International Society For Endangered Cats

A Voice For The Wild Cats of the World

Restoring Wolves Could Help Canada Lynx

Oregon State University researchers have conducted a study showing that growing wolf populations could help Canada Lynx. They say it is possible the decline of lynx in the USA was due to the rise in coyotes, because coyotes decimated the population of snowshoe hares, the main source of food for lynx. If wolf populations had been left intact they probably would have kept coyote numbers down, and snowshoe hare populations could have remained at normal levels. Lynx still would have had enough hares to hunt and eat, so their numbers might not have declined so much.

“Before they were largely extirpated, wolves used to kill coyotes and also disrupt their behaviour through what we call the ‘ecology of fear.’ Coyotes have a flexible, wide-ranging diet, but they really prefer rabbits and hares, and they may also be killling lynx directly,” one of the researchers said. They also say in areas where wolves were reintroduced and began to grow in number, coyote populations were reduced by about half.

Another issue related to the increase in coyotes is the cost to humans incurred when trying to reduce or control their populations. Reportedly this number has reached hundreds of millions of dollars over the years. The presence of wolves in the same habitats is more effective in controlling coyote numbers, and of course this benefit occurs at no cost. So clearly wolves do provide a benefit to the ecosystems they live in, and yet ranchers and some hunters have tried to characterize them as nothing more than pests, or savage beasts that need to be eradicated again.

Source: IUCN/SSC Cat News Autumn 2011

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