Archive for the ‘South Dakota’ Tag

Wildlife: Possible Black Hills wolf sighting spurs calls for increased hunter education to avoid accidental shooting   2 comments

From Summit County Citizens Voice August 19, 2015

South Dakota a hot spot for wolf deaths

FRISCO — Since the Dakotas are sandwiched between Montana and Minnesota, it’s probably not completely surprising that wolves turn up there from time to time.

But the latest sighting of what certainly looks like a wolf has spurred a call for more education and public outreach to prevent the animal from being shot, either by accident or purposefully by over-eager hunters.

Other wolves have been shot been shot and killed in South Dakota in recent years, as reported by newspapers there, and the Center for Biological Diversityhas also tracked the fate or wolves that wandered out of the northern Rockies.

“Most hunters, just like other folks, try to do the right thing,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “They appreciate wolves’ important role in natural ecosystems. We hope this wolf will continue to enchant viewers and contribute to recovery of his species,” Robinson said, reacting to the most recent sighting in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Wolves are larger and appear bulkier than coyotes, with longer legs and more rounded ears. In two recent wolf killings in Colorado and Utah, hunters said the mistook wolves for coyotes — one of the reasons that wolves are having a hard time re-establishing populations in new areas.

Wolves are protected under the Endangered Species Act throughout the United States except in Alaska, Idaho, Montana and portions of Utah, Oregon and Washington.

The Center for Biological Diversity has urged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help educate the public about the difference between wolves and coyotes — and about the fact that wolves are protected under federal law — in order to enhance protections for the animal seen in the recent video. So far the Service has declined to take action.

Moreover, despite the steady push by gray wolves to expand into areas they historically inhabited, instead of expanding public education and wolf-management programs the federal agency has proposed stripping their Endangered Species Act protections across most of the country.

“Removing wolves from the endangered species list would increase the number that are killed, confine wolves to artificial islands of habitat where they risk becoming inbred, and cut off the benefits these beautiful animals provide to ecosystems, wild places and other animals in the food web,” said Robinson. “The antidote is twofold: More room in people’s hearts for wolves, and keeping them protected under the law.”

While the wolf restoration effort in the northern Rockies has been successful, the predators haven’t been able to recolonize much territory outside that area even though they once roamed widely across most of North America.

Scientists say it’s critical to maintain linkages between wild wolf populations for the long-term genetic health of the species. The Black Hils region is not mapped as potential wolf habitat, primarily because of the road density in the area, according to Robinson.

The Center for Biological Diversity has documented the fates of 56 wolves known to have dispersed from established recovery areas since 1981. Forty-eight of those were found dead, including 36 by gunshot, including five in South Dakota between 1981 and 1991.

The other 12 wolves among the 48 that died included four in South Dakota: two with the causes of mortality not disclosed, one hit by a vehicle and another thought to have been hit — in 2001, 2006 and two in 2012. Genetic tests on the 2012 animals determined that one was from the northern Rockies and the other from the upper Midwest.

By Bob Berwyn

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Wolf cull backfires as wild canines feast on farm animals   Leave a comment

From:  The Conversation

Wolves, lions and other large carnivores rely on meat for sustenance and there are only so many wild animals to go round. Sometimes, dinner means cow or sheep.

Farmers can use guard dogs or protective fencing to deter predators and protect livestock. But lethal methods such as hunting and trapping are also used to control wild carnivore numbers.

As a livestock farmer in wolf country, it would be reasonable to assume that killing more predators would result in fewer attacks on your animals. However, a new study by Washington State University has turned this assumption on its head by discovering the opposite: the more wolves that are killed (up to a threshold of 25% of the population), the more the remainder preyed on local sheep and cows. Why is this?

Unpicking the pack

The researchers, Robert Wielgus and Kaylie Peebles, point to the nature of the species’ social systems: wolves live in family groups containing a breeding pair (also known as the alpha pair) along with related sub-adults, juveniles and pups. The alphas are the only breeders within the group as they limit reproduction by their subordinates.

Killing one of the alphas disrupts the pack and subordinate wolves, who often outnumber the breeders, are then free to reproduce. This could increase the number of breeding individuals in the area, thereby increasing the population of hungry wolves – maybe farmers who shoot wolves are inadvertently doing more towards conservation than they think!

Wolves take on a Bison. NPS

Conversely, as humans are more likely to shoot youngsters than adult breeding wolves, the alphas may be temporarily be in a more favourable situation. There would be less competition for food, fewer clashes with other wolves and less risk of the transmission of disease. Again, this could result in short-term increases in attacks on livestock.

Wolf packs also have an important educational role, as the experienced wolves pass on their knowledge. Killing them impairs this social learning. If the rest of the pack hasn’t learnt the skills necessary to take on bison or elk they may instead turn towards easier pickings on the farm.

This same behaviour has been seen in lions and cougars (although has not been documented in many other carnivore species).

When culls go wrong

It is interesting to note that this paradoxical finding is not just found in relation to wolves – lethal control of cougars (or mountain lions) also means the remainder kill more cows and sheep as younger, inexperienced cougars are more likely to attack livestock.

Coyote vs sheep. USDA

Coyotes also show increased litter sizes and more frequent breeding in populations that were lethally controlled. Culling programmes could have even exacerbated livestock attacks by taking out younger, less predatory coyotes. Further, state-funded coyote removal campaigns have failed to reduce predation on sheep. Lynx, too, do not significantly reduce livestock attacks until lethal control dramatically reduces total population numbers.

It must be noted that other studies have shown that killing predators can sometimes reduce the numbers of livestock they themselves kill, but this is only temporary, until new populations of predators establish themselves.

What to do about wolves?

If we would like a world where neither livestock nor predators are killed, we are either going to have to take away all the predators or all the livestock. Clearly neither one of these options is viable so we must aim to reduce preying on farm animals to a tolerable level.

Should’ve ordered the lamb. Denali NPS

Despite proof that changes inlivestock husbandryreduces predation, farmers may still not want these creatures living near them as they may feel that the carnivores have “won” or taken over “their” land.

As such, despite scientific evidence showing that predators don’t kill that many cattle anyway, that lethal control usually doesn’t reduce attacks, and that non-lethal methods can almost eliminate attacks, this still may not be enough to sway farmers from their anti-predator mind-sets.

We must therefore start to think outside the box. Much of this conflict between humans and wild predators is not really about protecting livestock, but instead concerns a deeper historic and cultural aversion to wolves, lions and other scary carnivores. This won’t be fixed through simple technical solutions – and we now know it certainly won’t be fixed with a gun.

 

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