Is legal hunting good for wolves? Actually, no

Is legal hunting good for wolves? Actually, no

A study finds that legal hunting of animals may actually give the green light to poachers.

Many experts have long advocated for government culling of wild animals like wolves in order to prevent poachers from coming after them, but in reality the reverse may be true, a new study has found.

The theory is that killing wolves and other predatory animals before they become too big of a nuisance will increase the public’s tolerance of them and keep people from attacking them, but in reality it may just give the green light to the public that killing the animals is OK, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The argument that culling dangerous animals is the solution is used all around the world to justify programs in the United States as well as places like Sweden and Finland that try to control their wolf populations. But author Guillaume Chapron, an ecologist at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, who teamed up with Adrian Treves, a conservation biologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, say that this is the wrong approach.

“Quantifying environmental crime and the effectiveness of policy interventions is difficult because perpetrators typically conceal evidence,” the abstract begins. “To prevent illegal uses of natural resources, such as poaching endangered species, governments have advocated granting policy flexibility to local authorities by liberalizing culling or hunting of large carnivores.”

The authors say that they have shown that culling is likelier to increase poaching, now lower it.

“Replicated, quasi-experimental changes in wolf policies in Wisconsin and Michigan, USA, revealed that a repeated policy signal to allow state culling triggered repeated slowdowns in wolf population growth, irrespective of the policy implementation measured as the number of wolves killed,” they state. “The most likely explanation for these slowdowns was poaching and alternative explanations found no support. When the government kills a protected species, the perceived value of each individual of that species may decline; so liberalizing wolf culling may have sent a negative message about the value of wolves or acceptability of poaching. Our results suggest that granting management flexibility for endangered species to address illegal behaviour may instead promote such behaviour.”

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