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May 9, 2012     The Adams County Record
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May 9, 2012
 

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The Adams County Record Wednesday, May 9, 2012 Page 23 13'o Wolves Benefit the E, :osystem.00 Part 7 - Effect on smaller pedators by Dale Fisk T h i s percent, not only a cost (risk of to the widespread eradi- time, I'm C I a i m s lethal attacks) to the coy- cation of large canids exami'n- are made otes, "but also a poten- (dogs) and felids (cats), ing an that some tial energetic benefit, as top predators in many aspect of midsize scavenging from wolf terrestrial ecosystems are this issue carnivores kills represents an impor- now medium sized car- that is (weasels, tant food source for coy- nivores such as coyotes. less clear m a r t e n otes7 The researchers Coyotes have been shown cut than and bad- added, "The need to bal- to increase songbird and some of gers) have ance the costs and ben- rodent abundance and the ones increased efits may well explain the diversi by suppressing I've writ- in num- overlaps between the'two populations of small car- ten about so far. This way bet, whereas other spe- species' home ranges:' So, nivores such as domestic in which wolves are sup- cies (fishers, wolverines, this study says that there cats and foxes. The res- posed to benefit the eco- red fox, lynx, bobcat and is a balance taking place toration of gray wolves system is: wolves benefi- otter) persist in low num- between wolves kill- to many parts of North cially affect the population bers. and distribution of smaUer It is theorized that predators, which has a fewer coyotes, due to positive cascading effect wolf presence, increas. on a number of species, es the numbers of The species most often some midsized carni. mentioned under this vores such as skunks viewpoint is coyotes. In and red fox because of less the absence of wolves, competition from coyotes. most experts agree that Some studies have found coyote populations have positive trickle-down expanded across the U.S. impacts on ground-nest- When wolves were ini- ing birds, lizards, rodents, tially reintroduced into marsupials, rabbits, scal- Yellowstone National Park, lops and insects. coyote numbers are said One study pointed out to have decreased by 50 that wolves represent help on Steve's Automotive & Towing A Professional & Complete Auto Service 6 6 The role of wolves varies considerably 9 9 among specific ecosystems ing coyotes and the ben- efit of wolf-kill leftovers that coyotes eat. This gets into another claim that wolves benefit scaven- ger species--which I will address in a future article. Here's a quote from a study, slightly edited for clarity and brevitf: "Due 1-H Igin00 Ave, 00undl. BAB00. . g America, however, could alter this interaction chain. Wolves suppress coyote populations, which in turn releases foxes from top down control by coy- otes. The presence of the top predator releases the smaller predator in a four- species interaction chain. Thus, heavy predation by abundant small predators might be more similar to the historic ecosystem before top-predator extir- pation (extermination in a certain area). The restructuring of predator communities due to the loss or restoration of top predators is likely to alter the size spectrum of heav- ily consumed prey with important implications for biodiversity and human health:' The above study doesn't say if those implications are good or bad. Nor does it say which balance of species is "best:' It's inter- esting that it says coyotes help songbird and rodent numbers. A study from Oregon State University found that restoring wolf pop- ulations can help the Canada lynx by shrink- ing the number of coy- otes, thus leaving more snowshoe hares for the lynx to eat. Canada lynx, which has been in decline for decades, was listed as. threatened in 2000. Here is a case where many people would agree. If the presence of wolves can help keep a threatened or endangered species from declining, it is probably viewed by most people as a benefit. How this fits into the overall cost/ben- efit picture and the overall balance of species is less obvious. One claim that has been made as a benefit of wolves is that fewer coyotes results in fewer domestic sheep killed by coyotes. This seems like a really weak and pointless argument since wolves are so much better at killing sheep than coyotes are. I ran across an inter- esting book: Wolves: Behavior, Ecology and Behavior, written in 2003 by Luigi Boitani and leg- endary wolf expert, David Mech. (The text is avail- able on the web through Google books.) The authors found a lack of studies of the effects of wolves on other carni- vores, but did address the issue. Here are some quotes and comments: "The ranges of wolves, bears, coyotes and foxes overlap in many areas where the species coexist in the same ecological sys- tems. Wolves can exclude coyotes, and coyotes can exclude red foxes, at a number of scales ranging from individual encoun- ters and territories to entire regions, yet they all coexist over many regions of North America:' Boitani & Mech didn't have much information on wolf effects on Lynx, but said, "We found no report of a wolf-bobcat interac- tion, although Stenlund (1955) suggested that bob- cats benefited directly by scavenging on wolf kills:' "The inherent genetic, behavior, and morpho- logical flexibility of wolves has allowed them to adapt to a wide range of habitats and environmental con- ditions .... Therefore, the role of wolves varies con- siderably among specific ecosystems. To address the community role of wolves within different systems would require in- depth studies of sympat- ric wildlife populations:' [Sympatric means species sharing the same area.] I don't think there has been a study of our area to see if coyote numbers have decreased, but anec- dotal evidence indicates that there has been no noticeable decrease. So, it seems to me that 1) there is a shortage of research on exactly how wolves affect the balance of species, and 2) an even greater shortage of evi- dence to show that one balance of species is better than another. The reality of natural systems is that they are always in a fluc- tuating state of balance. Any species population rises and falls according to food availability, weather, quality of habitat, etc. The question is, at what point, in the constant fluctuation and influence of one spe- cies on others, is the situa- tion "good" or "best?" Jim Beers said we don't seem to have a good answer for this ques- tion: "Anyone telling you that you can tinker with all these animals to some overall harmonious end is wrong. For centuries man has strived for sta- bility regarding the most desired species with grow- ing success. The recent (50 year) concern with main- taining all extant species is admirable .and pracli- cally achievable in associa- tion with extended human benefits from manage- ment. Accommodating all species is a vast and nev- er-ending job that, frank- ly, we are going about all wrong. To assume that such overall ecosystem tinkering, even in the vaunted Yellowstone or in the growing 'Wilderness' Areas, will achieve this stable place where all spe- c'ies reach an optimum over time is a fairy tale sold as 'science:' 2194 Hwy 95, Council 253-3614 Same Day Service on most minor repairs Make an appointment today!  .,,., Aw Conditioning Repair : Complete Brake Service ' . Belts, Hoses, & Tune-ups ,. 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