In October, a Washington farmer spotted a wolf, pursued the animal for several miles, then shot him. The wolf's fatal mistake? Being seen near a farm.
Not only is killing endangered species a crime, but it's also not an effective way to protect sheep or cattle. In fact, when farmers kill wolves, the plan usually backfires - newly fragmented wolf packs claim more livestock in the long run, according to a new study. For each wolf killed, the odds that other wolves will prey on nearby farm animals actually increase.
Looking at a quarter century's worth of data collected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's annual wolf reports, scientists were able to track how many wolves were killed legally. By pairing this information with livestock statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the researchers could examine the link between culling wolves and the rate at which these predators attacked livestock.
Washington State University biologist and study author Rob Wielgus wasn't sure if killing wolves would help to save livestock. Last year, Wielgus and his colleagues had found that culling cougars resulted in more, not fewer, livestock deaths - evidence that killing these animals was senseless.