Hunting Across the National Park System: Good or Bad?

Is it just that hunts of bison in Yellowstone or brown bears in Katmai draw protests and not hunts of pheasants or turkeys on Cape Cod National Seashore? Bison photo by 'GGeter' via Flickr

In the wake of the uproar over hunting brown bears in Katmai National Preserve, does anyone care that Cape Cod National Seashore officials have cleared the way for pheasant or turkey hunts to resume on the seashore? Or is it only hunts involving charismatic mega-fauna that draw ire?

Now that the Cape Cod officials have decided to allow the state of Massachusetts to stock pheasants on the seashore for as many as 17 years, to allow pheasant hunts for an indefinite period, and to allow spring turkey hunts, will the National Parks Conservation Association help distribute a video of such a hunt as it did in the case of the Katmai bear hunts?

Of course, comparing brown bear hunts with pheasant and turkey hunts is akin to pairing apples and oranges. Pheasants multiply much more quickly than bears, particularly when you have a state agency helping the birds, and so the hunts aren't expected to harm the overall health of the East Coast's pheasant populations.

Of course, wildlife officials with both Katmai and the state of Alaska point out that the Katmai Preserve's brown bear population is quite healthy and that the hunts there won't place the population in danger. But then, the focal point of the protests over the Katmai bear hunt is not hunting in and of itself nor the health of the bear population, but rather the lack of "fair chase" involved.

And yet, some might argue that bird hunts aren't that much more challenging. So will we hear outrage over Cape Cod's decision in the near future?

Doubtful.

But we will soon hear outrage over Montana's decision to issue licenses for a hunt of bison that leave Yellowstone National Park this coming winter. Some will argue that these hunts lack fair chase (they do), and some might say they will jeopardize the health of Yellowstone's bison herds (they won't).

Like it or not, the National Park Service has an image problem when it comes to wildlife stewardship and its mission to "...to promote and regulate the use of the...national parks...which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

Some will say that hunting -- fair chase considered or not -- is indeed an appropriate tool to use in managing wildlife populations for today and tomorrow. Others will say wildlife that roam inside parks should be protected from hunters and managed naturally, ie, with a sound balance of prey and predators.

In the case of Cape Cod National Seashore and its bird hunts, the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance welcomed the decision, saying hunting has been a Cape Cod tradition for roughly a century.

“Since the anti-hunters filed suit five years ago to stop the hunt, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation and sportsmen have encouraged the Park Service to do what it must to maintain Cape Cod’s hunting heritage, which has existed there since the early 1900s,” said Bud Pidgeon, USSA president & CEO. “The Foundation applauds the decision to maintain and augment hunting opportunities. It demonstrates that the sport is not a detriment to the Seashore.”

"Not a detriment."

Should that be the measure when hunting across the national park system is considered? After all, there are enough animals in Yellowstone's elk and bison herds to allow limited hunts, so should such hunts be allowed within the park? After all, historically, hunting did occur inside Yellowstone.

And certainly the officials at Rocky Mountain National Park, Theodore Roosevelt National Park and even Wind Cave National Park will attest to burgeoning elk herds that could withstand a measure of hunting pressure.

In fact, you could quickly come up with a list of national parks that have healthy populations of various wildlife species that could support hunting. Some hunts would involve fair chase, some would not.

So, if you were the director of the National Park Service, how would you address this sensitive topic? Should hunting be allowed across the park system, should it be permitted on a park-by-park basis, or should it be outlawed?

Comments

pairing apples and oranges

Nice job Kurt....you almost got three fruits in four words!

Not presenting myself as an expert in all manners hunting, but isn't there some sort of rule pertaining to shooting a bird being forbidden unless it's in flight? Does that meager advantage qualify as enough to make this more of a "fair fight" between hunter and quarry, and serve to differentiate this from the Katmai debacle?

Also, besides the stipulation against the taking of animals accorded protection under the Endangered Species Act and the obvious ramifications of permitting open season too near areas of human occupancy, many parks on the State level have permitted, or even encouraged seasons of deer, turkey, rabbit, or other hunts without so much as a blink from certain groups who like to make issues of such things. If overall health of the individual population and the surrounding ecosystem is the real issue, isn't it? What is the overriding concern in the State Park versus National Park debate that's sure to follow? If the population can withstand the onslaught, which is hopefully managed by the limitations listed on and number of permits granted, and the practice is completed in the ethical and humane manner, which were the real issues in Katmai, is there even just cause for concern, let alone intervention?

