In the past wolves once roamed the UK and played a vital part in keeping the wild deer populations under control through hunting. However,in the 17th-18th they were hunted to extinction and because of this it has allowed the wild deer populations to skyrocket. With no natural predators the wild deer has thrived and have gotten to the point where they are venturing onto roads and into public areas where they cause road accidents, destroy crops and become hazards to the public. According to an article from BBC news (written on 14 May 2019) it is estimated that up to 74,000 deer-related accidents can occur with 400 injured motorists each year in britain. Reintroducing wolves to the UK may reduce this number as they will prey on the deer and bring their populations down to more manageable levels. Reintroducing wolves to the UK would also bring conservation benefits as the wolf breed that may be reintroduced would be the Red wolf (Canis rufus) which is labeled as critically endangered by the IUCN red list.
Wolf Reintroductions To Other Areas
Bangs. E (2008) describes a recovery plan to reintroduce wolves to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho as part of a wolf restoration plan for the northern Rocky Mountains of the United States. According to Bangs. E (2008) there were strong debates and disagreements to reintroduce wolves to Yellowstone and Idaho that lasted for around two decades as reintroducing the wolves were seen as“non-essential and experimental under Section 10 (j) of the federal Endangered Species Act.” Bangs. E (2008) however, the plan was finally approved in 1994 but the wolves weren’t introduced to the park until January 1995 where 29 wolves were released. Since then no livestock have been killed and the packs have thrived and reproduced.
Houston. D (2003) describes what happens after the wolves were released into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho and because of this the research done by Houston. D (2003) can easily be tied into the research done by Hayward. M (2009) and Bangs. E (2008). Houston. D (2003) it states that ever since reintroducing wolves into Yellowstone and Idaho the moose, elk and coyote population numbers have been decreased due to the wolves hunting them and also because of the reintroduction of the wolves it says the ecosystem can once again support the large carnivores.
Hayward. M (2009) states that the wolves used in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho wolf reintroduction were all captured from Canada and were reintroduced because of the Endangered Species Act (1973) and the National Park Service policy wanted a restoration of ‘natural’ conditions. Like Houston. D (2003) said, it was only after two decades of public debate over the risks of reintroducing the wolves did they finally decide to go ahead with the reintroduction plan and the wolves were caught and reintroduced (as stated by Bangs. E (2008) and that the reintroduction plan was complete only after 2 years instead of the 3-5 years that was the estimated time it would take for the reintroduction to be complete. The plan was considered a success and by 2007 there were an estimated 1500 wolves there that populated the Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho.
When reintroducing the wolves Bangs. E (2008) stated that “29 wolves were captured in Alberta and transported to Yellowstone National Park (14) and central Idaho (15).” and that “After 5 months in the wild, at least 13 of 15 Idaho‐released wolves were alive within the intended area, as were 13 of 14 Yellowstone wolves; one wolf was known to have been illegally killed in each area” Bangs. E (2008). He then went on to say that the wolves had killed no livestock in that time.
Impacts Wolves Have Had When Reintroduced And Impacts They Already Make
Data regarding the impacts the wolves in yellowstone as well as a few other places such as North Carolina has been collected and with it we can predict the impacts the wolves may have to other countries such as the UK. In an article by Chamberlain. M (2016) it states that during a 2009-2011 study GPS systems were placed on the critically endangered red wolves (Canis rufus) that live on the Albemarle Peninsula of Eastern North Carolina in order to track the space used by the wolves and their habitat selection. The “wolves maintained spatially stable home ranges that varied between 25 km2 and 190 km2” Chamberlain. M (2016).
Another article by Brotas. G (2015) studied the diet Endangered Iberian Wolf (Canis lupus signatus) have when living in a Human-Dominated Landscape in Central Portugal. A total of 295 wolf scats were collected from 2011 to 2014 on a monthly basis which indicated that the wolves have a high dependence on livestock. The result showed that “Domestic goat predominated the diet (62% of the scats), followed by cow (20%) and sheep (13%); the only wild ungulate present in the scat analysis was the wild boar (4% of the scats)” Brotas. G (2015). This fact could cause problems if wolves were reintroduced to the UK as it indicates that the wolves may prefer to prey on livestock rather than the wild deer.
However, this study was based on wolves that lived in populated areas where little large wild game such as deer can be found. A book by Yuskavitch. J (published 2005) which also contained a section on the predicted feeding patterns and diets of the grey wolves from yellowstone state that “reintroduced wolves would prey mainly on deer and elk, but could also be expected to occasionally kill livestock”Yuskavitch. J (published 2005). It was estimated that “a population of 100 wolves in Yellowstone would kill up to 1200 deer or elk, as many as 20 cows and 70 sheep per year”Yuskavitch. J (published 2005). These figures are more likely to occur as they wolves reintroduced to the UK would most likely be placed in wildlife parks that are away from largely populated areas and farms.
In an article by Houston. D (2003) it states that wolves from yellowstone crossed to Isle Royale which had an overabundant moose population. The wolves slowly reduced the moose populations to manageable numbers and have kept them low for many years. This allowed the forest to recover by reducing browsing by the moose. However, in the 1980’s the wolves were wiped out from Isle Royale due to humans introducing the wolves to parvovirus. Because of this the moose populations grew again until a catastrophic starvation hit in 1990. Houston. D (2003) also stated that in regards to the Yellowstone wolves “elk are the primary prey for wolves in the park year-round, representing 92% of 1582 wolf kills recorded from 1995 to 2001”Houston. D (2003). It was also stated that, like on Isle Royale the Yellowstone wolves helped with vegetation and forest regrowth by reducing the number of browsing and grazing animals such as moose and elk.
When looking at potential impacts things such as cross breeding between the wolves and other species such as dogs should be considered. In a study by Fredrickson. R (2007) it was stated that “ A number of coyote‐red wolf hybrid litters were observed in the late 1990s in the reintroduced red wolf population” Fredrickson. R (2007). This could indicate that if wolves were reintroduced to the UK they could breed with stray dogs and make wolf-dogs. Another factor that could affect the pet dog population in the UK if wolves were reintroduced would be the spread of canine diseases such as canine parvovirus (CPV), canine distemper virus (CDV) etc. A study by Almberg. E (2012) about parasite invasion following the Yellowstone wolf reintroduction showed that after the wolf reintroduction to yellowstone the wolves populations were not managed which led to them becoming susceptible to infections.
The study then went on to state that within a year of their reintroduction the unvaccinated wolves showed signs of several viral infections. It was said that “by 1997, 100 percent (18/18) of the wolves sampled across the park tested positive for exposure to CPV and 61 percent (11/18) tested positive for canine adenovirus type-1 (CAV-1). By 1997, 63 per cent (12/19) of wolves tested positive for canine herpesvirus (CHV)” Almberg. E (2012). This could cause problems as it would help spread these diseases from dog to wolf and may wipe out any reintroduced wolves. A way to counter this could be to ensure dogs are kept well away from the wolves and to capture and vaccinate the wolves yearly.