by Rob Chaney, Missoulian
Shoot a wolf, kill a cow?
That’s the counterintuitive outcome of a look at 25 years of wolf management statistics in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming by a Washington researcher wondering how wolf populations might affect his state.
“People are afraid of grizzlies, black bears and cougars, but the wolf thing is really different,” said Rob Wielgus, who’s been studying how predators and people interact since 1981. “But some people hate wolves. It’s way dirtier, way more vehement topic. But in Washington, we decided that wildlife management should be science-based rather than volume-based. We thought, let’s use science rather than the litigation route.”
Washington currently has about 50 wolves and three breeding pairs in the state. Those wolves still enjoy federal ESA protection in the eastern two-thirds of the state. Last year, the state legislature provided about $600,000 and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife chipped in another $80,000 for a risk analysis from Wielgus at Washington State University.
“With bears and cougars, when you kill an adult male, three young guys come to the funeral and you end up with more animals than you started with, along with more complaints and attacks on livestock,” Wielgus said. “In the past study, we found for each cougar we killed here, it resulted in 50 percent more livestock depredations the following year.”
Using statistics from Montana, Idaho and Wyoming wolf management, Wielgus found a similar pattern with wolf kills. For each wolf killed, the number of livestock attacks the next year went up 5 percent. That pattern held until wolf shooters took out at least a quarter of the local population, when livestock kills stabilized.
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Posted by Jami Howell