The Katmai Bear 'Kill' was unjust and certainly not, a hunt. Those men should be ashamed to call themselves hunters, but, of course, they aren't. Will the same thing happen with the birds? Probably, unless they are in flight. Hunting should be a challenge and a skill. I have a cousin that hunts pheasant with bow and arrow. Once in a while he comes home with a pheasant and sometimes not. But he isn't disappointed because it was challenging and a fair hunt.

I think any hunting should be a park-by-park decision, depending on the population of wildlife inhabited there. Each park should have their own regulations; who better to know what lives in their park, but the hunting should always be fair. If hunting were allowed across the park system, without knowledge or regard to the wildlife population, certain wildlife species could certainly be depleted.

My opinion - hunting should not be permitted in any NPS managed lands. Hunting is not compatible with other forms of park recreation. On a hike, I'd rather startle a bear than startle a hunter. The video and subsequent controversy in Katmai has to do, in part, with the fact that a camera crew was there filming those folks on a bear hunt. The bear people say the video people ruined their experience. I'd offer it was quite the other way around.

There was quite a lot of controversy a number of years ago when Olympic NP wanted to kill every last mountain goat in the park that was destroying very rare and very fragile high alpine vegetation. The goats had been introduced to the landscape, before the park era, to give hunters something to hunt. Public outcry stopped the goat hunt, and native vegetation now suffers.

So, to answer your question Kurt, if I were Director, I'd make sure there were no hunters out there killing for the sport of it, but if my land managers told me that park resources were in danger, and the only way to solve the problem would be to thin out a particular animal population, I'd hire a contractor to do it quickly and efficiently - guides with video cameras and compound bows need not apply.

Jeremy, I have to question your risk assessment skills when you say you'd prefer to startle a bear and not a hunter. ;)

Hunters (not the famous Katmai Killers! but this does include those carrying compound bows) need to be very aware of their surroundings. I have found that many times the hunters know far more about what is going on in the area with wildlife and terrain than, say, a nature enthusiast/hiker/backpacker because they make less noise, are not talking actively, move much more slowly and do that whole sitting, waiting and watching thing. For those of you non hunters, think about the difference between you hiking and sitting when watching wildlife. And, if you disagree with that, you probably don't see as much wildlife as you could.

But I agree, NPS lands should not have hunting unless it's always been there, like on some of the Preserves. NPS should, however, be able to use sharp shooters to cull deer herds when they are out of balance with carrying capacity.

1) The Cape shouldn't be stocking the park with non-native species.
2) The National Park Service should be in the business of species preservation, not destruction.
3) I don't have any problem with people hunting animals that are not endangered or not at the top of the food chain, but not in a National Park.

Good or bad? How 'bout something in between?

In parks where deer, elk, and other critters have--due to lack of predation--out grown the ecosystem's carrying capacity, traditional hunting should be allowed. By traditional I mean hunting with primitive weapons like atlatls, spears, and bows, but not of the synthetic, compound variety. This should be done by experts, Native or otherwise, and not Joe-redneck-Schmoe. We could glean valuable data about how the Ancients lived, too. Any meat from such hunts could be donated to homeless shelters and non-profits that help the needy.

Geez Frank, your comments merits at least one good solution to the wildlife population demise in the parks. That's what I like, a clean honest take down of a animal in chase. Now that's pure hunting at it's best, which includes the down trodden and the needy in the meat sharing process. How humble you are in thoughts!

Parks are a place for families. They are a place for picnics, hikes and campfires roasting marshmallows. They are a place of education and wonder. They are a place where a father (or mother) can share with their children a bear and her cubs, a deer and its fawn. While still wild and free, these animals and so many others have learned that they can trust people just enough in the parks to allow them a magical glimpse into their lives. If we allow hunting our parks will become just like most of our National Forests, where we could spend a lifetime and not see a fraction of the wonder that we can currently see in our parks in a day. What a tragic loss that would be.

While still wild and free, these animals and so many others have learned that they can trust people just enough in the parks to allow them a magical glimpse into their lives.

The deer in Zion are so tame that they follow children around the campground and jump on their backs in an attempt to steal food from their hands. These deer are anything but wild; they don't "trust" people; they attack them.

...we could spend a lifetime and not see a fraction of the wonder that we can currently see in our parks in a day.

