Our Native Carnivores: A Historical Perspective


Gustave Dore 

Our farmers today live within a specific point in history on our American continent, yet the present time has been greatly influenced by the human history of the past.

As a conservation biologist whose focus is large carnivores, I find that historical perspectives regarding our understanding of our place within Earth’s communities and the behavior that flows from those perspectives is essential to understanding our present day relationship with carnivores. How we view them and how we treat them today have their foundations in the past.

History of Human Relationship with Carnivores

St. Pierre So in this, my first blog post for MOTHER EARTH NEWS, I want to take you back in history, sharing with you worldviews and the actions that expressed those views, as Europeans settled on the American continent.

Historians write that by the 1500s, Europe had already decimated its large carnivores, such as wolves, and relegated them to remote mountain areas. Wolves were equated with evil, the devil, and sensual proclivity — and so the story of Little Red Riding Hood.

There was no understanding at that time in history regarding the importance of carnivores in maintaining biodiversity, controlling prey species’ populations, and protecting the community of life from disease. And, of course, along with the destruction of carnivore populations, Europe also decimated the landscape, cutting down whole forests and destroying topsoil.

9/21/2015 9:05:38 AM

So pleased to see this post and looking forward to learning more. I especially appreciated your observation that the colonists coming to North America lacked many of the skills and husbandry practices that would have been useful in dealing with large carnivores.This has certainly been our challenge as the large predators have returned to the landscape and ecosystem.

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