Sympathy for the Devil

By Sidney Reilly

WolfNewly published research by Thomas Newsome and William Ripple with the OSU Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society shows that wolves may have been getting a raw deal all along. In between blowing down houses and being awesome on Game of Thrones, this apex predator was keeping us from being hip-deep in coyotes.

“As wolves were extirpated across the southern half of North America, coyotes dramatically expanded their range,” said Newsome in a press release.

According to OSU, sheep losses due to the increased presence of coyotes amounted to as much as $40 million in 2004.

Newsome has specialized experience with this topic. Hailing from Australia, where he earned his PhD, he has studied the dingo for years, investigating that apex predator’s effect on species down under.
“Over the last 200 years, Australia has had the highest extinction rate in the world,” Newsome said. “The debate is about whether the dingo can provide positive ecological benefits. Where dingoes have been removed, the impacts of introduced red foxes and feral cats have been quite severe on native fauna.”

Interestingly, the researchers used fur trapping data from Alaska and Canada to come to their conclusions, which also covered effects on the fur industry as well as the population of red foxes, which is also highly affected by the presence of wolves.

Newsome and Ripple cite a “wolf effect,” which they claim is important to regulating other predators and requires enough wolves to be present to work. No word yet on how this affects Sarah Palin’s helicopter hunting trips.