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Too Many Deer? Call in the Wolves, Scientists Say

Posted: Tue Feb 02, 2010 11:01 am
by Songdog
(Feb. 1) – Scientists are calling for a formidable new cadre of pest exterminators to prowl America's national parks: wolves.

A coalition of researchers has proposed trucking wolves into parks and other wild places to curb booming populations of deer and elk, which upset the natural order by mowing down native vegetation.

Using wolves to keep deer and elk populations in check could "help bring ecosystems back into balance," wildlife biologist David Licht said.

The researchers argue that even a small number of wolves living in a small park could do a lot of good. They say that fences, birth control and other methods could be used to keep the wolves from spreading outside the park boundaries and eating local sheep, cattle and pets.

By "using the wolf as a tool," park managers could "help bring ecosystems back into balance," says Daniel Licht, a wildlife biologist who leads the scientists advocating this approach. "There would be enormous positive benefits, and they would outweigh the negatives."

It's an odd twist for a species that Americans once tried to eradicate. Bounties for dead wolves were offered as late as the 1960s, and by the early 1970s the wolf had been erased from all but a tiny corner of the contiguous United States. Protected in 1973 under the Endangered Species Act, the wolf has made a gradual comeback.

Now an animal long regarded as vermin could help eliminate the vermin plaguing national parks and many other wildernesses. Licht points to the ripple of changes at Yellowstone National Park after wolves were imported to the park in 1995. Wolves began chasing the park's elk, which meant the newly wary elk spent less time snacking. That allowed more willow trees – a favorite elk munchie -- to grow, encouraging the comeback of beavers and songbirds. Grizzly and black bears, which feast on the carrion from wolf kills, have also prospered.

Wolves could help knock many other landscapes into shape, Licht says. He thinks the main obstacle to getting help from wolves is not the wolves. It's tradition.

Importing a small number of animals "as a stewardship tool ... is counter to 100 years of wildlife management in America," he says. "It's going to take a different paradigm" – as well as a fair amount of money to build fences, attach tracking collars and provide contraceptives to keep the wolves from spreading to places where they're not wanted.

Others say wolves, which have rebounded so well that they've been taken off the endangered species list in many places, are too wily to be managed like sheep.

"Wolves are going to be wolves, so depending on fencing is probably not a very practical solution," says Bob Irvin of Defenders of Wildlife, one of the foremost groups advocating wolf restoration. "They are pretty adaptable (at) occupying habitat and also spreading to new habitat." He worries about trouble in communities, leading to "new hostility toward wolves" if the animals colonize surrounding neighborhoods.

If wolves broke out of the parks where they were at work, environmentalists would fight to let them continue to spread, fears John Youngberg of the Montana Farm Bureau Federation, which represents ranchers and farmers.

"On paper this might look like a great idea," he says. "But ... you have too many outside influences, political and human-caused."

The scientists' wolf proposal appears in the February issue of the scientific journal BioScience.
Filed under: Nation, Science
Article found here:
http://www.aolnews.com/nation/article/s ... n/19340244

I found the idea of using birth control for the wolves interesting. In that sense, the local population could never grow and would always be under control of the supervisors. A lot of people who dislike the use of wolves as population control always argue that their numbers will go out of control, but by this method it eliminates that possibility.

Re: Too Many Deer? Call in the Wolves, Scientists Say

Posted: Tue Feb 02, 2010 8:02 pm
by AWolfSpirit
Quite interesting indeed!

Thanks for posting, Songdog.

Re: Too Many Deer? Call in the Wolves, Scientists Say

Posted: Tue Feb 02, 2010 10:37 pm
by Tally
Hmmm...well, this is interesting. I suppose it is a step in the right direction. Permanent local populations of wolves would be better instead of just bringing in a few wherever the elk get out of control. I think the birth control is a good idea as long as it is temporary.

Re: Too Many Deer? Call in the Wolves, Scientists Say

Posted: Wed Feb 03, 2010 7:20 am
by Songdog
Tally wrote:Hmmm...well, this is interesting. I suppose it is a step in the right direction. Permanent local populations of wolves would be better instead of just bringing in a few wherever the elk get out of control. I think the birth control is a good idea as long as it is temporary.
They wouldn't be permanent though, I think that was the whole purpose of the article. Well, they'd be semii-permanent, but their numbers could never grow unless allowed by the supervises.

Depending on the means of birth control; usually it is permanent as they permanently have the wolves fixed. I beleive their goal isn't to establish a wolf population, but use the wolves to control the elk, while therein controlling the wolves.

Re: Too Many Deer? Call in the Wolves, Scientists Say

Posted: Fri Feb 05, 2010 6:13 pm
by pawnee
The thing with using contraceptives in wild populations is that intesive monitering must be done to ensure its effective. You have to make sure that the animal is given the correct dosage over the period of time at the right intervals...which means keeping track of how many animals and admistering the drugs. You can lace food with contraceptives but you then have to ensure that the pattern continues.

Overall contraceptives would be useful in populations habituated to urbanized areas...like in controlling geese or urban deer, but it would be tricky and costly for managers to to use it on large predators such as wolves....

Re: Too Many Deer? Call in the Wolves, Scientists Say

Posted: Fri Feb 12, 2010 11:38 pm
by Bluewolf97
cool post. i bet they could posibly use this in parks and out in the wild.

Re: Too Many Deer? Call in the Wolves, Scientists Say

Posted: Tue Feb 16, 2010 11:20 am
by Loua
Hmmmm,I wonder who's fault is that,Hmmmm...
Now the government should focus on preserving our APEX PREDATORS instead of killing them,so that we don't have to do this again.For me,it is king of a good idea,only that it takes all the freedom of the wolf out from it,turning them into some kind of robot slave to fix something we have done.

Re: Too Many Deer? Call in the Wolves, Scientists Say

Posted: Mon Mar 01, 2010 6:02 pm
by wq47 HawkTail
Very interesting, SongDog. Seems like many people are finally opening their eyes nowadays! :D

Re: Too Many Deer? Call in the Wolves, Scientists Say

Posted: Sat Mar 13, 2010 11:23 am
by -x-Zaroque-x-
I've been talking about this this lunch time

Polititons have been talking about this all over the world, Wolves have been a big hit with them but not everyone wants them back. Some other people say Shoot them for money, (Venison meat) But I think thats not a humane way of doing it. Its more cleaver bringing back Wolves and I think it would make the Food chain more of a competition though for Foxes. But its worth having a go.

This is intresting, thank you.