National parks aren't zoos or wildlife safari parks or Disneyland. They are places where mountain lions stalk and eviscerate deer, raptors snatch up cottontail rabbits in their talons and rip out their entrails with sharp beaks, and humans once bludgeoned big horn sheep with rocks. In a natural setting, animals' instinct prompts them to flee when they encounter predators (like humans). We're not doing them any favors by habituating them to our presence, and the only species for whom such encounters are "magical" are humans. We've replaced the natural order with something quite unnatural. What a tragic loss.

Whatever we may think of the pros and cons of hunting in the national park system, the discussion needs to be cognizant of federal law and court cases.

The pertinent laws are:
* The Organic Act (1916);
* The 1970 amendments to the Organic Act (in the General Authorities Act) which required that the NPS manage its units as part of a single system; and
* The 1978 Redwood Amendment to the Organic Act, which directed the NPS to assure that its management considered the integrity of the system and assure that no activities were permitted in derogation of the values and purposes for which NPS units were established unless those activities were specifically authorized by Congress.

The pertinent court ruling on this topic is National Rifle Association v. Potter (1986), usually regarded as the first major federal court case interpretation of the Organic Act and its amendments. Without getting into too much of the particulars of the case, the court ruled that
trapping and other similar “consumptive uses” (including hunting) were not within the congressional intent for the national park system. Consumptive uses are permissible – as the Redwood amendment indicated – only where Congress specifically authorizes them.

Hence the law prohibits recreational hunting in parks where it has not been explicitly authorized by Congress. Cape Cod is one of those places where it has been permitted, so in my view the issue there is the appropriateness of the NPS stocking non-native species for the purpose of enhancing hunting opportunities. Was that Congress’ intent? I suspect not. Whether or not hunting should be permitted at all there is a different issue, and would require an act of Congress to prohibit.

Similarly, hunting is permitted in the authorizing language for Katmai National Preserve. So the issue of the Katmai bear hunt isn’t “is it legal” but is it being managed appropriately.

Hunting is not mentioned in the authorizing legislation for Rocky Mountain, Theodore Roosevelt, or Wind Cave – or most NPS areas. So recreational hunting would require new acts of Congress there.

But in contrast to hunting, the NPS has, since the 1960s, been reluctant to actively manage its wildlife populations. That’s changing, fortunately, and the best example of success is Gettysburg, where the NPS has culled deer for several years and withstood a major court challenge. Culling deer, or elk, or other animals when necessary to preserve or restore ecological integrity, and when NPS goes through the proper public involvement and environmental reviews, is certainly authorized. NPS has the authority to use members of the public to assist – but the key is that these volunteers would be participating in a management action (not a recreational hunt), would be working under strict NPS oversight, and would not be permitted to gain materially from their efforts (i.e. keep any part of the animals).

J Longstreet
A national park superintendent

Frank, you seem to say it like it is regarding to the issue which has much merit in my book. Mr. Longstreet's comments bothers me to the point, when you start dragging in the NRA with the hunting issue in the National Parks (and under this present administration) things tend to get real messy. The NRA has a track record of mispresentation, misquoting and giving out bad misinformation about many gun laws and hunting issues. However, Mr. Longstreet since you made the comment about Katmai National Reserve, in your opinion, and in your assessment is it "being managed appropriately"? If not and why not!? I ask this, since you opened the door in dialogue, in reference to the NPS managing wildlife resources properly...or appropriately. I truly fear, when it comes to push-and-shove regards to hunting in the National Parks, and the interpretation of the Organic Act involving the NRA (and the courts), I feel in my gut, that are wildlife resources will continue to dewindle under the barrel of a shotgun, and weaken amendments will be established to allow hunters to have there unethical insane hunts like in Katmai...in which some call a slaughter...including myself.
I didn't realize until I read Thomas Mangelsen's (world fame wildlife photographer) excerpts from his beautiful book, THE NATURAL WORLD, that there are approximately "2,000 Alaskan bears are killed a year in the name of sport". In the name of sport! I don't think Katmai bear slaughter indicated this...did you Mr. Longstreet? So, again Mr. Longstreet, is the Katmai National Reserve managed properly?

