The widespread claim that wolf populations can withstand 25–50% or greater annual reductions without major biological consequences is based primarily on the observation that populations often maintain their size from year to year as harvest or control continues or recover within a few years afterward. This emphasis on numerical status overlooks the likelihood of major, lingering impacts on the size, number, stability, and persistence of family‐group social units, on reproductive, hunting, and territorial behavior, on the role of learning and related traditions, on within‐ and between‐group patterns of genetic variation, and on overall mortality rates. The tendency of biologists and agencies in northern North America to promote wolf harvests that are four to eight times greater than ungulate harvests, in accord with the wolf versus ungulate difference in reproductive rates but contradictory to a broad array of differences in social organization and related behavior, is reason enough to question the logic of this prevailing management view. True sustained‐yield management requires more emphasis on qualitative biological features to determine the extent to which wolves and other species with evolutionary histories as predators rather than as prey should be harvested. Most recent government‐sponsored wolf control programs and proposals, including sterilization, relocation, and “redirected” killing, have been based on questionable claims about ungulate or livestock problems and have not adequately considered potential biological costs (especially to the target wolf populations), benefits, or management alternatives. The high sentience of wolves justifies overlapping biological‐ethical concerns about such programs and especially about the heavy, indiscriminate, deceptively reported public hunting and trapping of wolves that is currently permitted throughout most of Alaska (U.S.A.)—including in national parks—and elsewhere.
Conservation Biology – Wiley
Published: Aug 1, 1996
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