Grey wolf hunt creates bitter row in US

THE iconic grey wolf of the wild, wild west is the subject of a bitter row in the US. Idaho and Montana both established hunting seasons in 2009, after the US Fish and Wildlife Service decided the states' wolf populations were no longer endangered. But in August a federal judge ruled the decision illegal, halting the 2010 hunts.

Both states are now appealing that ruling. Officials argue that hunting has little effect on populations because many wolves die anyway of starvation or disease, and females can compensate by producing more young. These assumptions are wrong, says Scott Creel of Montana State University in Bozeman.

He analysed the findings of previous studies of 21 North American wolf populations, and found that hunting increased overall death rates and also reduced population growth rates (PLoS ONE, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0012918).

A combination of sport hunting and state-sponsored culls killed 63 per cent of the Montana population last year. Creel calculates that humans should only take 22 per cent for the population to remain stable.


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