December 14, 2019

Post-Normal Science Concludes Wolf Control Increases Livestock Depredation

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PostNormalScienceBelow is the Abstract from a “quasi-experimental” study done in which outcome-based, paid-for conclusions determined, through modeling, that wolf control caused increases in livestock depredation in the year following disruptions to packs near livestock regions.

If an honest scientist were to accept the “quasi-experimental” research for what it is, I would assume that it would be consider mostly worthless nonsense. Overlooked in most of these studies are the words used to describe the quasi-results of modeling, i.e. “estimate, the odds, possible reasons, may be, may sometimes.”

It appears that for the actions they took, they used models and achieved some numbers. But do they really mean anything? First consider that this group of researchers got some of their information from, “wolf population estimates, number of breeding pairs, and the number of wolves killed,” from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Interagency Wolf Reports. There should be little disagreement to the fact that these estimates are barely estimates, are deliberately low-balled and arguably inaccurate as hell. In short, they are political.

Missing from the study, from what I can tell, is factoring in to the modeling of what was transpiring with the natural prey base for the wolves. Certainly no real conclusions can be made unless all aspects of the natural prey base for wolves are accurately calculated and placed into the modeling equation.

Modeling is mostly nonsense and should be used, if at all, for purposes of discussion only as history, as short as it is with this kind of modeling, reveals it is extremely inaccurate and easily manipulated to achieve desired outcomes.

From my perspective, what gave away the biased intent of the study, is revealed in the Abstract where it states, “but we recommend that non-lethal alternatives also be considered.”(emphasis added) I wasn’t really aware that the purpose of “scientific” research was to make recommendations on how wildlife should be managed….unless of course the study was funded by someone looking for such a recommendation. If so, and it certainly appears that way, this is a classic example of “post-normal” or “new-science” outcome-based manipulations of reality. Also referred to as “romance biology.” It should have no place in any real scientific community and yet the push has been on for many years, from the Environmental Movement, to “find new understanding” and shifting the paradigm as to how wildlife management is discussed.

However, indications from the study might not be too far off in some of the things that were discovered, or revealed, whether intended or not. There was some discussion about how “disruptions” to packs “may be” a contributing factor to increased depredations on livestock by wolves. More and more studies, even from the real scientific community, are beginning to uncover troubling information that due to hybridization of wolves, normal and natural behaviors are causing reductions in the existence of the progeny of the breeding female within a pack. This results in multiple litters within a pack. The changed behavior infused by hybridization, combined with multiple litters, i.e. larger than normal packs, “may be” contributing to coincidental, small increases in livestock depredations in what appears to be the year following a culling of wolves by something in the order of less than 25%. Where is this information made available in this study?

Few, myself included, will argue with the point that little change will result in livestock depredations without, at least, a reduction in wolf numbers that exceed 25%. That’s the entire point of wolf control and better management.

Please read the complete study, linked-to below, but at least approach it with a better and more honest understanding of what it is and isn’t telling us. The bottom line is the data being used are estimates, therefore the modeling outcome is also only an estimate. It is not accurate in any way. There is nothing conclusive to this study.

Abstract

Predator control and sport hunting are often used to reduce predator populations and livestock depredations, – but the efficacy of lethal control has rarely been tested. We assessed the effects of wolf mortality on reducing livestock depredations in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming from 1987–2012 using a 25 year time series. The number of livestock depredated, livestock populations, wolf population estimates, number of breeding pairs, and wolves killed were calculated for the wolf-occupied area of each state for each year. The data were then analyzed using a negative binomial generalized linear model to test for the expected negative relationship between the number of livestock depredated in the current year and the number of wolves controlled the previous year. We found that the number of livestock depredated was positively associated with the number of livestock and the number of breeding pairs. However, we also found that the number of livestock depredated the following year was positively, not negatively, associated with the number of wolves killed the previous year. The odds of livestock depredations increased 4% for sheep and 5–6% for cattle with increased wolf control – up until wolf mortality exceeded the mean intrinsic growth rate of wolves at 25%. Possible reasons for the increased livestock depredations at #25% mortality may be compensatory increased breeding pairs and numbers of wolves following increased mortality. After mortality exceeded 25%, the total number of breeding pairs, wolves, and livestock depredations declined. However, mortality rates exceeding 25% are unsustainable over the long term. Lethal control of individual depredating wolves may sometimes necessary to stop depredations in the near-term, but we recommend that non-lethal alternatives also be considered.

<<<Link to Complete Study>>>

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