The Impact of Wolf Hunting Much Greater than Commonly Assumed

gray wolf pair photo

Image credit: jurvetson/Flickr
Wolf culls, the logic goes, are acceptable because they have a compensatory impact on the population. Thus, when a hunter takes a wolf in season, he or she is simply exchanging a natural death for death at the hands of humans. Those that remain, the argument then goes, benefit from being part of a smaller population with the same number of resources.

The only problem, new research suggests, is that this isn't how it works.Scott Creel, one of the researchers that led the study, explained:

If the level of harvest proposed for 2010 was implemented, the data suggest that wolf populations are likely to decline by a substantially larger margin than is currently stated by management policies...the underlying assumption that wolf populations can compensate for heavy levels of human harvest was not supported by the data.

Instead of being compensatory, populations subject to human hunting show signs of greater death rates overall and a higher tendency for decline. Especially in the Northern Rockies, where pack sizes are very small, the chances of a hunter killing a breeder are high—and research has shown that packs that have lost their breeding pairs are very likely to fail or disband.

Looking at the quota numbers alone, hunting in 2009 and 2010 could be responsible for a decline of half of the current gray wolf population in Montana and Idaho.

For a species to withstand such pressure in the years immediately after coming off the Endangered Species List, researchers said, "would be unprecedented."

Read more about wolves:
Wolves Can Help Restore Ecosystems
1/4 of Rocky Gray Wolves Killed in First Hunting Season in Decades
Reintroducing Wolves to Scotland Could Bring Back the Forests of Old
Bad News on the Wolf Front - Key Alpha Wolves Killed in Montana

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