Blood does not buy goodwill

In the paper published Guillaume Chapron and Adrian treves in Proceedings B of the Royal Society (Blood does not buy goodwill: allowing culling increases poaching of a large carnivore), the authors looked at whether removing protection for large carnivores would decrease illegal hunting. This idea is supported by many governments. Does it work as expected? Find out by watching this video and by reading the paper available at http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/283/1830/20152939.

Abstract of the paper:

Quantifying environmental crime and the effectiveness of policy interventions is difficult because perpetrators typically conceal evidence. To prevent illegal uses of natural resources, such as poaching endangered species, governments have advocated granting policy flexibility to local authorities by liberalizing culling or hunting of large carnivores. We present the first quantitative evaluation of the hypothesis that liberalizing culling will reduce poaching and improve population status of an endangered carnivore. We show that allowing wolf (Canis lupus) culling was substantially more likely to increase poaching than reduce it. Replicated, quasi-experimental changes in wolf policies in Wisconsin and Michigan, USA, revealed that a repeated policy signal to allow state culling triggered repeated slowdowns in wolf population growth, irrespective of the policy implementation measured as the number of wolves killed. The most likely explanation for these slowdowns was poaching and alternative explanations found no support. When the government kills a protected species, the perceived value of each individual of that species may decline; so liberalizing wolf culling may have sent a negative message about the value of wolves or acceptability of poaching. Our results suggest that granting management flexibility for endangered species to address illegal behaviour may instead promote such behaviour.

Does hunting impact carnivore recruitment?

Recruitment in a social carnivore before and after harvest” is the title of a recent paper published on the Journal Animal Conservation of the Zoological Society of London that shows collateral impacts of harvesting wolves:

We attributed just 18–38% of pup mortality directly to harvest and suggest that there are indirect effects of harvest on recruitment that may be associated with changes in group size and structure. Models that do not include both direct and indirect effects of harvest on recruitment may underestimate the potential impact of harvest on population growth in social species.”

The article does not have open access and it is available HERE but you can read it in this LINK.

Other recommended reads: http://www.klamathconservation.org/science_blog/conservation/?p=192

REINTRODUCING WOLVES IS ONLY EFFECTIVE AT LARGE SCALES

It is a rule in ecology that big animals outcompete little animals. Sometimes the big animals kill the little animals, sometimes the big animals eat the little animals, and sometimes the big animals drive the little animals out of one territory and into another, safer one. That basic pattern – “interspecific competitive killing” – has pushed scientists to try to understand how large carnivores shape entire ecosystems. Continue reading

Judge rules to keep gray wolves on endangered species list

Great news from USA! Great job done by the Scientists. You can download the letter sent to the judge HERE.

As scientists with expertise in carnivore taxonomy and conservation biology, we are writing to express serious concerns with a recent draft rule leaked to the press that proposes to remove Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 States, excluding the range of the Mexican gray wolf. Collectively, we represent many of the scientists responsible for the research referenced in the draft rule. Based on a careful review of the rule, we do not believe that the rule reflects the conclusions of our work or the best available science concerning the recovery of wolves, or is in accordance with the fundamental purpose of the Endangered Species Act to conserve endangered species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. Continue reading

Why Is Canada’s Wolf Population Splitting Into Two Groups?

Why Is Canada's Wolf Population Splitting Into Two Groups?

Chester Starr of the Heiltsuk First Nation knows that the wolves of British Columbia come in two varieties: timber wolves on the mainland and coastal wolves on the islands. Genetic research has finally confirmed what Starr’s tribe has always known.

It was Starr’s “traditional ecological knowledge” that initially inspired Polish Academy of Sciences researcher Astrid V. Stronen and University of Calgary scientist Erin Navid to take a closer look at British Columbia’s wolves. They wanted to see whether the Heiltsuk Nation’s folk knowledge was reflected in the wolves’ genes. Continue reading

Researchers Kill 890 Wolves to Learn About Them: There’s Something Very Wrong

By Marc Bekoff

I’ve written a number of essays that have centered on the question, “Should animals be killed in the name of, or under the guise of, conservation?” The basic foundation of the rapidly growing field of compassionate conservation, “First do no harm,” maintains that the lives of individual animals matter and that killing in the name of conservation should not be done (see here). Continue reading

Wolves are not the Cause of Elk Population Decline in Wyoming

Any hunter who’s spent time in wolf country can attest to the predators’ influence. We see wolf tracks, find old kills, and often times we spot fewer game animals. But exactly how wolves affect big-game populations is still greatly unknown. Yeah, wolves eat elk. But, do they kill mostly adults or calves? Do they eat enough elk to wipe out a whole herd? Do they pressure elk into hiding in the timber or force them off their feeding patterns? Are wolves even one of the main factors in elk population dynamics?

New research from the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Wyoming is starting to shed light on some of these questions. After three years of studying the Clark’s Fork elk herd (about 5,000 animals) in northwest Wyoming, lead researcher Arthur Middleton found that wolves might not be as detrimental to elk populations as many outdoorsmen think.

His research shows that the Clark’s Fork herd’s fate is based on a complex set of variables including habitat, weather, hunting, bears, and wolves.

“There’s a pretty popular notion that elk are always responding to wolves. And that’s a fairly logical perception because wolves are always hunting elk … But wolves hunt an elk population. That [hunting pressure] doesn’t always affect individual animals.”


Photo: Elk traveling across their winter range in Yellowstone National Park, USGS.

