Dispelling Myths

Most of these myths are born from misinformation and a misconception of wolves and their behaviors. This section targets specific myths that are causing conflict with reintroduced wolves and ranchers/hunters that are now coexisting with them. A great deal of the information relayed here can be looked into with greater detail in the other sections of this blog.

Myth 

Wolves kill for sport and wolves are wasteful as well as gluttonous.

Reality

wolf nap

A young wolf resting after eating.

While humans may kill for sport wolves do not. This idea came about with people finding that wolves don’t always eat every part of an animal that they kill. This is called partial-prey consumption and it has been observed in predators all over the world. The animal will make a kill but not eat everything. In another section of this blog it was discussed that wolves will often return to their kills, however it is true that they sometimes won’t eat it all. A possible reason for this partial-prey consumption is called the optimal feeding strategy. This can be best explained with the use of the research conducted by the Wolf & Moose of Isle Royale studies. They had examined over 200 wolf kills and discovered interesting findings that reflect the optimal feeding strategy perfectly. Typically when prey is more scarce a family group will consume every edible portion of the kill, however when there is more prey available and they are taking down prey more often they are not consuming every single part of it. The reason behind this is that it would take more energy to consume the less than ideal portions of the animal than they would gain. So no, wolves are not wasteful creatures because even if they do not eat the entire animal there are over 20 other species that can and will scavenge it.

Myth 

The populations of elk and deer are declining because of wolves!

Reality

Druid wolf pack chasing bull elk; Doug Smith; December 2007

A small family group is trying to take down a bull elk in Yellowstone.

This is far from the truth as their populations have actually improved since wolves have returned to the northwest. It is mainly hunters who claim that wolves have caused their decline and the reason for this is because the elk and deer are no longer remaining in certain areas. As explained in the section Why Have Wolves?, the elk and deer are changing their behavior in order to avoid wolves. So this means they will move around a lot more and seek out more remote places to avoid predators. The elk and deer are not really gone, they are just more of a challenge for both hunters to find and catch.

Myth

Wolves kill livestock and are causing ranchers to go out of business.

Reality

cattle

Herd of cattle on a Montana ranch.

Yes wolves do kill livestock, but these instances are often blown out of proportion. Out of the millions of cattle there are in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming only around 100 are killed by wolves each year. This represents only a fraction of a percent of animals killed by wolves out of the total population. However these kills are often concentrated in particular areas so certain ranchers would be more heavily affected than others. However while wolves have killed livestock, they do not kill nearly as many as people would make it out to be. Also there are ways to try and lessen the damages from not only wolves but also many other predators that will take advantage of domestic animals. The reasons behind why wolves attack livestock and the ways to avoid it are found in the Methods for Coexistence section of this blog.

Myth

Wolves are a serious danger to people.

Reality

A lone wolf patrolling his territory.

This is entirely false. There has never been a documented case where a healthy wolf or a group of wolves had attacked and killed a person. There have been times where wolves had been rabid and hurt or killed someone, however the deaths were caused by the spread of the rabies virus more than the injuries caused by the wolf. There have also been only two cases in over a century where a wolf had become too habituated to humans and as a result attacked and killed them. Before this occurred there had been signs such as the wolf lingering near humans and taking advantage of the trash that people left outside. This is very similar to how habituated coyotes act in highly populated areas, an example being that they have been known to stalk children in parks. The key thing to understand is that wolves fear us more than we do them and they always try to avoid contact with us, likewise if a wolf happens to become habituated to humans in even a small way then it can escalate. This is true of all animals and there are ways to prevent this from occurring like                                                                                           keeping any kind of attractants under control like trash or hurt/sick animals on a ranch.

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2 thoughts on “Dispelling Myths

  1. I never realized that wolves didn’t consume all of some of their prey. And, the reason is fascinating. Also, next time someone mouths off about the deer and elk and the livestock, I have great, scientific answers for them! THANX!!

    Like

  2. It’s great to hear about the myths and the reality of these beautiful creatures. They have been with us for a long time and this has helped to clear up some misinformation.

    Like

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