Desert Restoration: Aoudad, Mule Deer and Summer Rain
These short videos were taken in August 2014 at “Sheep Tank,” which is on the south edge of the Circle Ranch, at an elevation of approximately 5,500 feet.
Sheep Tank is in a long, broad valley, which is approximately 1,000 feet higher than our lowest desert, and 1,000 feet lower than our highest mountain country.
Because this valley is situated at a mid-range elevation and adjoins steep cliffs and rugged canyons representing all the ranch’s terrain types, we will see all of our species at these water points periodically.
This video contains pictures of three aoudad rams. These truly beautiful animals provide great hunting, and good eating to boot. They fill an empty ecological niche in our mountains and canyons. Based on our observations conducted over 15 years, they are completely compatible with the other wild animals – bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, pronghorn – that we regularly find in the high mountains.
Aoudad are often the target of eradication efforts pursued by the followers of the false science known as “Invasive Species Biology” or “Invasion Biology,” a disastrous wildlife doctrine that more closely resembles religion than science. This misguided mindset justifies war on thousands of wild plants and animals that are allegedly invading places they do not belong, and doing “harm” to natural systems in the process.
In fact, aoudad bring much needed animal impact to remote areas, especially cliffs and canyons and stimulate the plants that support all wild animals. They are also a buffer against predation of sheep, deer, elk and pronghorn, by cougar and other predators.
Mule deer, although declining in number, are found throughout West Texas. Their population decline is the result of habitat decline which is in turn blamed on “invasive species,” including cattle, aoudad and many others. In fact, habitat decline, also known as desertification, coincides with the removal of herding ruminants whose combined grazing and hoof action naturally “tilled” the soil, and, tended and fertilized the plants. Although much desertification is rightly blamed on poor ranching and agricultural practices, the root cause of grassland desertification worldwide is the decimation of large herding animals, their predators and cousin creatures essential to ecosystem health.
Biodiversity – the diversity of life forms – is essential for ecological health. For the plant community to be healthy, it must be impacted by a wide variety of animal life. For the animal community to be vibrant, it must be supported by a wide variety of plant life. And neither can live without abundant soil life. Animals, plants and healthy soil in harmony determine whether water, minerals and sunlight can be used by what is called the ecosystem, food chain, web of life, or Mother Nature.
All-important summer rains come from infrequent, concentrated storms that move quickly, dumping a lot of water on small areas in very short periods. Unless the grasslands are healthy, this water quickly evaporates or runs off.
The solution to evaporation and runoff is not poisoning plants and killing wild animals, but protecting and encouraging plant and animal biodiversity.
Biodiversity is universally praised in principle but increasingly ignored in practice. We cannot “save” biodiversity by destroying biodiversity.
Thank you for another great article supporting biodiversity. If it was not for you I would feel like I’m the only one with these ideas in our area and therefore confirming my suspicion of insanity. People must develop a more complete thought process to understand the diverse roles each species plays in an ecosystem. It seems as if everyone can only base theories on consumption backed by irrelevant and unproven what ifs. Perhaps that mind set is a direct reflection of our evolving culture. It’s too bad it is nature that suffers from human ignorance and propaganda.
Thank you Brandt, and don’t lose heart. A groundswell is building against eradications.
I admire your stubborn courage in speaking up for wild animals which cannot speak for themselves.