Earlier this month, we posted the article, "Study finds wolves genetically diverse and dispersing." It was described as pivotal research that could change the wolf debate in the Northern Rockies.
Author and carnivore biologist, Bob Wayne, believes the study has been misinterpreted by those saying the research proved the gene pool to be strong, when in fact, it doesn't make that statement.
He predicts that more wolf pack mingling will happen over time, and even in Yellowstone, but more time is needed, along with scientific proof.
"There's been a bit of a disease epidemic and the population has crashed by a third, or so. That may leave more openings for migrating wolves to come in and successfully reproduce -- just don't know."
Wayne takes issue with those claiming 100 animals per state means "full recovery," since that doesn't take into account the genetic diversity needed to keep the species healthy.
Glad he made that clear.
FYI, this study is cited in the update of the NRM genetic connectivity issue (where the authors conclude they are connected to a higher degree than an earlier study that focused only on Yellowstone; it was used in the first delisting suit before Judge Malloy) by some of the same authors of the anthropogenic study.
"In theory, small or expanding populations should experience additive mortality from anthropogenic causes of death, but whether such effects are homogenous across a population or expressed only in certain high-risk individuals is open for debate.
We used competing risks models to analyze mortality patterns among radio-collared wolves (Canis lupus, n = 711) from three populations in northwestern United States (1982-2004), and evaluated the degree to which anthropogenic mortality was additive vs. compensatory to natural demographic processes. Almost 80% (n = 320) of wolves dying of known fates were killed by anthropogenic causes (legal control, illegal killing, harvest in Canada, vehicle collision), and additive effects of anthropogenic mortality were most pronounced in northwestern Montana where wolf exposure to humans and livestock was high compared to either the GYA or central Idaho, where anthropogenic risk was lower."
NOTE: The analysis only covers 9 years up to 2004. Since then, we have had the 2009 wolf hunting season in two states and the possibility of more with the current delisting proposals, human tensions rising and legislation aimed at removing ESA protection.