Increasers and Decreasers


In his 1982 book, Where the Sky Began, which concerned the settlement of the great American prairie, John Madson drew a distinction between increasers and decreasers. The former were animals such as house finches, pigeons, and fox squirrels that increased their populations when living in human habitations. The latter, species like bears, coyotes, foxes–in short, predators–experienced population crashes as a result of human invasions.

But with time, these distinctions have become less clear. When I was a kid, in the 1950’s, the city had pushed out almost all larger wildlife. We never saw deer, bears, coyotes, or foxes in town. They were left in the distant countryside. Now, however, deer thrive in the city in large populations, bears roost in our trees at night, and coyotes take poodles off leashes in parks for lunch.

Once I asked the Fish and Wildlife Department if our school could collar and track a bear. They said no, and the reason was telling: “If the people in Broadmoor had any idea how many bears there are in the trees, they’d freak. We don’t do anything to call attention to bears.”

Author: Samuel A. Johnson

This blog is about hiking, thinking, and writing.

2 thoughts on “Increasers and Decreasers”

  1. We have also changed our relationship to animals. 100 years ago everything was fair game to be shot skinned and et. Now we live in more gentle, suburban times, and leave others to do our dirty work for us. And the wildlife has readapted to us. Hence the annoying shiftless bands on teenage deer on my lawn.


    1. Some would say that the law forbidding discharging firearms in the city limits is the chief cause. Nowadays we shoot people rather than bears.


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