New Study Charts Middle Path For Wolves – Neither Heroes Nor Villains, Simply An Important Part Of Nature

Wolves have bitter human enemies and passionate human supporters and both are wrong in their extreme views, a new study argues.

Wolves do not destroy game animal populations and deprive hunters and ranchers of livelihood. Nor does their mere presence restore the balance of nature and right environmental wrongs, according to the authors.

closeup photography of wold lying on ground
Is this a maniacal killer of sheep and cattle or a totem animal heralding a return to nature. Neither says a recent study. It is simply a wolf.. Photo by Pixabay on

Instead, wolves are simply a necessary part of the wildscape.

The report was published in Frontiers In Conservation Science. One conclusion perhaps not that obvious, is that human activity has altered the landscape enough that wolves couldn’t possibly eliminate deer populations. Farming, forestry, landscaping and gardening have created perfect habitat for deer, the study notes. Neither hunters, drivers or wolves could kill enough to put a big dent in ungulate populations.

selective photography of white lamb on hay
Wolf predation on sheep and lambs may bother people more because of our tendency to see them as darling creatures. Photo by Paul Seling on

“What we do to landscapes, whether that’s forestry, agriculture or gardening, provide deer with a perfect landscape for them to live in. Hunters don’t remove enough deer, cars don’t remove enough,” said said Bernd Blossey of Cornell University, “Their populations exploded, because the living conditions were just absolutely wonderful.” Blossey co-authored the study.

deer on snow field
Human intervention has made most of the US much more habitable for deer. Unfortunately it also means we kill thousands annually in car accidents and many others are eaten by wolves and other predators. Photo by Rod Dion on

Intentionally or not, Blossey is glossing over a serious problem. Highway related deaths of deer and many other animals are an unknown but vast number and create much unnecessary suffering. As we noted

Nationally, perhaps 150 people are killed annually in car/deer crashes and 10,000 are injured. These crashes cost about $1 billion annually.

As to the cause of livestock losses they are numerous and there are ways to reduce wolf-human conflict.

But the opposite view is not true either. The mere presence, or addition, of wolves to a landscape does not solve all environmental issues.

Unfortunately, the balanced view proposed does not impress some people. Whole packs of wolves have been poisoned in Oregon, and shot in California. Wolves roaming out of the protection of Yellowstone National Park are gunned down quickly. The arguments against allowing wolves to live or reintroducing them remain the same. Ranchers argue that wolves can kill up to 10 percent of their stock; academics insist the number is a fraction of that. But some academics acknowledge that the losses are uneven and a 3 percent total can easily involve wiping out one person’s whole stock. Recently one rancher lost 143 sheep when they were stampeded by two wolves.

Published by ursusrising

long time writer and editor living in Los Angeles

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