WILD WOLVES GOOD FOR ECOSYSTEMS

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WILD WOLVES GOOD FOR ECOSYSTEMS

 user 2007-02-05 at 11:25:00 am Views: 47
  • #17806

    Wild wolves ‘good for ecosystems’
    Reintroducing
    wild wolves to the Scottish Highlands would help the local ecosystem, a
    study suggests.Wolves, which were hunted to extinction in Scotland in
    the late 1700s, would help control the numbers of red deer, the team
    from the UK and Norway said.This would aid the re-establishment of
    plants and birds – currently hampered by the deer population, they
    write in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.But farmers say more
    livestock would be killed if wolves are reintroduced.The researchers’
    findings used a predator/prey model to assess the probable consequences
    on the Highland’s red deer population.”There has been an ongoing debate
    about the possibility of reintroducing wolves to Scotland for some
    time,” said co-author Tim Coulson, from Imperial College London.”So we
    thought that we would start the ball rolling by looking to see, using
    mathematical modelling approaches, what the possible impact of
    reintroducing wolves into Scotland would have on the red deer
    population.”The researchers found that the red deer population was
    close to reaching the maximum capacity that the ecosystem could
    support, and that costly culls were not proving to be economically
    effective.Since Scotland’s wild wolf population died out, the UK’s
    largest wild land animal has not had any natural predators to help
    control its numbers.”For example, many sheep farmers argue for fewer
    deer because they are concerned the deer compete with sheep for
    grazing,” Dr Coulson told BBC News.”Many of the conservation
    organisations, especially those trying to reforest areas, also believe
    their numbers should be reduced.”Attempts to get forests to come back
    are going to be hindered by the fact that there are too many deer,
    which will munch away merrily on any young trees.”Other groups, Dr
    Coulson added, were concerned that excessive deer numbers were having
    an impact on bird species, such as the capercaillie.The study found
    that the wolves would prey on the deer and would help rebalance the
    ecology, giving other tree and bird species a chance to establish
    themselves.

    Livestock worries
    But
    farming groups voiced concern and said that the introduction of wolves
    would hit their members.Anna Davies, a spokeswoman for the National
    Farmers’ Union in Scotland, said: “The reintroduction of wolves into
    the wild would present significant problems in terms of sheep
    predation, and that is the reason why it is not widely popular among
    farmers.”Dr Coulson agreed that farmers would be affected but he added:
    “Typically, wolves do not go through and take out an entire flock; they
    will take individuals when they are hungry.”The study also assessed
    people’s attitudes towards the idea of releasing wolves into the wild.
    While the public were generally positive, people living in rural areas
    were more sensitive.”Although the farmers were slightly negative, they
    were not completely adverse to the idea provided they were adequately
    reimbursed for any lost stock,” he said.But Miss Davies disagreed: “Any
    implication that farmers are simply concerned with support payments and
    not with the welfare and predation of their animals is
    unjustified.”Farmers suffer emotional as well as financial losses when
    they lose stock, as was demonstrated during the foot-and-mouth
    outbreak.”Dr Coulson said he believed that any reintroduction plan was
    still a long way from becoming a reality.”Our research is just one of
    the first steps towards understanding the consequences of a wolf
    reintroduction in Scotland,” he added.