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Human 'wolf packs' help in study of predator-prey impacts

Posted: Sun Jun 12, 2016 8:34 am
by Koa
Human 'wolf packs' in conservation study near Loch Ness
May 27th, 2016
BBC

Volunteers working in teams of three "wolves" have been moving through woodland at Dundreggan Conservation Estate in Glenmoriston . . . Alan Watson Featherstone, Trees for Life's founder, said: . . . "By walking through Dundreggan's woodlands at unpredictable times, the volunteers mimic the effect of wolves in keeping deer on their toes and less likely to spend time leisurely eating seedlings and young trees."
Read the full article here:
http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-hig ... s-36396680

Does anyone wonder at whether or not this effectively examines predator impact on prey? The human "wolves" are, unlike wolves, just disturbing the deer rather than killing them. It does, however, mention at the beginning of the article that they are examining the effect that predators have on the ecosystem and not just the animals they hunt, so perhaps they are aware of that (but I can't really tell). Can the consequences of disturbance and killing really be separated to determine the true impact of wolves on prey?

Re: Human 'wolf packs' help in study of predator-prey impact

Posted: Mon Jun 13, 2016 1:13 am
by Sambhur
Yeah this seems a bit like something that can't really be tested in a valid manner. They're only performing one small role out of the many roles filled by wolves. "Aims to examine the effect large predators have on ecosystems, and not just the animals they hunt" doesn't really make note of the fact that you can't really separate these two things, which makes this sentence sound like a bit of nonsense to me (since hunting = having an effect on the ecosystem, etc.). I'd like to think that it's just bad wording but I really can't work out how? Also, since their problem is based on the overgrazing by deer, it seems like the solution really is to just introduce a predator that will actively kill deer, whether it's wolves or humans, since it's likely that the deer are overpopulated anyway and need to be controlled. Moving the deer around isn't going to solve the problem of there being too many grazing deer to begin with. Their idea just seems a bit... silly, to me. But again, maybe the BBC left something out in its efforts to summarise everything.

Re: Human 'wolf packs' help in study of predator-prey impact

Posted: Tue Jun 14, 2016 3:58 pm
by Koa
Sambhur wrote:Yeah this seems a bit like something that can't really be tested in a valid manner. They're only performing one small role out of the many roles filled by wolves. "Aims to examine the effect large predators have on ecosystems, and not just the animals they hunt" doesn't really make note of the fact that you can't really separate these two things, which makes this sentence sound like a bit of nonsense to me (since hunting = having an effect on the ecosystem, etc.). I'd like to think that it's just bad wording but I really can't work out how? Also, since their problem is based on the overgrazing by deer, it seems like the solution really is to just introduce a predator that will actively kill deer, whether it's wolves or humans, since it's likely that the deer are overpopulated anyway and need to be controlled. Moving the deer around isn't going to solve the problem of there being too many grazing deer to begin with. Their idea just seems a bit... silly, to me. But again, maybe the BBC left something out in its efforts to summarise everything.
Thanks for your response. I agree with you on the poor and rather vague wording. Overall, the project appears to not consider the full consequence of a predator's presence. Wolves will do more than just disturb the deer. Perhaps they wanted only to focus on disturbance, but with the BBC's lede, the study seems that it is meant to have a broader focus.