"They are places where mountain lions stalk and eviscerate deer, raptors snatch up cottontail rabbits in their talons and rip out their entrails with sharp beaks"...............Excuse me? These aren't part of the natural processes? These things don't happen in the forests where hunting is allowed? The difference is that in a National Park we might actually WITNESS them. As I said, "A place of education". One can only wonder how many young wildlife biologists, naturalists, foresters, film makers and poets have been born while watching animals in National Parks.
The Yellowstone Association (and so many others) offer hundreds of educational classes and programs every year that would be impossible in a hunted environment. If hunting were allowed you could virtually kiss goodbye to wildlife photography (ask Mr. Mangelsen, for example, where he gets most of his photos), as well as National Geographic, Nature and other educational programs (mostly filmed in parks).
As for the deer in Zion (I'll have to take your word for this happening. I have been to Zion many times and have never witnessed it, nor have I read about it....didn't know deer eat peanut butter sandwiches!).....like most "wildlife" problems, this is a PEOPLE problem. These deer have been trained by people to act this way. If this is indeed happening, the Park Service needs to do some averse training. People DO need to treat wild animals as WILD, and respect them as such. There is a big difference between habituated animals and animals that are used to people, which is most Park animals. The bears in Yellowstone thirty or forty years ago were habituated (fed from cars etc.) and there were dozens of bear related human injuries each year. Today the bears in Yellowstone are merely used to people, and there is an average of only one. Interestingly, there are far more than that in the surrounding National Forests where hunting is allowed.
As for these encounters being "magical" only for humans, I absolutely agree. They are especially so for the very young and the very old, but most of us (even some of my hunter friends...so they tell me) can get a little bit of magic.........if you can't, I truly feel sorry for you.

Search for "deer attack" and you'll get over 100,000 results. In 1977, a young boy was killed by a deer in Yosemite. The deer problems at Zion are common knowledge to those who have worked there. Just because it doesn't make it into the papers doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

As for magic, if you mean "an illusory feat; considered magical by naive observers", I'd agree with you. The current system is an illusion, a recent feat conjured in the past 50 to 100 years. For 15,000 to 30,000 years, deer and other animals would run from humans because humans were their predators; humans also kept their numbers in check. Now, we've got quite the illusory, Disneyesque, situation that ignores thousands of years of natural and human history so modern humans can take snapshots.

I spent half a dozen or so weekends at Zion last summer and was quite surprise (and dismayed) be the behavior of the local mulies. But with a couple million people annually sardined into that relatively small tract of land, I guess I had no right to be surprised. But Frank is absolutely correct in his observation of drastic modification in the natural reaction and behavioral patterns of the deer, among other creatures. "Wild" creatures approaching humans for hand-outs? OUTRAGEOUS!! Isn't that one of the qualifications for deeming something domesticated, or at the very least, tame? We've provided a vehicle whereby the natural instinctive lifestyles of these critters has been forever altered, which in and of itself removed the biological classification of "wild" from the beast. "Wild-type" is a term used to delineate the natural or original state, as found in nature, from any modified subset, whether that modification is induced in a laboratory or through natural methods of mutation, and appiles equally across both genotypical and phenotyical modification (genetically and/or psychologically /physically) modified traits. Normal evolutionary behavior would not include a "getting to know you" attitude between man and truly wild animals. These changes can only be attributed to direct intervention on the part of our species. All because we think they're "cute".

Wildlife biologists have learned more about the lives of wolves by observing them in the wild in Yellowstone in the last 12 years than in all of history prior to that. Much of what we know of bear behavior was gleaned from the Craighead research of the fifties and sixties in Yellowstone. Predator, prey knowledge has been greatly advanced by observations in Isle Royale. I would hardly call them "naive observers".
Looking up "deer attacks" is a favorite hobby of mine, and exactly what I tell uneducated folks who talk to me about how "dangerous" wolves are, to do. Here are a few results:

"A deer goes buck wild on a hunter"
"Deer Attacks Hunter. NOW you can call it a sport."
"Sheriff's deputies said the man was trying to feed the deer when he was attacked"
"SoCal man dies of injuries suffered in deer attack."
"A huge whitetail deer attacks a hunter."
"Deer Attacks Hunter ... The deer should have killed the stupid hunter"
"deer attacks a hunter and it's all caught on video"
"This deer goes nutty and attacks a hunter. ... "
"bow hunter is attacked by huge whitetail deer"
Sounds like a lot of these attacks are occurring in areas where hunting is allowed!

What stands out is the stark LACK of reported attacks in parks.

