Cat Urbigkit: Oddities from the News -- Lions ‘Garden to Hunt’ & Bundy’s BBQ Standoff

Columnist Cat Urbigkit writes, "Ammon Bundy is having another standoff, dubbed the #BBQStandoff by one of his detractors, Devin Burghart of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights."

Cat Urbigkit

May 23, 20235 min read

Cat urbigkit cropped scaled
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Making An Academic Paper Go Viral

How do you make a research paper published in a scientific journal go viral? Give it a compelling title? A new paper published by Panthera in the journal Landscape Ecology has this title: “Large carnivore foraging contributes to heterogeneity in nutrient cycling.”

Not exactly the kind of title that will grab headlines, is it? Hmm. What to do? How about putting a spin on it so that the media will pick it up.

That’s what Panthera did with its press release about the paper mentioned above, with this headline: “‘Garden to Hunt’: Panthera Study Shows Pumas Utilize Sly Strategy of Fertilizing Plants That Recruit Prey to Hunting Hotspots.”

The press release noted that “pumas might utilize a sly hunting strategy known as ‘garden to hunt,’ by which puma kills fertilize or deposit nutrients in soil that increase plant quality and attract ungulates to feed in select habitat conducive to future stalk-and-ambush puma hunting.”

So mountain lions “garden,” utilizing a “sly strategy” to increase nutrition for its prey? 

This storyline got picked up and went viral. My guess is that the actual paper (“Large carnivore foraging contributes to heterogeneity in nutrient cycling”) wasn’t ready by many of the reporters who put a byline on articles about it, since the paper was behind a $39.95 paywall at Springer Nature and they all seem to have jumped on board with the gardening narrative.

The paper’s conclusion was publicly available on the journal’s website and wasn’t nearly as exciting as the press release. It stated: “Ambush carnivore foraging may contribute to landscape-scale heterogeneity in nutrient distributions and set the stage for positive feedback loops between carnivores and prey that drive biogeochemical processes.”

Panthera’s implication that a predator chose a “sly strategy” to “garden” is babble. When a mountain lion kills a deer, it is not deciding to “garden” in a particular location.

The truth is this: Carcasses of large animals on the landscape lead to the introduction of nutrients to the soil underneath, and large herbivores are attracted to nitrogen-rich forage.

Thus carcass sites become forage sites, and the pattern can repeat, with herbivores providing more nutrient supplementation from feces and urine in these locations, providing for a continued feedback loop with predators.

It’s something long documented in predator/prey relationships, including wolf-killed elk, moose, and Arctic muskox, and bears feasting on salmon on riverbanks.

Panthera’s hype was just that: hype. The gut piles left from hunters harvesting ungulates have the same impacts, as do other carcasses left on the landscape, regardless of the cause of death. I’d bet that the more significant role played by large predators like mountain lions isn’t “gardening” but is helping to control wild ungulate populations: Hunting.

BBQ Standoff

Ammon Bundy is having another standoff, dubbed the #BBQStandoff by one of his detractors, Devin Burghart of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights.

Ammon Bundy is one of the sons of Cliven Bundy, a name you may recognize because of their 2014 standoff in Nevada over Cliven Bundy’s trespassing cattle on public lands.

Ammon was also involved in the 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon (in which one of his followers/occupiers was killed). 

St. Luke’s Health System sued Bundy and his People’s Rights Network for defamation after Bundy led a protest and a lockdown at an Idaho hospital over a child welfare case, and alleges that Bundy continues to engage in a defamation campaign against the hospital.

Bundy did not respond to the defamation lawsuit until a judge issued a default order against Bundy along with a warrant for his arrest for contempt of court. To avoid the warrant, he’s been holed up at his Emmett, Idaho home, but called in his followers to come to his “Big Bundy BBQ” and camp on site. Thus, the BBQStandoff. Read this Daily Beast article for the crazy details.

While Bundy is hiding so that law enforcement can’t serve him with legal papers, the hospital alleges that he has been working to hide his assets in a new sequence of shell companies, according to East Idaho News.

Bundy has allegedly transferred ownership of his 5-acre property in Emmett (worth around $1 million) to an LLC that is owned by a newly formed Wyoming corporation, Farmhouse Holdings LLC. Both of the LLCs are owned by the former treasurer of Bundy’s failed Idaho gubernatorial campaign.

A year into the proceedings, Bundy finally responded to the civil case, asking that it be moved to a federal court, an action that St. Luke’s called a ploy, “a bid for more time while Bundy attempts to hide his assets and continues to use his family and acolytes as human shields to prevent his arrest.” 

The federal court turned down Bundy’s request, so yesterday he released a video claiming an unnamed “They” are persecuting Americans so people should join his Peoples Rights group.

In the video, Bundy said: “They are going after anyone who opposes them. They took Tucker Carlson off the air, arrested former President Donald Trump & they're labeling Christians as domestic terrorists. Now they are coming after me …”

Bundy called for people to join his group and “put a stop to what is happening.” But he didn’t provide the specifics as to who “they” are, and what action Bundy seeks “to put a stop” to it.

Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily.

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Cat Urbigkit

Public Lands and Wildlife Columnist