A recent study has found that, contrary to what many people think, killing wolves does not always decrease attacks on domestic livestock. Researchers from Washington State University have discovered that for every wolf killed in the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming over the past 25 years, there was a five percent increase in livestock killing the next year. The killing of livestock only began diminishing after overall numbers of wolves were down by more than 25 percent. According to Rob Wielgus, professor of wildlife ecology and director of the university's Large Carnivore Conservation Lab, it seems that killing the alpha male and alpha female wolves allows subordinate members to start breeding which results in more breeding pairs. The breeding pairs are more inclined to attack and kill livestock because they are trying to keep the pups well-fed. Professor Wielgus further added that a previous research showed that livestock predation by bears and pumas increased when dominant male individuals were killed which enabled younger undisciplined individuals to take control of their superiors' territory. However, he did not expect to see similar results in wolves which hunt in packs and function as a strict social structure. He indicated that the moment of discovery came when researchers saw that the 5 percent increase in breeding pairs that resulted from each wolf killed matched the 5 percent in livestock killings. Acclaimed ecology professor William J. Ripple from Oregon State University stated that the study seemed to be crucial and it could eventually lead to considerable changes in wolf management if it holds up.
It is extremely interesting to see how killing a large carnivorous species of animals in order to help protect domestic livestock can have adverse side effects. This was recently discovered in the case of wolves in the U.S, which have always been in the spotlight regarding livestock predation and the ongoing conflicts between conservation groups, distraught ranchers, and the federal government. Whenever wolves prey on domestic livestock, the response has always been retaliatory. That is, ranchers would swiftly respond by killing any wolf on sight within the vicinity of their land. However, despite killing any wolves over the past 25 years, ranchers in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming continue to lose their livestock to the animals. The reason for such an unfortunate side effect was probably because the ranchers started killing wolves which appeared to be alpha males and females whose job is to keep subordinate pack members in line. When the alpha male and female wolves get killed, their deaths would allow subordinate pack members to take over and start forming breeding pairs without the approval of their superiors. This, in turn, leads to further conflicts between people and wolves and therefore contributes to more livestock predation by wolves despite retaliatory killings by ranchers. This is why it is extremely crucial to make considerable changes in wolf management, in order to ensure that ranchers and wolves can live alongside one another in relative peace. Instead of killing wolves, a better alternative would be to employ livestock guardian dogs to protect the ranchers' livestock from wolves. This practice keeps both wolves and livestock safe without either side falling victim to any predator; be it human or wolf.
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