""Wild" creatures approaching humans for hand-outs? OUTRAGEOUS!!" What is outrageous is that PEOPLE GIVE handouts to wildlife, thus TRAINING THEM TO ACT THIS WAY (PEOPLE PROBLEM). Wildlife experts warn about feeding wildlife. Every person who enters a National Park is given a list of safety rules regarding wildlife: minimum safe distances for viewing, photographing etc. Do not feed. Keep a clean camp....etc. Unfortunately many, if not most, visitors choose to ignore at least some of these rules. I am in Yellowstone 3 to 5 days a week year around. I can't tell you how many times I see ice chests and food left on picnic tables, people throwing food to coyotes and other animals and folks sticking point and shoot cameras right into the face of bison and grizzly bears! I even saw one idiot try to pet a bear cub once! (The momma bear, contrary to what you would think, ran into the woods.) Yet given this atmosphere, injuries are amazingly rare; and when they do happen (even just a bluff charge...no harm, no foul) it is the animal who ultimately pays the price. If you ask most rangers, they will tell you that if everybody simply followed the rules injuries from wildlife in the Park would be virtually non existent. One even told me that when they have to put down a bear, they would much rather put down the stupid tourist who caused the problem! JUST BECAUSE ANIMALS TOLERATE YOU DOES NOT MEAN THEY ARE NO LONGER WILD. This, the rangers will tell you, is their hardest job...convincing people of that. Wolves can walk right through a herd of elk without causing a stir. Yet if the wolves are hunting, the elk will run long before they get there. Their instinct tells them the difference. They same is true when people approach.
Populations should be controlled with NATURAL predation. If that is not possible hunting can be increased on surrounding forest lands....most wildlife move seasonally. I repeat: Parks are a place for families...not weapons, of any type.
It is clear that we will never agree on this issue, so I suggest that we simply agree to disagree. Fortunately the law and the vast majority of the American people do agree with me. Americans, I don't believe, will ever stand for a general hunting season in our National Parks.

Hunting Across the National Park System: Good or Bad?

Bad, very bad National Park System.
Just because a deer or two kicks ass on a human or a bear harvests a few and a wolf howls the angst of survival in a National Park on the full moon scaring the crap out of some folks is by no means a reason to kill them. Sounds more like "a place of education" to me.
IMHO

Remember - hunting is only permitted in parks where the park's legislation allows it. Hunting is not permitted in the vast majority of parks and is prohibited by law. Only Congress can change the legislation of parks where hunting is not permitted. See the famous court case NRA v. Potter.

Unfortunately, I don't believe it to be true that the majority of Americans really give a damn one way or the other regarding hunting inside or outside the parks. I wish it were so, and that the public took a truly active stand on issues pertaining to the National Parks. If you took a poll, you would get answers, some vehement, supporting both views, but those expressing opinions who would back them up by even a simple letter-writing campaign would be few. Most Americans like to talk loudly and do nothing, as is witnessed by the high level of contempt for our existing political structure and those who man it, and the unwillingness of the general public to do even the most basic, simple task of getting away from the TV long enough to cast a ballot, which if done properly could affect IMMEDIATE change in our system. And as pointed out above, many of the lunkheads who actually DO visit the parks are too lazy to even perform the most fundamental task, like cleaning up after themselves.

It shouldn't take a cardiac surgeon to figure out that people made the first overture by presenting foodstuffs in an available, knowingly or not fostering the behavioral modification in nature. Of course this is a people issue. We again have created a situation due to our tremendous lack of foresight that is next to impossible to reverse, at least in the short term. But to say that these animals are still "wild" is nonsense. Wild animals have instincts to avoid confrontation that results in predation. Even worse than their habituated nature, they're now much MORE dangerous to humans now due to losing the instinctive fear of man. But, open hunting?

And I would still like to know why everyone is so upset that hunting on national lands is being discussed while hunting on state lands is a yearly ritual. The concentration of humans per square mile in generally higher in state facilities, the parks overall are smaller (which is why certain areas are cordoned off during the hunt), the pack sizes are more prone to decimation due to overhunting, and the general proximity of humans (facilities, settlements, roadways, etc) is far greater. Shouldn't BOTH locations be considered the basis of the issue?

