doctor's office and had blood (and/or hair sample) work done for an intensive physical, knows that things like serum and bio mineral percentages are easily discovered. And blood-bio samples are, all things being equal, are essentially a 'snapshot' of a person's physiology in time, where your blood chemistry and bio-sample results are a function of what you have eaten relatively recently.

In many cases, for instance, when a person is found to be iron deficient, a supplement is added to the diet and normally that deficiency is remedied in very short order; in most cases serum levels of iron and other minerals is modified within 24-48 hours of ingesting the supplement. As they saying goes, you are what you eat. The physiology of deer are not so alien from humans that this is not also true for them.

So the blood and bio-samples taken from deer are greatly affected by their recent food and water intakes, which is a function of the available food and water supply in the locality where the animal was captured (near a farmer's field? or high in the mountains?).

The mineral content and percentages (geological) in most natural deer habitats is very constant over hundreds, even thousands of years, while the deer populations have declined steeply. Hunting has some effect on herd size, especially where there are other stressors, such as an unnaturally high number of apex predators such as lions, wolves and coyotes. In the case of Siskiyou County and other locales, it is certain there are serious issues with lion and coyote populations, with wolves looming on the horizon as another potential problem.

It is a logical assumption that; the percentage composition of selenium and/or other minerals in agricultural areas may be depleted to some degree over time in fields used for agriculture to some extent or another, even with crop management (rotation) and the use of expensive soil amendments, where crops of grasses, etc. are intensively grown and harvested and/or grazed-off. This process is well-known to cause mineral compositions in soils (and therefore, the plants) to vary over time, and in many cases, some minerals are chronically depleted in the soils.

It is my assumption that when Mr. Schaefer posits that 'selenium deficiency' may be an issue in the documented deer population decline, that this very preliminary 'selenium thesis', is an observation stemming from blood work and other bio-samples obtained from trapped animals. And that most (if not all?) may have been captured on or near agricultural lands, as opposed to animals that range extensively over time in the wilderness areas, which have not been habituated to life in and around agricultural fields.

History is replete with poorly designed 'scientific' studies by environmentalists, who set-out to 'prove a point' in support of an agenda that may not be immediately obvious, as opposed to 'learning something new', which might upset their agendas, or God forbid, contradict a past doctoral thesis by an advocate (they hate being wrong). We need to be wary of such potentially unsound methodologies by any so-called scientists.

In any event, it's my position that the Counties should be proactive in supporting their Citizens in dealing with these issues directly (also saves the Counties money), and allow land owners to effectively control their own predator problems (who knows better how to manage pests than the local land-owner?).

I don't think it's fair to land owners in the counties with Zoning Restrictions intended to enhance deer herds only to suffer these ridiculous predator populations... Personally, I am not interested in farming meals for predators… a few are OK, too many predators are a disaster!

We can continue to turn away from this problem, and if we do so, we will all suffer the consequences, directly or indirectly, one way or another.

Please join me in my appeal to County and Federal officials... and let them know they are also responsible and liable for fixing this problem... displacing responsibility (passing the buck) is unacceptable.

William E. Simpson spent his formative years growing up on a working ranch in the Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon. William (aka: 'Capt. Bill') is a retired U.S. Merchant Marine Officer with decades of boating and expedition sailing experience, having logged more than 150,000 miles at sea. Capt. Bill has successfully survived long-term ‘off the grid’ at sea and at remote uninhabited desert islands with his family for years at a time. In early 2013, he appeared on National Geographic’s hit TV show Doomsday Preppers (Season-2 ‘A Fortress At Sea’) and received the highest score in two seasons for disaster preparedness and survival, earning the title of ‘Best Prepper’.

Capt. Bill is also a commercial airplane and helicopter pilot and a PADI DiveMaster. Simpson is an accomplished writer covering all aspects of disaster preparedness, including a recent book ‘The Nautical Prepper’ (Ulysses Press). His articles have been featured via numerous magazines and websites and he has been a featured guest on various disaster preparedness radio talk shows. More info at WilliameSimpson.com

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