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Home » Santa Clarita News » Environment » SCV Outdoor Report » Santa Clarita Valley Outdoor Report: Balancing Act
Santa Clarita Valley Outdoor Report: Balancing Act

Santa Clarita Valley Outdoor Report: Balancing Act

Dr. Francis Collins, the currect Director of the NIH, is one of my heroes because he is both a top-notch scientist and a Christian.  I like his perspective on dealing with opposing points of view: “One must dig deeply into opposing points of view in order to know whether your own position remains defensible. Iron sharpens iron.”

And when it comes to the issue of reestablishing wolves in California, there are definitely “two opposing points of view”.

One point of view comes from those who make their living working the  land – ranchers and farmers.  My grandparents were dairy farmers and my father was an outdoorsman, so I can readily identify with this perspective.  I see three reasons people are concerned about wolves.

First, wolves can and will kill livestock.  According to this “Wolf Report” from, “Predation on livestock by wildlife is a concern for ranchers and farmers throughout the United States.”  They go on to say, “It is reasonable to expect several outcomes if wolves become established in California.”  And one primary outcome will be that “wolves will kill some livestock.”

SCV Outdoor Report: Balancing Act, cow 

Second, wolves can and will kill animals that are also hunted by humans. We know that ungulates such as deer “are favored prey for wolves.”  We also know that, “Prey availability is an important factor affecting wolf distribution and abundance.”  Columbian Black-tailed deer live in Northern California and along the central coast, while here in the south, we see more California Mule deer (including Southern Mule deer). Click here to see a map.

Third, wolves can and will kill people. There have been two documented cases in North America in the last 100 years, the last one occurring in Alaska in 2010.   If you want to know more about staying safe, here’s a brochure from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:  “Staying Safe in Wolf Country”. 

SCV Outdoor Report: Balancing Act, Deer

The second point of view comes from ecologists and environmentalists.  They speak of something known as a “trophic cascade”, which involves the various hierarchical (trophic) levels of a food chain.  “Trophic cascades are powerful indirect interactions that can control entire ecosystems. Trophic cascades occur when predators limit the density and/or behavior of their prey and thereby enhance survival of the next lower trophic level.”

Since wolves have been re-introduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995, scientists have been studying the ecological effects. According to one website, “We have discovered that an ecological effect called the “trophic cascade” has taken over Yellowstone, with the wolves initiating a more natural ecosystem balance than has been seen in over 65 years.”  This brief video from National Geographic, “How Wolves Change Rivers”, explains it in more detail: “We all know that wolves kill many species of animals…but they give life to many others”.

So what are we to make of all of this?  I have two thoughts to share.  The first is that we have just enough knowledge of the natural world to fool ourselves into thinking we know it all.  The second thought is similar to the first – we have just enough control over the natural world to fool ourselves into thinking we have complete control.  

The choices we make involving the reestablishing of wolves in California will have consequences – some good and some bad, some expected and some unexpected.  My personal choice would be to allow the wolves to reestablish themselves.  But at the same time, I would keep watch for and prepare to deal with the consequences as they arise.


Free Birding App.  For those of you who are looking for a good birding app for your Apple cellphone or iPad, the Cornell Lab of Ornitholgy is offering a free app.  Click here for more information.

Free Santa Clarita Trail App.  The City of Santa Clarita is offering a free Hike Santa Clarita App.  Click here for more information, here for the Android app or here for the iTunes app.


Upcoming Outdoor Events: 

Saturday, May 17th, 8am.  Migration Mysteries.

Springtime is here and so are many birds who visit TowsleyCanyon. From songbirds to raptors, discover what bird species migrate through our region, how, and why. Beginning birders are welcome. Binoculars optional. Meet at TowsleyCanyon’s front parking lot. For a trail map, click here.

Trail Maintenance Schedule.  Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails.  Contact Steve at for time and place.

Wednesday mornings, May 7, 14, 21 & 28.
Saturday mornings, May 17.

New trail maps available.  If you’d like to explore a bit on your own, the City of Santa Clarita has a website with trail maps of our local open spaces.

There’s also a new website for bicycle riders.  

Ask Dr. Norm:  Do you have questions about the flora, fauna, animals, rocks, etc. in our Santa Clarita Valley?  Here’s a place for you to ask your questions. Dr. Norman Herr, Ph.D., is a professor of science and computer education at CaliforniaStateUniversity, Northridge.

Tell Us About Your Hike: Here’s a new website where you can post pictures, provide feedback and make suggestions about the City of Santa Clarita’s trails and open spaces.


You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on “The SCV Outdoor Report”, brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.

For the complete MRCA hike and activity schedule and for trail maps, click here or go to    

Or check out our Facebook page  – L.A. Mountains


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Santa Clarita Valley Outdoor Report: Balancing Act

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