Sunday, April 3, 2016

Humans, not wolves, kill for sport

April 2, 2016

There has been much publicity recently about 19 elk (17 were calves from 2015) killed in a single night by wolves at the McNeel feedground near Bondurant. This publicity has been accompanied by considerable hand wringing, teeth gnashing and crocodile tears from state wildlife officials and outfitters over the wolves killing for "sport" and not even eating their kills. It should be made clear that wolves do not kill for "sport." Human hunters kill for "sport", not wolves. Wolves may make "surplus" kills being opportunistic carnivores, if prey species are by geography, age groups, or behavior placed in vulnerable positions (such as artificial concentrations at feedgrounds).
However wolves have no intention of not consuming these kills. Unless displaced from such a surplus kill site, they will return again and again until the prey species are completely consumed.
Even if wolves are completely driven from the area, the carcasses, if left in place, will eventually be consumed by other predators, scavengers, microorganisms, etc. and these deaths will be reincorporated into the fertility of the ecosystem.
The real villains in this story are not the wolves, but the state politicians and wildlife officials who demand elk feedgrounds that artificially concentrate prey species in abnormally high numbers that render them not only more susceptible to such opportunistic surplus killing but also serves as breeding grounds for such diseases as chronic wasting disease and brucellosis.
A better response to this killing than railing against the wolves is to stop treating elk as livestock, close the feedgrounds and let the elk disperse across public rangelands for their winter foraging. This management strategy will result in smaller but healthier herds and with less opportunity for sporadic surplus killing by the wolf.


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