Interesting article on wolf slaughter:http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servl.../National/home
CALGARY For generations, ranchers have believed that the only good wolf is a dead wolf.
But a new study finds that bringing out the traps and shotguns soon after cattle and sheep have become dinner for hungry wolves isn't the most effective way to protect livestock.
"People and government agencies kill wolves as a reaction," said study lead author Marco Musiani, a professor at the University of Calgary's faculty of environmental design. "This reaction is a corrective, punitive reaction, which doesn't contribute to decreasing the number of wolf attacks in a region."
Jim Pissot, executive director of Defenders of Wildlife Canada, said his group has noticed that wolf culls don't work and is trying to raise money to help ranchers cover the costs of protecting livestock.
"Using lethal methods to reduce depredation may be a little like imprisoning shoplifters as the only method to address shoplifting -- if you add the additional condition that prospective shoplifters [even those not yet born] don't hear about the penalty," he said.
The research, published in a recent issue of the Wildlife Society Bulletin and presented this week at the North American Wolf Conference, examined livestock deaths due to wolves in Alberta 1982-96 as well as in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming from 1987 to 2003.
In Alberta, there were 1,021 wolf attacks on domestic animals that left them injured or dead during the study period. At the same time, at least 795 wolves were killed. (Canada does not require reporting of wolf deaths, so the number could be higher.) The three U.S. states had 253 wolf attacks and 861 domestic animals killed. During the study period, 120 wolves were killed.
The monetary loss to the agriculture industry -- in things such as meat, wool, milk, labour and surveillance -- is more difficult to quantify.
But the data showed that wolf attacks came seasonally, such as during calving time, as cattle are grazing and when wolf pups are born. At the same time, short-term wolf culls -- generally aimed at "problem individuals" -- did little to disrupt the patterns.
"Even if entire wolf packs are extirpated through control actions, neighbouring or dispersing individuals may readily fill home range vacancies," the report concludes.
Culls are no longer a primary management tool, but the practice hasn't disappeared -- nor has the controversy.
Right now, the Alberta government is killing wolves, which are not endangered species, in a bid to protect some threatened woodland caribou, dubbed the Little Smoky herd, near Hinton, not far from Jasper National Park.
The province says the caribou in that area are at "immediate risk" of vanishing. There were between 250 and 300 caribou in the area 15 years ago. Now the herd is down to 100. About 150 wolves from several packs overlap the caribou range.
"The wolves are the primary cause of mortality in the caribou," said Dave Ealey, a spokesman with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, who also cites weather and human development as contributing factors. A cull is currently under way aimed at reducing the number of wolves in that area by 50 to 70 per cent. (Scientists have found that to cut depredation effectively, 30 to 50 per cent of a region's wolf herd must be killed periodically over a span of several years.)
The Alberta Wilderness Association describes the wolf cull as a "misguided and short-sighted" attempt to protect the caribou. David Samson, a conservation specialist with the association, said the province is failing to protect the caribou habitat from industrial encroachment. Oil and gas leases are still being handed out. Roads and seismic line cuts remove protection.
"The long-term problem with the predators comes because it's easier for the predators to be there," Mr. Samson said.
There is no plan to continue the cull next year, and long-term plans haven't been developed. The province also conducts monitoring on horseback to keep caribou off roads, orders land reclamation and has erected an electric fence to keep some of the caribou and their calves safe from predators, Mr. Ealey said.
Prof. Musiani, who has studied the issue of livestock deaths caused by wolves around the world, suggests that compensation for ranchers for lost stock would be more effective financially -- surveillance and cull efforts are expensive -- and be more palatable for those concerned about nature conservation.
Guard dogs, fences, repellents and relocation of wolves could be used during seasonal peaks in attacks. Ranchers could hang cloth or plastic from twine, known as "fladry" to create a psychological barrier for wolves to keep them away from livestock.
"Ranchers should be allowed to kill wolves when harassing or preying on cattle," Mr. Pissot said, "but the more effective strategy would be to employ other methods first."
One thing that irritates me is the comparison of wolves killing domestic animals to shoplifting. Shoplifting is immoral while a wolf hunting an animal for survival is not. Interesting how meat-eaters will defend eating animals, and think it's perfectly okay, even with how they're treated, yet if a wild animal kills "their" animals for food, it's a crime and the animal should be shot.
Omni's using "food chain" to excuse their animal cruelty, and refuse to let animals like wolves be a part of that "food chain".
If people really cared, if they would just put a little more effort into humane alternatives they could easily find ways to keep wild animals away from "livestock".