Some Predators are Returning to Areas where they are not ‘Supposed’ to Be

A run-in with an alligator in the ‘wrong’ place launched a fascinating new study. 3S5X6603 by Eileen Fonferko. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Dana Kobilinsky, a science writer for The Wildlife Society, recently published a fascinating article. It concerns predatory animals appearing in seemingly ‘new’ habitats.

The article tells the story of Brian Silliman: a biologist who was studying food webs in a saltmarsh on a Georgia island. While performing field work at night, Silliman had a frightening encounter with an alligator that tried to attack him.

For Silliman, one of the most unsettling aspects of this experience was that alligators were not ‘supposed’ to be there: the saltmarsh should have been too salty for them. But it turns out that the saltmarsh Silliman was working in was home to many alligators.

Subsequent research revealed that predators such as mountain lions, sea otters, grey wolves, river otters, and more are turning up in ‘new’ habitats. However, Silliman and his colleagues have concluded that these species are actually returning to ecosystems that they inhabited in the past – before being chased out by humans.

This has important implications. For one, it suggests that biologists may have been unnecessarily restricting the habitat ranges for some predatory animals. As a result, there may be more opportunities to recover species like sea otters than previously thought.

Silliman also suggested that the adaptability of some predators means that human-wildlife coexistence may not always be impossible. It appears that certain species may be able share the landscapes we inhabit – if we let them. Silliman acknowledged that this will not work for all species and locations, but it will for some.

Given the expanding influence of humans on the biosphere, and the steady decline of many of the Earth’s predators, all opportunities for human-wildlife coexistence should be seized upon. The future may depend on learning to live, safely, with species we have previously chosen not to tolerate.

Click Here for the Original Article from Dana Kobilinksy of The Wildlife Society

Further Reading:

Are the ghosts of nature’s past haunting ecology today? – Silliman et al. (2018).

28 Thoughts

  1. This was actually really interesting! I get that alligators are dangerous but I think they (scientists and humans) should just leave them and not cross into that area because at the end of the day, they were there first!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a good point. These animals were around long before humans arrived, and that’s ESPECIALLY true for Europeans in the Americas (who only arrived in the 1500s). So we have no right to say this land is ‘ours.’ We need to keep people safe, but we also need to allow animals to live in human-dominated areas.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This made e think of cocodiles in Australia. They have the habit of returning to areas from where they have been moved away. If they continue to cause problems they are relocated to farms and zoos.
    It also reminded me of predatory people, who also love to try to return to their old stompling grounds.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, though there’s obviously a considerable difference between predatory people and predatory animals. The latter are simply trying to survive in areas they had always inhabited – before humans pushed them out. Predatory people, on the other hand, are malicious and despicable.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a very interesting read.
    I believe that humans can co-exist with wild life if they want to.
    That can only happen though if we as humans are willing to respect the animals rights of existence and the right for them to also have a habitat.
    Back in my home town we have a national park very near to the city and so far we are all co-existing peacefully, though there has been a few incidents where the animals have wondered out of the park and walked through the streets.
    I reckon most of those predators are just going back to their roots since it was their natural habitat to begin with.

    Liked by 1 person

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