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No. 12: Fall 1980

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Static on the hare-lynx cycle signal

Almost all ecology textbooks present the 10-11 year hare-lynx cycle as a classic case of prey-predator oscillations. The major data source for such population studies is the record of pelt sales rather than actual field observations. Looking beyond such superficial information, researchers have discovered that the quantity of pelts offered for sale by the Indians depends upon the amount of time they can divert to hunting pelts. This, in turn, is affected by the abundance of food animals, such as moose and hares. It is food first and pelts second. Furthermore, when the plants consumed by hares are overbrowsed during periods of dense hare population, they defend themselves by generating resins and other compounds toxic or repellent to hares. Thus, the hare abundance cycle is affected by:

(1) Plant defenses; (2) Indian hunting strategies; and (3) The lynx.

(May, Robert M.; "Cree-Ojibwa Hunting and the Hare-Lynx Cycle,: Nature, 286: 108, 1980.)

Comment. Here is another case where the attractiveness of a theoretical model has dampened further inquiry.

From Science Frontiers #12, Fall 1980. 1980-2000 William R. Corliss