An ongoing issue in the United States is that endangered wolves are often mistaken as coyotes and illegally shot by hunters. Yesterday, with two other co-authors, I published a commentary article in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation highlighting this issue. See below for a copy of the abstract and link to the paper.
Abstract The recovery of wolf populations in the United States (U.S.) is hampered by ongoing human-wolf conflicts. In particular, the illegal killing of grey wolves (Canis lupus), red wolves (Canis rufus), and Mexican wolves (Canis lupus baileyi) protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act has contributed to relatively high mortality rates in some areas. One issue is that wolves are often mistaken as coyotes (Canis latrans) and illegally shot by hunters. To minimise cases of mistaken identity, stricter regulation of coyote hunting is being adopted in some areas where endangered wolves exist. Here we argue that such management should be adopted more widely, and especially in areas where wolves are at low densities or recolonising new areas. Such a proposal may face opposition, particularly where coyote hunting is common, or where coyotes are perceived as a threat to human enterprises such as livestock ranching. Appropriate education and training is needed to ensure that the public is aware that (i) wolves and coyotes are difficult to distinguish from a distance and (ii) coyotes are far too resilient to be affected by most periodic eradication programs, let alone from derbies or recreational hunting. We conclude that recreational hunting of coyotes could restrict wolf recolonisation while providing little benefit to animal agriculture. Consideration of new management strategies is therefore required to assist with wolf restoration efforts and to minimise ongoing human-wildlife conflicts.
Link to paper in Biodiversity and Conservation.
By the way, the canid in the figure is a coyote. Were you correct or was it a case of mistaken identity?
Press Release: Hunting by humans as big a threat as habitat change in ‘emptying the landscape’ of large herbivores
The decline or likely extinction of large herbivores such as rhinoceroses, hippos, zebras, camels and elephants threaten to create ‘empty landscapes’ in some of the world’s most diverse ecosystems.
“We are facing the prospect that in 20 years some of these large herbivores will have virtually disappeared from many of the world’s grasslands, savannah, deserts and forests, especially in India, Southeast Asia and Africa,” said Dr Thomas Newsome, from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Sydney.
Dr Newsome is a contributing author to the research findings published in Science Advances on 2 May.
An international team of wildlife ecologists led by Professor William Ripple, from Oregon State University, conducted an analysis of 74 of the world’s largest herbivores, defined as animals over 100 kilograms who consume vegetation to survive.
As a group, herbivores encompass about 4,000 known species and live in many types of ecosystems on every continent except Antarctica.
The researchers looked at key threats, the likelihood of extinction and the ecological consequences of decline.
The twin threat for herbivores is habitat change and hunting by humans. Hunting is for meat consumption, with an estimated 1 billion humans relying on wild meat, and for the global trade in animal parts.
“Australia’s large herbivores including giant kangaroos and hippopotamus-sized marsupials went extinct about 40,000 years ago, soon after people colonised the continent,” said Dr Newsome.
“Overhunting by people, climate change and altered fire regimes are the most likely causes, and the loss of these large herbivores resulted in dramatic changes to Australia’s vegetation.”
“The widespread loss of herbivores alive today will have a similarly incalculable impact. It would include less food being available for large carnivores such as lions and tigers and more frequent and intense wildfires because herbivores won’t be controlling the vegetation through grazing.
“They also won’t be fulfilling their role of helping to disperse seed as they graze and travel which will lead to much less diversity in the landscape including loss of habitat for many smaller species.”
In 1992 researcher Kent Redford from the University of Florida coined the term ‘empty forest’ to discuss the decline of animals in tropical forests. The new term ‘empty landscape’ recognises that the threat of species loss extends well beyond that habitat.
The report notes that 25 of the largest wild herbivores now occupy an average of only 19 percent of their historical ranges. Competition from livestock production, which has tripled globally since 1980, has reduced access to land, forage and water and raised the risk of the spread of disease.
The researchers call for a coordinated research effort focusing on threatened species in developing countries and the essential involvement of local people in managing protected areas.
The paper is open access and can be viewed HERE
Source: The University of Sydney
CORVALLIS, Ore. – The decline of the world’s large herbivores, especially in Africa and parts of Asia, is raising the specter of an “empty landscape” in some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Many populations of animals such as rhinoceroses, zebras, camels, elephants and tapirs are diminishing or threatened with extinction in grasslands, savannahs, deserts and forests, scientists say.
