Issues Faced By Wolves
- Natural causes of wolf mortality are primarily starvation, which kills mostly pups, death from other wolves due to territory fights. Diseases such as mange, canine parvovirus, distemper and Lyme disease can also kill wolves. Heartworm can reduce a wolf’s endurance by restricting blood flow to the lungs. Injuries caused by prey are also a factor in wolf mortality.
- However, the number one threat to wolves is humans including legal (hunting, trapping or snaring) and illegal (poaching, poisoning) activities had affected wolf population throughout the United States and the rest of the world.
- Loss of habitat had created conflict with people over livestock.
- Unfounded hatred towards wolves, ignorance about their behavior and place in our ecosystem.
- Flawed wolf management policies established by federal government agencies, such as the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission and the Wildlife Services. These federal government agencies control ALL hunting regulations.
Flaws Within the Wolf Management Programs:
A Summary of These Flaws
- Wolf Management Agencies in Montana for example has been notorious in recent years for establishing ‘Wolf Management Programs’ lacking scientific facts to validate their wolf management decisions as well as ignoring statistical data showing the minimal impact of wolves over livestock predation and wild prey populations.
- Wolf Management Policies that invest millions of dollars on lethal methods to exterminate wolves to avoid potential conflicts with humans due to livestock predation rather than studying causes of wolf predations if these were to become a pattern for some ranchers. These policies lack understanding the complex mechanisms of predator-prey relationships, trophic cascades, gene-flow, niches and habitat, biological potential, and compensatory versus additive predation.
- Wolf Management Policies that do not enforce ranchers to modify their ranching practices for the wellbeing of the entire ecosystem. While it is suggested to ranchers the use of nonlethal predator protection programs, this is not enforced despite the fact that many ranchers use public lands as feeding grounds for livestock.
- Wolf Management Policies tailored to satisfy hunters while presenting misleading information about the effect of wolf predation on wild prey populations such as elk, mule deer, etc. The hunting community’s influence over Wildlife Services play a decisive role as they are one of the biggest financial contributors through the purchase of license and hunting permits, lobbyist hunting organizations, to name a few.
- Wolf Management Policies lacking severe penalties/fines to ranchers who instigate wolf predation by leaving carcasses near their livestock in order to file compensation claims. Wolf hunters driven by ignorant hatred towards these species following illegal and inhumane treatment of wolves are not being penalized by these illegal and inhumane practices.
Setting the Record Straight Based on Unbiased Facts and Studies
Impact of Wolf Predation on Livestock
In a study released on May 12, 2011 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the Agricultural Statistics Board, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), wolf predation accounted for 3.7% of cattle and calf losses in 2010 throughout the United States adding to a total cost of $3,646 dollars. Comparing this figure to the number of loses due to other predators and non-predator related deaths, wolves’ effect on livestock is minimum. In fact, livestock leading cause of deaths is attributed to respiratory and digestive problems.
Source: National Agricultural Statistics Service
Biased Regulations Established by the Fish, Wildlife and Park Agencies and Lack of Effort to Relay on Scientific Studies as the Basis to Manage Wildlife:
Dr. Scott Creel, leader of the Conservation Biology & Ecology Program at Montana State University has challenged Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission after evaluating documents published by this agency attempting to justify the decimation of elk population due to wolf predation. Dr. Creel's studies state that the decline of elk population cannot be attributed solely to the reintroduction of wolves but to several factors acting together including severe weather such as harsh winters and intense droughts, overall elk population density and migration patterns, human hunters and animal predators such as wolves, lions, and grizzly bears. The response from Dave Risley, administrator of the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Division in Helena, denounced Dr. Creel’s study as creating a pattern of conflict and even threatens to permanently and completely dissolve the financial and intellectual relationship between the Fish, Wildlife and Parks and Montana State University. Click here to read the article referencing this conflict.
Coexisting with Wolves and Wolf Education Programs
Is it possible to coexist with wolves minimizing human conflict? The answer is YES, but adaption and understanding wolves are the key to its success. Ranchers must be willing to adopt nonlethal measures to protect their livestock from ALL predators and implement better husbandry practices. Guard dogs, fencing, flashlights, etc. are some of the financially sustainable examples that can help minimize and in cases eliminate the risk of predation. Furthermore, Defenders of Wild, a nonprofit organization has established a compensation plan for losses due to proven wolf predations.
Educating the public about wolves' behavior, their role in nature and understanding their needs and habitat can help dissolve the old unfounded hate towards these species. Several anti-wolf groups are clear about their hate towards wolves and desire to fully exterminate the wolf population once again during the allowed hunting season and in extreme cases outside hunting seasons and by any methods.