Policy ForumCONSERVATION POLICY

Questionable policy for large carnivore hunting

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Science  18 Dec 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6267, pp. 1473-1475
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac4768

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  • RE: Questionable policy for large carnivore hunting
    • Scott Creel, Montana State University
    • Other Contributors:
      • Matt Becker, Zambia Carnivore Programme
      • David Christianson, University of Arizona
      • Egil Droge, Montana State University
      • Neil Hammerschlag, University of Miami
      • Matthew Hayward, Bangor University
      • Ullas Karanth, Wildlife Conservation Society
      • Andrew Loveridge, Oxford University, WildCRU
      • David Macdonald, Oxford University, WildCRU
      • Wigganson Matandiko, Montana State University
      • Jassiel M'soka, Zambia Department of National Parks and Wildlife
      • Dennis Murray, Trent University
      • Elias Rosenblatt, University of Vermont
      • Paul Schuette, University of Alaska, Anchorage

    Attached as pdf file is a detailed rebuttal of comments by Mitchell et al (including a brief comment also on comments by Treves et al.)

    Competing Interests: None declared.
    Attachments
  • Management of wolves in the US Northern Rocky Mountains is Based on Sound Science and Policy
    • Michael S. Mitchell, Unit Leader, US Geological Survey, Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit
    • Other Contributors:
      • Justin A. Gude, Chief, Research and Technical Services Section, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
      • Kevin Podruzny, Statistician, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
      • Edward E. Bangs, Western Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator (retired), US Fish and Wildlife Service
      • Jim Hayden, Staff Biologist, Idaho Department of Fish and Game
      • Robert M. Inman, Carnivore-Furbearer Coordinator, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
      • Michael D. Jimenez, Wyoming Gray Wolf Project Leader, US Fish and Wildlife Service
      • Quentin Kujala, Chief, Wildlife Management Section, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
      • Daniel H. Pletscher, Professor, Wildlife Biology Program (retired), University of Montana
      • Jon Rachael, State Wildlife Game Manager, Idaho Department of Fish and Game
      • Robert Ream, Chair (former), Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission
      • John Vore, Chief, Game Management Bureau, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

    Creel et al. (2015; 1) recently asserted that hunting policies for wolves in the western US do not align with ecological theory or data and that 4 aspects of policy should be amended. Their arguments are based on erroneous use of monitoring data and a lack of familiarity with policies for managing wolves in the US northern Rocky Mountains (NRM).

    The conclusions drawn by Creel et al. (2015) on the effects of hunting on wolf demography in the NRM are based on monitoring data from US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) reports (2) never intended for analyses such as theirs; the authors nonetheless used the data naively without acknowledging their limitations, and disregarded more detailed presentations of the data (3, 4). Contrary to their own admonition about the questionable reliability of population counts that change in parallel with sampling effort, Creel et al. (2015) used monitoring data (2) for minimum counts and pack sizes (e.g., Northwestern Montana in 2003 and 2004, Idaho in 2010) that were biased low because of strongly reduced sampling effort (3, 4). Gude et al. (2012; 5) showed that the inferential effect of using these biased data is substantial, explaining the difference between the ~25% threshold for sustainable mortality reported by Creel et al. (2015; see also 6) and the 48% threshold estimated without them. A similar problem also undermines the conclusion that the Idaho population declined 22.4% from 2008 to 2013 because the greatest decline in I...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Missing wolves, misguided policy
    • Adrian Treves, Scientist, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, 30A Science Hall, 550 North Park Street, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706
    • Other Contributors:
      • Miha Krofel, Scientist, Biotechnical Faculty, Dept. of Forestry, University of Ljubljana, Večna pot 83, SI-1001 Ljubljana, Slovenia, miha
      • Jose Vicente Lopez-Bao, Scientist, Grimsö Wildlife Research Station, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Research Unit of Biodiversity, Oviedo University

    Creel et al. (18 December, p. 1473) analyzed state and federal government reports on wolf mortality from data collected in the Northern Rocky Mountains (NRM). We found critical omissions in those reports (https://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/es/grayWolf.php), which invalidate government mortality and survival analyses and raise doubts about the legitimacy of government determinations.
    Chief among the omissions, the reports did not include the total time that radio-collared wolves were transmitting or sufficient information on missing wolves, both of which are essential for mortality analyses. Missing wolves averaged 21.1% of the 711 marked wolves across NRM 1982–2004 (1). Battery failure and emigration were very unlikely explanations (1); see the Appendix below. The most parsimonious explanation is that most missing wolves died and their radios stopped transmitting. If we assume missing wolves died of causes that are not perfectly reported (anything but legal lethal control (2), then poaching becomes the major cause of death for NRM wolves from 1982–2004 (Appendix). Poaching is the most likely cause of death because humans cause the majority of wolf deaths that go unreported to governments (2-5) and humans have also strong incentives to hide poaching events (e.g., destroy radio-transmitters), whereas other causes of death do so vanishingly rarely.
    Therefore, the anthropogenic kill rate...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.