Letters to the Editor for March 12, 2012
Explaining why wolves work
To the editor:
In response to the sarcastic criticism of my comments on the wolf’s hunting habits, I will explain how the wolf can identify barren elk and deer: the barren ones are old or infirm – that’s why they’re barren. And the non-performing bulls and bucks are non-performing because they’re old or infirm – they can’t compete with the younger studs. Wolves notice these things (after all, they spend their whole lives preying on and observing these animals). Wolves attack the barren and non-performing because they’re old or infirm or sick, and this makes them slow.
Here are some sources on the scientific evidence to support the effects of wolves and other large predators on the landscape:
• “Large predators and trophic cascades in terrestrial ecosystems of the Western U.S,” Betscha & Ripple, OSU, 2009.
• “Ecology of Fear,” J.S. Brown, Univ. of Illinois, 2010.
• “The Wolf’s Tooth,” Christina Eisenberg, OSU, 2011.
Dozens of studies are on the Internet. Enjoy.
The primary reason wolves were reintroduced in Yellowstone NP in 1995 was to cull the huge destructive elk herd. Since the eradication of wolves there in the 1930s the deterioration of the ecosystem had become so alarming that Yellowstone actually rounded up elk in the ’60s and shot them in corrals. It took 60 years to admit the error of exterminating the wolf, the keystone predator, and now the elk herd will be allowed to fluctuate within sustainable numbers with the wolf as the limiter.
Wolves also move the herds around as well as eat them, preventing over-browsing. That’s “the ecology of fear” at work. Would hunters be out in the bush 24/7 doing the same? Unh-uh. Observed results of the reintroduction include rapid and dramatic recovery of many species of flora and fauna, including especially songbirds and pronghorn antelope (as a result of the reduced coyote population, courtesy of the wolf). Read about it in the sources above.
The benefits of the wolf won’t apply to all Oregon, but to that half of Oregon’s land that is public and thinly settled they’ll be a boon.