Alan, I think we have more in common that you realize. I'm not advocating open hunting in national parks. You believe that "Populations should be controlled with NATURAL predation." But the point I'm making, and you seem to be missing, is that for 15000 to 30000 years in North America, humans WERE part of the natural predation that controlled animal populations. Human predation, along with other predation (fire, cougars, wolves, brown bears), has been removed from the equation, and a completely different system (which I'm arguing is not better than the former system) was born in the last century. In some instances, overpopulation and dangerous encounters resulted.

I don't think Frank's point about the alteration of the ecosystem can be ignored. The lands that the parks encompass are simply not the same ecosystem that was so masterfully managed by the Natives centuries ago, or even the same that Powell, et.al. "discovered" in the late 19th century. It is an artificial preserve, with selected predation and prey as deemed fit by human "stewards". Granted, the portion of the equation dealing with human predators can no longer exist due to the dramatic increase in the human animal and his "freedom" to do as others of his species will, and this ridiculous notion of sport hunting. Sport hunting virtually exterminated the buffalo, among other North American species, in the past two centuries. That manner of hunting cannot be allowed on public lands due to the extreme detrimental impact on what we deem as acceptable "prey", which is basically anything that finds it way into the cross-hairs, edible or otherwise. That's why the earliest inhabitants of this land were successful in "maintaining" the herds and their populations; the entire philosophy was centered around taking only enough to sustain the village, not taking enough to satisfy the world market. That notion was solely the responsibility of the Europeans.

Anonymous asks if I believe that Katmai National Preserve's bear hunt is being managed appropriately. I don't profess to know everything that I would like to about this situation, but what I know makes me as uncomfortable as most of you are.

No reason to be uncomfortable, though, with NRA v. Potter. The NRA lost big here, and NPS resources won big. That's not negotiable. You don't have to like the NRA to like the results of the court case.

Any weakening amendments to the Organic Act require Congress to act, and amending the Orgaqnic Act is almost as unlikely as a constitutional convention. But as Kurt has written many times, the critical issues right now are at Rocky Mountain, Theodore Roosevelt, and Wind Cave. Park managers, who have done the right thing, in my view, by using scientific monitoring data to determine that it is necessary and appropriate to reduce elk populations, are under tremendous pressure by state governments (and even Cong. Mark Udall, who is running for Senate in Colorado and clearly grandstanding on this issue) to open these parks to recreational hunting (under the guise of using "qualified hunters" as park volunteers). That's a very slippery slope and one that could create a lot of damage to the integrity of the National Park System.

J Longstreet
A National Park Superintendent

Lone Hiker, in part your right, but the natives also stampeded hundreds of buffalo over huge gullies and high cliffs, with intentions for a mass kill, in order to have plenty of meat for the winter months and heavy warm hides to bear the bitter cold on the Dakota plains. There were excesses by the natives but not much waste! Your blogs and comments add much depth to many of the subjects presented by NPT. Good in put!

I'm fine with not having hunting as long as we don't pretend we're not then moving into gardening the landscape on a mass scale and that we're permanently altering the park's ecosystem into something different than what was there.

I agree with Frank's assertion, while I am sure I am going to mess up in paraphrasing, the inherent fallacy of removing humans from the ecosystem ala our beloved NPS system is definitely a human construct.

As an example, from what I remember of Alston Chase's "Playing God in Yellowstone," wildlife herds in Yellowstone were never that abundant as they are today. Add that to the fact that the the fire regime has been changed (thanks Smokey!) and you don't really have what was there as original landscape or ecosystem. Even if you don't like the book, you can't argue with the fact that humans have been part of the North American ecosystem since somewhere around the end of (at least) the Pleistocene and taking us (hunting, living, etc.) out of the equation does create some sort of construct.

NPT should revisit that book as well as some of William Cronon's stirring of the pot. Humans are part of the game. In the NPS system, the animals act like the characters from Bambi or something, no fear, nothing. Since when should an elk not be afraid of a human? At Yellowstone, so you can put your tripod up and snap a photo so it doesn't charge?

While I can't say that modern hunting is the solution or the same as someone hurling an atlatl, to say that we need to preserve the BS false nature worship of Mangelsen's photos (they are beautiful, however) or the expensive classes in the Yellowstone Institute affordable to only the wealthy is absurd. The herds of begging muleys walking without fear through the Fruita CG at Capitol Reef are lame, same with anything similar in the NPS system.