An international team of wildlife ecologists led by William Ripple, Oregon State University distinguished professor in the College of Forestry, conducted a comprehensive analysis of data on the world’s largest herbivores (over 100 kilograms, or 220 pounds, on average), including endangerment status, key threats and ecological consequences of decline. They published their observations today in the journal Science Advances.
The authors focused on 74 large herbivore species — animals that subsist on vegetation — and conclude that “without radical intervention, large herbivores (and many smaller ones) will continue to disappear from numerous regions with enormous ecological, social, and economic costs.”
Ripple initiated the study after conducting a global analysis of large-carnivore decline, which goes hand-in-hand, he said, with the loss of their prey. “I expected that habitat change would be the main factor causing the endangerment of large herbivores,” he said. “But surprisingly, the results show that the two main factors in herbivore declines are hunting by humans and habitat change. They are twin threats.”
The scientists refer to an analysis of the decline of animals in tropical forests published in the journal BioScience in 1992. The author, Kent H. Redford, then a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Florida, first used the term “empty forest.” While soaring trees and other vegetation may exist, he wrote, the loss of forest fauna posed a long-term threat to those ecosystems.
Ripple and his colleagues went a step further. “Our analysis shows that it goes well beyond forest landscapes,” he said, “to savannahs and grasslands and deserts. So we coin a new term, the empty landscape.” As a group, herbivores encompass about 4,000 known species and live in many types of ecosystems on every continent except Antarctica.
The highest numbers of threatened large herbivores live in developing countries, especially Southeast Asia, India and Africa, the scientists report. Only one endangered large herbivore lives in Europe (the European bison), and none are in North America, which, the authors add, have “already lost most of its large mammals” through prehistoric hunting and habitat changes.
The authors note that 25 of the largest wild herbivores now occupy an average of only 19 percent of their historical ranges. Competition from livestock production, which has tripled globally since 1980, has reduced herbivore access to land, forage and water and raised disease transmission risks, they add.
Meanwhile, herbivore hunting occurs for two major purposes, the authors note: meat consumption and the global trade in animal parts. An estimated 1 billion humans subsist on wild meat, they write. “The market for medicinal uses can be very strong for some body parts, such as rhino horn,” said Ripple. “Horn sells for more by weight than gold, diamonds or cocaine.” Africa’s western black rhinoceros was declared extinct in 2011.
“The causes of the decline of some large herbivores are difficult to remedy in a world with increasing human populations and consumption,” said co-author Taal Levi, assistant professor in Oregon State Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. “But it’s inconceivable that we allow demand for horns and tusks to drive the extirpation of large herbivores from otherwise suitable habitat. We need to intensify the reduction of demand for such items.”
The loss of large herbivores suggests that other parts of wild ecosystems will diminish, the authors write. The likely consequences include: reduction in food for large carnivores such as lions and tigers; diminished seed dispersal for plants; more frequent and intense wildfires; slower cycling of nutrients from vegetation to the soil; reductions in habitat for smaller animals including fish, birds and amphibians.
“We hope this report increases appreciation for the importance of large herbivores in these ecosystems,” said Ripple. “And we hope that policymakers take action to conserve these species.”
To understand the consequences of large herbivore decline, the authors call for a coordinated research effort focusing on threatened species in developing countries. In addition, solutions to the decline of large herbivores need to involve local people. “It is essential that local people be involved in and benefit from the management of protected areas,” they write. “Local community participation in the management of protected areas is highly correlated with protected area policy compliance.”
In addition to Ripple and Levi, co-authors include Christopher Wolf and Luke Painter of Oregon State; Rodolfo Dirzo of Stanford University; Thomas M. Newsome of The University of Sydney in Australia; Kristoffer T. Everatt and Graham I.H. Kerley of Nelson Mandela University in South Africa; Mauro Galetti of the Universisade Estadual Paulista in Brazil; Matt W. Hayward of Nelson Mandela University and Bangor University in the United Kingdom; Peter A. Lindsey of Panthera (nonprofit organization) and the University of Pretoria in South Africa; David W. MacDonald, Yavinder Malhi and Christopher J. Sandom of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom; John Terborgh of Duke University; Blaire Van Valkenburgh of UCLA.
The paper is open access and can be viewed HERE
Source: Oregon State University
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