SEATTLE – There is little evidence that killing predators such as wolves, coyotes and bears actually protects livestock according to a new study published in the journal Frontiers of Ecology and the Environment.
The article, “Predator Control Should Not Be a Shot in the Dark,” is the work of researchers from the University of Wisconsin and two other schools who evaluated two dozen earlier studies to determine whether the methods were sound. They found that half the studies weren’t sufficiently rigorous.
Mike Petersen, executive director of the Lands Council, said that taking out the alphas in wolf packs, for example, could be counterproductive in protecting livestock.
“There’s been a theory if you take out the leading female or male, that could actually damage the wolf pack and cause more predation,” Petersen said.
Washington state wildlife officials have recently killed members of the Profanity Peak wolf pack, which are blamed for the deaths of 13 cattle in the Northeastern part of the state. The state plans to kill all 11 members of the pack.
The Profanity Peak pack accounts for more than one-tenth of the approximately 90 endangered gray wolves in the state. Petersen said more consideration should be given to the small number of wolves and their territory.
“There needs to be some places on our public lands where wolves have a higher priority than cattle, and this would be one of them,” he said, “in the Kettle Range, in a roadless area, in a proposed wilderness area.”
Ranchers use federal grazing allotments in the Colville National Forest where the Profanity Peak pack lives.
Petersen said the Forest Service is working with an outdated plan that could have led to the conflict between grazing land and wolf territory in the area in the first place.
Eric Tegethoff is a journalist covering the Northwest. Eric has worked as a reporter for KBOO, XRAY FM, and Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, as well as other print and digital news media. In 2012, Eric traveled to North Dakota to write about the Bakken region oil boom. He's also worked at a movie theater, as a campaign canvasser and quality assurance at a milk packaging factory. Eric is originally from Orlando, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2010.