*ONE QUICK REQUEST: Can we stop using the phrase "the rangers?!?" It's too vague and always invokes some sort of perceived authority, I'm calling BS. Rangers are a finnicky and odd bunch of people and they have as many opinions as shows up on this commenting board. You can't use that phrase to imply that they all stand behind whatever it is you're typing. Personal experience is preferred, anecdotally relaying information from friends or whatever isn't as reliable! ;) And besides, they are public servants anyway and should be paying attention to our opinions. WE pay their salaries, afterall...

"*ONE QUICK REQUEST: Can we stop using the phrase "the rangers?!?""
The answer to that would be: NO. While I would agree that rangers have as many different opinions as any other group of people, and I certainly have not spoken to every ranger in Yellowstone, the opinions that I wrote of above are pretty much universal among those that I have spoken to. I could give you a list of at least a dozen names, but don't feel that would be appropriate. My speaking to these individuals is as valid a "personal experience" as your reading a book. And as easily verifiable by anyone traveling to Yellowstone and speaking to them themselves (especially those on the front lines...working bear jams etc.) Indeed, I could just as easily quote a dozen books of my own, they are merely so many more opinions.
I really don't understand this: if an animal doesn't run in terror the moment that it sees a human being it is not wild thing. I think that it must just make some people feel macho or something to have animals run instantly. Have you ever heard of "flight or fight"? It is an instinct as old as creation. Every animal has it. Some, such as the elk that hang out among the buildings in Mammoth Hot Springs may have smaller personal spaces (flight or fight spaces) but I guarantee you it is still there. Other elk in Yellowstone, for example those you meet on a trail, have larger spaces and will run immediately. I don't know when you were in Yellowstone last (as I said, I spend 3-5 days a week every week of the year there), but the elk are not like cows there any more since wolves were re-introduced. From about the 1930's until the 1960's elk herds were artificially reduced by man in Yellowstone (by sharpshooters), yet they continued to act like cows, continued to hang out in riparian habitat destroying the willow and aspen and as a consequence beaver and songbird habitat. It took the return of the wolf to change their habits. Man with his rifles didn't scare them (sorry), the wolves do.
This flight or fight instinct is in every animal every where. Because a bear decides to maul a hunter rather than run from him does NOT mean that it is "domesticated". Every animal will act differently.
What no one seems able to address is what I pointed out above: why do FAR MORE ANIMAL ATTACKS HAPPEN OUTSIDE OF OUR PARKS THAN INSIDE. They are in fact relatively rare in our parks.

why do FAR MORE ANIMAL ATTACKS HAPPEN OUTSIDE OF OUR PARKS THAN INSIDE

What evidence do you have that this is an accurate statement? Has some kind of systematic comparative study been done on animal attacks in and out of parks?

Should you be able to find a statistical study that demonstrates that the numbers of attacks are higher outside of parks, I'd hypothesize it could be related to the fact that NPS lands cover a very small minority of the total acreage of land in the United States; Forest Service, BLM, Fish and Wildlife, and private lands are far more vast, so I would expect to see a higher incident of attacks on those lands.

And you have failed to address the issue that I've pointed out above:

For 15000 to 30000 years in North America, humans WERE part of the natural predation that controlled animal populations. Human predation, along with other predation (fire, cougars, wolves, brown bears), has been removed from the equation, and a completely different system (which I'm arguing is not better than the former system) was born in the last century.

