As chronic wasting disease creeps toward Rocky Mountain elk, I am disappointed to see Idaho ramp up the persecution on wolves, the one natural ally they may have to mitigate this dreadful disease.
Researchers have followed, watched and tracked wolves for decades. They find that wolves kill only 10 percent of the time they start a hunt. Almost always a healthy elk can outrun, outwait or fight a wolf. To live and thrive, wolves have become exquisitely attuned to subtle vulnerabilities. Much more attuned than any human.
I have seen this with my own eyes in captive wolves. At Wolf Park [in Battle Ground, Ind.], wolves were put in with a herd of bison to demonstrate just how hard such a hunt is. The bison were never harmed, but one day the wolves targeted a particular cow. We could find nothing wrong. The next week she came down with a terrible urinary tract infection. The wolves knew way before we did.
There is no proof that wolves can detect chronic wasting disease, but there is every likelihood that they will detect stumbling and subtle neurologic changes. And those are the animals they will kill, perhaps stopping the progression of this plague. Nothing else can detect this disease. It’s in the same family as “mad cow disease,” which can affect human brains if the meat is ingested.
So quit increasing the persecution of wolves (Wolf-free zones! Thirty wolves per person!) The wolves aren’t decimating your elk herds; you have ever-increasing elk hunter harvests.
Let the wolves do their job.
Chris Albert, DVM, Lebanon Junction, Ky.