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Sep 30, 2010 5:09 PM by Lindsay Clein

Researchers find that hunting affects wolves more strongly than expected

Two Montana State University researchers have found that the recently proposed levels of hunting for Montana and Idaho wolves are likely to have larger effects on wolf numbers than has been suggested.

"I've noticed some people reacting or stating that you can't harvest wolves," said Researcher and MSU Ecology Professor Scott Creel. "But our research found that you can, but it also found that the number of wolves that would cause the population to decline, the number of wolves harvested to make the population decline, is less than it had previously been argued."

The researchers, Scott Creel and Jay Rotella, found this using data from 21 North American Wolf populations.

"We're just trying to let the data talk," Creel said. "We're not telling people what they should want, but we think that a good understanding of what the harvest is likely to do in terms of ecology will help us get to the desired outcome whatever it is."

"Our take away from this was hunting is a sound and scientific method of wildlife management when it comes to wolves," said Ben Lamb of the Montana Wildlife Federation. "And it looks to me like Montana was on the right track as far as trying to get a handle on wolf populations for both ungulates and for social instances."

Creel and Rotella's research notes that in 2009, predator control practices in Montana eliminated 145 wolves, or 27.6% of the population. If the same number of wolves were killed through predator control and the proposed hunting quote for 2010 was filled, which is 186 wolves, a typical North American wolf population would decline by about half.

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