James Swan: the myth of the harmless wolf

James Swan, author of the book “In Defense of Hunting” [here] has written an excellent synopsis of wolf issues with emphasis on the dangers that uncontrolled wolves pose to wildlife and humans.

Selected excerpts:

Recent wolf attacks on humans raise calls for proper management

By James Swan, ESPNOutdoors.com, April 24, 2010 [here]

On March 9, 2010, Candice Berner, a 32 year-old special education teacher working in Chignik Lake, Alaska, went jogging at dusk on a road near town and was attacked and killed by wolves.

On October 28, 2009, Canadian folk singer Taylor Mitchell was hiking in a Provincial Park in Nova Scotia when she was attacked and killed by two coyotes, which were subsequently identified by park rangers as a wolf-coyote hybrid.

In November of 2005, college student Kenton Carnegie was hiking on a road near Points North Landing in northern Saskatchewan when he was attacked and killed by wolves. There was some dispute over whether Carnegie was killed by wolves or a bear, but a provincial inquest found that wolves were responsible.

The attacking wolves in these three incidents were not rabid.

Because more than 90 percent of the population lives in urban areas and relies heavily on electronic screens to get information, most people today form opinions based on books, films and what people say.

For decades we have been told and taught that wolves have never attacked people in North America. The Internet Movie Database lists over 150 film and TV titles with the words “wolf” or “wolves.” There was only one found about wolf attacks: “The Man-Eating Wolves of Gysinge” (2005), a TV drama based on the true story of a wolf that terrorized a rural Swedish community and kills 10 children.



We’ve also been told that children’s fairy tales about the “Big Bad Wolf” were created to keep children home at night, and do not paint a realistic portrait of wolves.

Some light on wolf-human encounters was shed in 2002 when Alaskan wildlife biologist Mark McNay published a report of a two-year study documenting 80 aggressive encounters between wolves and people in North America in the 20th century.

In only 12 of the attacks were the wolves rabid. Since McNay’s report came out there have been three fatal attacks by healthy wolves, and an unknown number of non-fatal aggressive encounters and attacks on people and their pets in the U.S. and Canada. So what’s up?

“In Wolves In Russia,” Will Graves reports on a long history of wolf attacks on people in Eurasia, especially Russia, Pakistan, India and Kazakhastan, including thousands of fatal ones. …

Not nearly as many people in Eurasia are armed. As Graves points out, in Russia the populace was kept unarmed to prevent revolutions and reports of wolf killings were also suppressed to keep people from demanding to be armed. Our perspective on wolves is based on our experience, which is different from people abroad. All three peopled recently killed by wolves were unarmed. …

There are at least 6,000 wolves in the Northern Rockies and Northern Great Lakes states, 40,000 to 50,000 wolves in Canada and 7,700 to 11,200 in Alaska — 65,000-70,000 wolves for all of North America.

Wolves live in wild places, where there are few people, at least until recently. In recent years, especially since Canadian wolves were released into the Northern Rockies in 1995, the North American wolf population has doubled. Elk and deer herds have been dramatically reduced in some areas.

In 1995, when wolves were first re-introduced to the Northern Rockies, there were 19,000 elk in the Northern Yellowstone herd. By 2008, the herd was reduced to 6,000. Current estimates place the herd at less than 5,000. The moose herd in that area has dropped below 1,000.

Similarly, in 1994 there were 9,729 elk in District 10 of the Lolo Basin in Idaho, and 3,832 in District 12. By 2010, the elk herd in District 10 had plummeted to 1,473, and in District 12 in 2010 there were 705.

Such dramatic declines have moved the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to move from a position of what RMEF President David Allen describes was “sitting on the fence about wolves,” to its present stance, which favors “managing wolves like other predators, because their population numbers have soared way over the benchmark goals of the re-introduction as elk herds have declined by 80 percent or more in certain areas of the Northern Rockies.”

A recent study by Mark Collinge of the USDA APHIS Wildlife Services office in Boise, Idaho, finds “that individual wolves are much more likely to prey on livestock than are individuals of any other predator species in Idaho.”

As wild prey declines, wolves will look for food elsewhere. Noted Canadian wildlife biologist Dr. Valerius Geist finds that wolves (and coyotes, too) constantly test boundaries as they look for their next meal.

When normal prey is scarce, and they aren’t challenged by people, both wild canids progressively move closer and closer — preying on livestock, pets, garbage, etc. until they experiment with humans as food. “Habituation,” it’s called. It spells “trouble.” …

Wolves enjoy killing. It’s well-documented that on occasion they will run amok among herds of livestock, deer and elk, killing as many as they can, not eating their prey.

David Allen of RMEF, Don Peay of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife and Steve Alder from Idaho for Wildlife, all cite numerous examples of wolves attacking and killing large numbers of elk and livestock and not touching the carcasses as food. All three organizational leaders add that the elk killed by wolves are not just the sick, lame or aging, but very often healthy elk, especially calves and yearlings. …

Since wolves were introduced into the Northern Rockies in 1995, more than 1,000 have been killed by animal control. ….

David Mech recently has said that regulated hunting of wolves is not a threat to the species survival. Wolves no know political boundaries. They are here to stay.

Wolves are smart, prolific, and adapt quickly. Mech says that so long as there is adequate food and habitat it’s necessary to kill off between 28 and 53 percent in an area just to keep that wolf population stable. In 2009, hunters killed 22 percent of the wolves in Idaho and 14 percent of the wolves in Montana.

Cal Grown, Director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, says that declining elk populations in the state could lead to more liberal wolf hunting seasons in 2010. This will cause some people to howl, but will it threaten the survival of wolves?

“If the animal rights folks were truly just concerned about wildlife diversity they would leave the sportsmen and the states alone to manage the wildlife, including wolves. The U.S. has had the most successful wildlife model in the world for a century and it is due in large part to the American sportsmen. But I don’t believe that wildlife diversity is really their agenda or end goal; anti-hunting is their agenda,” says David Allen.

There are efforts afoot to return wolves in the Northern Rockies to the Endangered Species list. If you would like to voice your support to continue delisting wolves, a new website has been established, www.biggameforever.org, that will have an online petition. The goal is getting 100,000 signatures. … [more]

26 Apr 2010, 5:08pm
by YPmule

Excellent essay.



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