In my current wildlife ecology class, the first lecture was about habitat selection. The next one is about animal habitat selection based on available food. This is about an assumption that is common in this subject.
There is this hugely prevalent assumption that animals always select for the best habitat and best foraging available to them. This is inexplicable to me. Humans are capable of making terrible life choices that often result in sickness, early death, or other life problems. Perfection is not a result of absence of thought and higher-order thinking.
Those who work with domestic animals have to be careful to only provide suitable choices for the animals in their care. This is done by default, as far as I can tell. But it is not carried over to wildlife, for some reason.
I first heard this assumption when I was a child reading about wildlife and ecology. Usually it seems to be tied to the theory of evolution as a drive towards perfection, which it is not.
It is, for example, a pack of wolves killing off the weak, sick, deformed, mal-adapted ungulates while the rest survive to reproduce. Those with the lowest survival and/or reproductive rates do not pass on their genes enough to perpetuate them. That is natural selection, that is what drives evolution. It is not favoring the best fit, it is killing off the worst.
Given the freedom to choose, animals will not always make the best choices. Just like humans are not perfect, neither are animals. To assume otherwise is, to me, crazy. I do not understand how anyone could make this assumption.