The Study
Middleton and a coalition of biologists GPS collared wolves and elk west of Cody, Wyoming in and around Yellowstone National park. In a study area of about 1 million acres, they monitored interactions between predator and prey. Over three years they observed the animals in January, February, and March – when wolves typically put the most stress on elk. The study was funded by a variety of organizations and agencies including Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Boone & Crockett Club, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Safari Club International.

The researchers set out to test the theory that wolves were responsible for decreasing elk populations in ways besides direct predation. In other words, they wanted to find out if pressure from wolves was running elk out of their regular feeding patterns and keeping cows from putting on enough body fat to rear calves in the spring.

The research started at a critical time for the Clark’s Fork herd. Calf-to-cow ratios in the migratory herd started dropping in the mid-90s, about the same time wolves were introduced. Those ratios have remained low since 2002 and overall elk numbers decreased. Middleton found about 15 calves to 100 elk in the migratory Clark’s Fork herd. In the resident herd, the ratio was about 35 calves per 100 elk.

Hunters and wildlife managers were alarmed by the drop in elk numbers. Doug McWhiter, a Wyoming Fish and Game biologist who manages the area, said elk numbers are stable now, but hunting opportunities had to be cut. Cow tags were reduced and hunting units in the area were switched from general over-the-counter licenses to limited quota in 2010. Hunter opportunity was reduced by 50 to 75 percent, says McWhiter who helped with Middleton’s research.

“We can maintain these elk numbers but we had to severely limit hunting opportunity to do that,” he says. “That in itself is difficult for people to understand.”


Photo: The Agate wolf pack in a stand-off with a bull in Yellowstone, NPS.

The Findings
Middleton and his crew found that a new wolf pack does not mean certain doom for an elk herd. In fact, elk have adapted to living with wolves.

“From my time in the field, I can say that most days in the life of a cow elk are pretty boring,” Middleton says. On average, elk encountered wolves once every 9 days. The highest wolf-encounter rate for any individual elk was once every four days. And, even though elk were encountering wolves, they weren’t overly stressed or run to starvation.

“We didn’t see any reduction in rate of feeding and we didn’t see them shift into timber. Those two behaviors were said to be [metabolically] costly, but we just didn’t see [the elk reacting that way,]” Middleton says.

Elk did move slightly more when wolves were within 1 kilometer, but not by much – they only traveled an extra 30 meters per hour when wolves were in the area.

The researchers also found that the number of wolf encounters had no impact on the amount of elk body fat. Body fat is a critical measurement for cows’ ability to rear calves.

So if the wolf-hunting-pressure theory was busted, what was happening to the Clark Fork’s herd?

Middleton says it comes down to habitat. The area has suffered a 20-year decline in habitat across the herd’s summer range. If an elk can’t put on enough body fat in the summer and fall, then it will struggle through the winter, regardless of predators, Middleton says.

“We looked at a suite of factors that could explain late-winter body fat and the only thing that did explain it was autumn body fat. In other words, whatever they get over the summer determines where they end up in winter,” he says.

Of course, wolf predation does affect overall elk numbers, but in a separate study Middleton found that wolves weren’t even the top calf predators. He found that bears typically take out more elk calves than wolves do. During a June monitoring period grizzlies killed an elk calf every two to four days and black bears killed a calf every four to eight days.


Photo: Wolf on an elk kill in Yellowstone, PLOS Biology.

Backcountry Observations
Collecting data that shows an elk herd can thrive in wolf country and then getting people to actually believe that data are two different challenges. Hunters and outfitters who have spent their lives in the backcountry – before and after the wolf reintroduction – have already made plenty of their own observations.

Tim Doud, owner of Bliss Creek Outfitters out of Cody, says the elk decline goes hand-in-hand with the wolf reintroduction. Clear and simple.

“The elk population numbers have certainty decreased and it is because of the wolves. That’s the only reason in my eyes,” he says. “Now I’m not anti-wolf. I don’t think they should be wiped out or anything like that. But we do need to hunt more of them. Most people don’t see what I see. They don’t see the horrific, suffering death of an elk whose hindquarters have been chewed away and can only lay there and die slowly. That’s a real shame. Most people … go to Yellowstone to see the pretty dogs.”

Ron Lineberger owns Butte Creek Outfitters with his wife Theresa and guides elk hunters in the Wyoming backcountry. Over the years he’s seen elk behavior change, and in many ways his observations match Middleton’s research.

“Elk behavior has totally changed, but the elk are not gone. Everyone loves to blame the wolf because it’s easy … [Wolves] did change the dynamic for the environment and they’ve changed the way a lot of animals have evolved. It has led to a bit of catastrophic natural adaptation…

“There has been a succession of fires, which destroyed natural elk habitat. Grizzly bear numbers have gone up and the elk have moved to survive. They have moved to more agricultural and human habitat areas. It’s not just the wolf that’s caused the change. People just look to put the blame on one thing. Yes, elk have moved to areas that haven’t seen elk for 200 years. But there are large portions of healthy elk populations that have moved to private land, which makes them unhuntable … Think of it this way: the elk are picking their poison. Either deal with hunters in the low country for 6 weeks, or stay in the high country and deal with wolves and bears year round.”

The takeaway? Adapting to environmental changes is key to the success of a species, and an elk hunter.

“The hunter has to adapt as well,” Lineberger says. “Hunting elk also relies on a lot of factors that we have no control over. The fact that they have become more alert thanks to the wolves, certainly makes it tougher, but hunters must adapt to that. We are no different than any other animal. We must adapt to survive.”

Source: http://www.outdoorlife.com/blogs/newshound/2013/06/study-wolves-not-cause-wyoming-elk-decline