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Panel Discussions

Panel Discussion 1

Panel Members: 

Douglas Smith - Yellowstone National Park, USA

David Mech - USGS, USA

Topic: Do wolves control their own numbers? 

In 1967 Doug Pimlott published that wolf density would not compress any more than 1 wolf/10 square miles which led to the conclusion that wolves self-regulate. Later, this was referred to as ‘protected rearing space’ a behavior partly in response to the possibility of infanticide by conspecifics. L. David Mech wrote on the subject in 1970 in his landmark book The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior of and Endangered Species and agreed with this conclusion. Then in 1983, Lloyd Keith and later his student Todd Fuller, re-evaluated this idea and found that wolf density was correlated with ungulate biomass a finding Mech agreed with. In this research 25 unexploited, in other words wolf populations that were not impacted by humans, wolf populations were used to test this relationship and the correlation was 72% and a linear relationship. However, others using different analytical procedures found at higher prey densities the relationship was not linear but curva-linear, or wolf density could have been higher based on food but was not. 


More research followed, including Mech’s, and a consensus formed about the linear relationship with the most recent evidence from Yellowstone National Park. These finding were interesting because in 1997 Jerry Wolff published a paper on mammal population regulation and defined the terms ‘intrinsic’ vs ‘extrinsic’ regulation. In short, intrinsically regulated species are territorial and protective of young from attack from conspecifics which acts to space individuals preventing higher densities even if food was available. Territoriality was also used to sequester food and was responsive to food abundance. Extrinsically regulated species are those regulated by food and are non-territorial. Wolves are classically territorial so therefore are the only mammalian species described in his paper that would be territorial and extrinsically regulated. D.W. Smith and others in a book on Yellowstone wolves discussed this debate in the context of wolf vital rates: birth, death, immigration and emigration concluding that framing the argument in a population biology context may be revealing. They also stated more work and collaboration were needed. Mech responded to this chapter by indicating a need to discuss these findings in greater detail.

Acknowledging that there are few places left where wolf numbers are not limited by humans, the underpinning factors behind wolf population regulation is still worthwhile to understand. Thus, Doug and Dave will openly discuss in a public forum intrinsic vs. extrinsic control of wolf populations, or do wolves self-regulate, a topic of great importance to the public and management decisions (e.g., killing wolves is not necessary as they ‘self-regulate’).  

Panel Discussion 2

Panel Members: 

Sami Niemi - Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland, Finland

Kjell Vidar Seljevoll - Norwegian Environmental Protection Agency, Norway

Ilka Reinhardt - German Institute for Wolf Monitoring and Research, Germany

Yadvendradev Jhala - Wildlife Institute of India, India

Mona HansErs - Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, Sweden

Evelyn Merrill - University of Alberta

Topic: Wolf hunting as a management tool?

The recent recovery of wolf populations worldwide results in large conflicts with human activities and causes challenges for conservation and management in general. In some areas prevention and mitigation measures related to depredation on livestock are the main actions taken to ease this conflict. In other areas, different types of hunting (license, quota or management culling) have been used to limit further growth of the population. Alternatively, removal (killing) of problem individuals or total packs by the management personnel have been used to reduce depredation events or local conflicts. However, management authorities in different countries are restricted by a variety of laws linked to different national and international directives and conventions that may preclude or restrict the use of license hunting or removal of problem individuals by managers.


This panel discussion will target this dilemma and discuss the need, pro’s and con’s with quota hunting/wolf removal as a useful tool in wolf management and if these actions should be more linked to the number of wolves present in the population or the size of conflict. Another question is whether it is possible to identify specific problem individuals within packs and remove those or if total packs should be removed. If the adult individuals are recognized as the responsible for an undesired behaviour within reproducing packs, what time of the year is the best for removal of those with regards to pup survival? 


Finally, the two different types of wolf killing (quota hunting versus removal by management) may have different acceptance levels by the public. May regulated quota hunting performed by public hunters lead to improved acceptance and conservation levels for wolves within this group of the society, as the species may be perceived as a valuable resource among hunters? At the same time, this type of hunting may lead to an even more polarized conflict over wolf management among groups in the society.

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