"Sound Science" and Bio-Political Desires
Wildlife biologists and management officials admit they cannot claim credit for historical dove populations in the United States. Past numbers have been the result of accidental circumstance and illustrate what can happen to a species when natural selection molds populations in response to new or changing ecologic conditions.
Under the guise of conservation or "enhancement," the term "sound science" has proven to be an empty, yet deceptive political phrase - a fallacious play on words used to give credibility to sophistic refutations. As dove shooting proponents whine "why can't we...?," they are forced, by indisputable evidence, to concede that hunting is not needed to "manage" the mourning dove population and there is no environmental or reasonable reason to use doves as a "consumptive resource" - they are truly benign and beneficial to man as a valuable natural control for pest weeds, they are not over-populated, they do not threaten or harm other species or crops, and they do not provide a viable human food source.
"Maintenance" of mourning dove populations is required due to the additional stresses, pressures, and demands put upon the dove population because of the species being hunted by man in some states. To this end, hunting management schemes include estimates of population, survey of harvest, and habitat manipulation. Acknowledging "serious problems" in using state and federal harvest surveys to estimate the impact of hunting, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is finally recognizing that factors are multi-faceted and that conclusions and management plans drawn from this information are clearly inadequate at this time.
Management of this species has been a very controversial subject, even within regulatory agencies, due to the simplistic beliefs and assumptions that harvest does not effect small game populations... special interest desires have been allowed to prevail over meaningful biological indices.
Long-term population studies continue to indicate declines at a cumulative rate. Not surprisingly, USFWS research confirms that "dove populations from groups of non-hunting states in the Northeast and Upper Mideast have much higher annual survival rates." Michigan's population (which at its peak is ONLY about one percent of the total estimated mourning dove population) has maintained subsistence because it is not subjected to human hunting pressures.
As dove population trends continue to slide in the hunting states, shooters have their zealous eye on our protected non-migrating songbird population in Michigan...and they want those "targets" in their sights!
Songbird Protection Coalition