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Topic: Flora & Fauna     Department: Letters

More Wolf side effects

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One group that was not discussed in Hal Herring's recent article on the delisting of wolves in the Northern Rockies were the non-ranching farmers, those who raise alfalfa, corn or other crops (HCN, 5/30/11). Elk damage to crops has been a serious issue in the West since elk numbers began recovering from overharvest years ago. Western states pay thousands of dollars in compensation payments to landowners who have decreased crop yields because of elk. Some landowners tolerate elk on their land because they enjoy seeing them or can sell access to elk hunters. Their neighbors, however, suffer intolerable damage.

Have the wolf-related declines in elk numbers reduced elk depredation on crops? Has wolf predation forced elk off of private lands where they are more accessible to elk hunters?

Another issue that wasn't mentioned was the impact of wolves on coyote populations. The expansion of coyotes across North America has been attributed to the decline of wolves. Has there now been a decline in coyote-killed livestock in the Northern Rockies? Coyotes are also an important predator on elk calves, deer and antelope fawns, waterfowl, upland birds and other game species. Will a recovered wolf population reduce the effect of coyote predation on wildlife? In the Eastern U.S., smaller predators like raccoons, red fox and skunks have increased in the absence of predators such as wolves and cougar, bringing speculation that many ground-nesting birds and other small wildlife species have declined. It is issues like these that make the wildlife management field so interesting and challenging.     

David Smith
Flagstaff, Arizona

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