A new paper in the journal Science argues current wolf management policies in the northern Rockies are unsustainable. The region’s grey wolves were removed from the endangered species list in recent years, and each state manages wolf hunting independently.
The paper argues states allow hunters to over-harvest because there is no clear target population level.
"For most species, we’d specify a target population size that was assessed to be ecologically and societally appropriate, and then one could use the data to ask whether the policy is attaining the goal or not. But if there’s no stated target, then it’s rather vague whether the policy is attaining the goal or not," said Scott Creel, an ecologist at Montana State University and lead author of the paper.
After reviewing data from those hunts, the authors argue that numerous indicators suggest populations will decline if current management policies continue. "What we’ll all benefit from, whether you love wolves or hate them, is a clear understanding of how the world works, so the policy can then manipulate the world towards that goal," Creel said.
The paper also points out potential flaws with sampling of wolf population numbers. Creel says the paper isn’t intended to be prescriptive, but rather to start a discussion among policymakers.