When an attack happens in a National Park it is guaranteed to make national headlines. Yet we only read about one or two every year. But as our example of Googling "deer attacks" illustrated, far more attacks happen outside of parks. Many of these attacks, as well as bear, elk, moose etc. happen to hunters. Your point about acreage is very valid, but my whole point is that whether or not a population is hunted has nothing to do with the frequency of attacks on human beings. Now, clearly, habituated animals are far more dangerous (inside or outside a park), this has been demonstrated over and over. The deer that you speak of in campgrounds in Zion (or CR) are obviously habituated. I don't know if anyone has been injured or not, but, if not, it is only a matter of time. The National Park Service (or Forest Service if occurring in Forest Service campgrounds...which a friend told me the other day he has seen as well....which shows that even this isn't exclusive to parks) have a responsibility to do something about it. They need to do averse training and they need to HEAVILY FINE individuals who are contributing to the problem by feeding them. They don't need to shoot these deer, though shooting AT them with cracker rounds etc. might be beneficial. BTW, compare these deer to the elk wondering around the Mammoth Campground in Yellowstone, which will move away as you approach them. I will repeat one last time: There is a difference between animals that are used to seeing people and those who are habituated. I spend thousands of hours in the Yellowstone back country and constantly see animals that I guarantee you are not habituated. (Most even run away as I approach, which should make you happy). Animals in campgrounds (both inside and outside National Parks) sometimes are; because people feed them, or leave food out for them.
Regarding your point about man being part of the natural "processes", I have not addressed it because I agree with it. For 30,000 years or more man WAS a part of the natural process. When man started building cities, machines and modern weapons, and when he started playing God by setting arbitrary wildlife "population goals", and started deciding what species have a right to exist at all; then he removed himself from the "natural processes". In nature man is about on equal footing with the grizzly bear. Throughout those thousands of years, he spent as much time being hunted by the bear as hunting it. Strip naked and take a walk in the woods with only what God gave you, and see where man fits in the "natural processes". One of the great fallacies is that man is at the top of the food chain. He has artificially made himself the top predator, but he will never be at the top of the food chain (anyone who doesn't believe this should look up what a food chain is).
It may be far from perfect....in fact I know that it is....but I submit that Yellowstone National Park is far closer to a "natural" ecosystem (intact and similar to what the area was like before the arrival of white men) than most anywhere else in the lower 48. And as such, as I said, is a tremendous educational tool. For many people, it is the only opportunity they will ever have to see many of these animals in the WILD. And yes! I'll say it! Dang gone it! We uneducated, naive, uninformed wimps think some of those critters are down right cute!!! (OK! Are ya happy....I said it!) What I don't think is that they are not still WILD, because folks who believe that ARE the ones who end up getting hurt.
Thanks for the discussion.

Frank,
Your view is logical and currently in practice around the US. Look into Hunters for the Hungry. Unfortunately, your method shows some naivety (Atlatls, spears, basic bows). All of these weapons were of the best technology those cultures could develop in order to ensure the quickest kill possible, thus the least fear and suffering by the animal and minimal chase. But they were designed to rip and cut as the animal continued to run. Traditionally, "one shot, one kill" was not accurate and many animals required significant "chase" and multiple hits or piercings before falling, filled with fear, adreniline and waiting for the final blow or slice to end their suffering. (Think of the Alaskan Bear "hunting" IDIOTS). A quality hunter studies the animals patterns and environment. Then using stalking and stealth, moves as close as possible to the animal to ensure a rapid and human "one shot, one kill". Ideally, the animal is blissfully unaware right up to the end.

Quality hunters do not support "canned hunts" or anything less than fair chase, but every sect of society has its morons. Just like some animal rights activists who enjoy their chicken salads, some stupid people kill animals while carrying a hunting license. The main stream of hunters are also strong supporter of fair chase, quick and human kills, preserving out natural resources and the environment. Outdoors amongst nature is our preferred place to spend time. If we truly embrace the idea of being stewards of the flora and fauna then we must also take the responsibility. This requires logical and balanced management, laissez-faire and fringe activism are equally detrimental to the environment and all our flora and fauna.

I think many of these comments are ABSURD! In my home state of MI we have embraced hunting to its full potential and EVERY single one of our huntable species is growing considerably each year. In the few places we aren't allowed to hunt the game population has been over flowing. For example; moose on Isle Royale Nat. Park were literally trying to swim or walk on the ice to the main land due to over crowding. Even with the re-introduction of the cervidae's natural predator in MI: the gray wolf, the moose and deer population on the island is sky-rocketing! We can't control them! So in the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes Nat. Lakeshore (where a similar situation took place) they allowed hunting and now the white-tailed deer population is (from year to year) either stable, up or less than 1% down.
Also in response to the proff. hunters multiple groups from diiferent states were brought in to specified mang. areas and all either had to be rescued by MI Search and Rescue Teams or injured themselves. To be frank; they just weren't qualified to survive in the MI wilderness. Its ALOT rougher here than commonly percieved. There is just no proff. hunters that would be successful in accomplishing ANYTHING here. I have hunted probably in almost any region in MI and it varys but the only hunters that are succesfull in MI are MI hunters. Its just that a state's own natives are adapted to the land and would be quite succesful in properly managing any state's wildlife.

Regarding Isle Royale's moose population, as recently as 2007 it was pegged at 385, the lowest ever recorded, according to news reports. While in 2008 it had rebounded to 650, that was still far, far below the record 2,445 counted in 1995.

I Agree with "Dr. Thomas Kovach". It's so absurd!