Gray wolves once roamed the entire North American continent, from the bushy deserts of Mexico to the boreal forests of Alaska. But by the 1950s, decades of excessive hunting and habitat loss almost wiped out native American species. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 has achieved extraordinary protection success. As of 2020, the number of gray wolves in the 48 states of the United States has rebounded to about 7,500.
After the decision-making process initiated in 2019, these iconic roaming carnivores are again at a crossroads. The U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife believes that the recovery of gray wolves has been so successful that it will completely “delist” canines from the ESA on January 4, 2021. This will remove them from federal protection and remove the species. The management of this is left to the states. Michigan and Minnesota are in the early stages of potential hunting plans for 2022. At the same time, Montana and Idaho, where wolves have been removed since 2011, have relaxed restrictions: In April, Montana legalized the use of traps to catch wolves, and in May Idaho approved A law that allows the killing of 90% of the state’s population by almost all means, including shooting from helicopters or ATVs.
Wisconsin took the most rapid action. After a hunting advocacy organization sued its Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for arranging immediate wolf hunting, the “harvest” was implemented in February this year.Wisconsin law requires annual hunting between mid-October and the end of February, if The gray wolf was expelled. The state initially planned to wait until the fall of 2021 to hold the harvest. But according to the Wisconsin DNR, the lawsuit forced it to take action. Between February 22 and 24, hunters killed 218 wolves. This is equivalent to approximately 21% of the state’s estimated 1,034 animals in 2020, which will leave 816 animals in Wisconsin.
However, according to a study recently published in the journal, the actual number of Wisconsin wolves has been higher in the past year. Peer J-Life and EnvironmentAmong them, the researchers estimate Nearly one-third of the total number of wolves in the state have been wiped out During that time, by mid-April, the true number will reach between 695 and 751 animals. When announcing the harvest quota for hunting in February 2021, the Wisconsin DNR stated that its goal is to neither increase nor reduce the number of gray wolves. However, the study concluded that the calculations of state institutions failed to maintain population stability.
Adrian Treves, the author of the study and a carnivore ecologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said, “The state is trying to keep the mortality rate at a tolerable level through hunting in February. “. “they do not.”
Now the Wolves will face the Hunters for the second time this year. On August 11, the Wisconsin Natural Resources Commission, which established the state’s natural resources policy, approved a quota of up to 300 wolves to be hunted in the fall starting on November 6.
Some experts say that the two hunts in Wisconsin may have a devastating long-term impact on the gray wolves and their ecosystems in the Great Lakes region. Scientists say that the rapid removal of most animals may damage their natural reproduction process and ensure that newborns cannot restore the population to the size of 2020. The rapid removal of wolves from the land twice a year may have invisible effects that will affect the entire ecosystem in the next few years.
Treves’ team came up with the number of one-third of the gray wolves in Wisconsin by combining three causes of population decline: official killings during hunting in February, natural deaths and unreported as reported by the state’s DNR The killing. According to the estimates of the researchers, the latter category may be difficult to track and includes “mysterious poaching”, which killed 55 to 58 wolves between April 2020 and April 2021.They argue The entire 2020 delisting review created an atmosphere that “liberalized” wolf killing and led to an increase in poaching activities.
Randy Johnson, a large carnivore expert at DNR in Wisconsin, criticized the team’s one-third estimate because it failed to explain any births after the hunt this spring. But DNR data shows that of the 218 wolves killed, 38 is a female of childbearing ageWolves reproduce only once a year, usually between January and March. Scientists say that pregnant or nursing females are likely to be killed in February hunting. They say this will limit the number of people born in the spring.
Adrian Wydeven, a retired wildlife biologist who has worked in Wisconsin for more than 30 years, said that even if none of the wolves hunted in February became pregnant, the normal reproduction level of the remaining females may not be sufficient to maintain The population is stable. He said: “If the purpose of DNR is to keep the number at the level of…, it will take almost two to three years of zero wolf harvest to return to the level of 900 or 1,000 wolves.” Use is independent of Treves. The way it works, Wydeven also estimates that “about 700 wolves” will remain in the post-harvest population.
Wydeven is worried that the National Resources Board’s decision to approve the fall harvest quota of 300 wolves may push the state’s population down to 350—a number he proposed in the wolf management plan he co-authored in 1999. He said that in the plan, the number is intended as the minimum number of wolves that researchers must achieve before any hunting of animals in the state is considered, not the ideal population size.
Regardless of whether the Wisconsin wolves are currently close to 700 or 800, Wydeven and Treves agree that the hunting in February alone caused losses (not to mention the 300-plus heads caused by the upcoming autumn hunt) that may have an impact on the entire landscape.As far as he is concerned, Johnson said, “There is no doubt that [wolves] Affect the surrounding environment. Describing anything as good or bad, positive or negative, is actually a human interpretation. He will not directly comment on any impact of hunting this fall.
Wydeven’s concern lies in his long-term behavioral insights into the wolf pack. The wolf pack is a closely connected family unit, including a pair of breeding pairs. Offspring and other related adults. “Assuming that the normal ecological functions you see from wolves are mainly [done] Through packaging,” he said. Treves explained that the February hunt is likely to destroy the group by killing a breeding animal or several or all members of the same unit. He said that the scattered wolves are scattered Members “cannot hunt deer effectively.”
The interruption of the pack and its hunting does not necessarily mean that the herd is about to erupt. But wolves will culminate sick deer, especially animals suffering from chronic wasting disease (CWD), which is caused by infectious neuropathogens. Wydeven said the disease has become a serious problem for white-tailed deer in southern Wisconsin—there are no wolves. At the same time, the disease is almost never found in the northern part of the state, “there are healthy wolves there,” he said. Wydeven added that the disappearance of individual wolves and healthy wolves may mean an increase in CWD and more unhealthy deer, which is a worrying prospect.
According to estimates from federal data, wolves also have an impact on the collision between deer and cars. This is a major problem in Wisconsin, causing approximately $200 million in damage to the state each year. An analysis in June estimated that such collisions have been reduced by 24% in 22 years In Wisconsin County with wolvesThe lead author of the study, natural resources economist Jenny Freno of Wesleyan University, pointed out that wolves hunt and eat deer, but the presence of predators can also trigger changes in the behavior of their prey. She said that deer became more and more frightened and reluctant to walk in places with wolves, which reduced their interaction with cars and 18-wheelers.
Beyond the road, the rebound of wolves has led to the revival of certain plant species in Wisconsin by affecting what and where deer eat. Wydeven said that these animals have wiped out large areas of delicious plants that they like and hindered the ability of plants to grow again. As Johnson said, “They eat sweets in the forest.”
In areas with healthy, functioning wolves, “we are beginning to detect some reduction in [deer] Grazing,” Wydeven said. He said studies have shown that the longer a bag is left in one place, the greater the diversity of local flowers and the number of saplings.
Where the Grey Wolf comes back It remains to be seen from here, especially if autumn hunting and its quota of 300 animals remain unchanged. Wydeven grew up in northern Wisconsin in the 1960s. He recalled rumors he read in local newspapers that there were rumors that one or two lone wolves roamed the forest border between Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. “We think we might never have wolves again because there are no [thought to be] A place wild enough to raise wolves,” he said. “So, for us, going from zero to 1,000 wolves is very remarkable. “