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Wolf Culls - Wolf Prey Kills Not Simple Function of Total Population Size (Wolf Family Values)

Posted: 05 October 2010 12:27 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Interesting read of an article “Wolf Family Values” by Sharon Levy in the New Scientist.

Culling of wolves happens in many countries but I hadn’t expected the extent - in Alaska apparently up to 50% of the wolves are shot or trapped every year. Clearly wolves are predators and kill other animals - after all that’s what they’re ‘designed’ to do in playing their part in the chain.

The consequences of a high proportion of wolves being culled is that wolves in the areas tend not to survive to old age and the pack sizes shrink.  A comparison between Yellowstone (where wolves aren’t culled) and other areas shows that more (not fewer) prey animals are killed per wolf in areas where culling takes place - not what you might think. What seems to happen is that wolves form a social unit and younger wolves learn hunting skills from older wolves. Clearly with larger pack sizes and more skilled wolves they are also able to hunt larger prey and therefore I suppose have larger but more infrequent kills. Since wolves only feed at the one feeding this is important as there is likely to be less waste (any fraction left over still represents a dead prey animal whether partially or fully eaten).

This just goes to show that you can’t predict the outcome based on a simple population head count - you have to look at the groups and the dynamics with and between them.

References
New Scientist. 30th June 2010. Issue 2764 p 40-43
Online Excerpt

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