When we become predators of predators

Image courtesy of pixabay.com
Image courtesy of pixabay.com

On Saturday we will have the first full moon of the year–called  Wolf Moon by many Native American tribes. In the cold of January packs of  hungry wolves could be heard howling at night–and so the first month of the year and its moon were dedicated to the Wolf.

Thinking about Wolf Moon, I was saddened to learn of a recent proposal by the Ontario government to encourage hunting down  wolves and coyotes in the name of saving a dwindling moose population.  Although the motive is laudable, the proposed method is unscientific.

I learned some interesting facts about wolves and coyotes from Wolves Ontario, an organization  dedicated to protecting wolves:

  • Wolves do hunt moose, but they are not easy prey.   A healthy moose can end a wolf’s life with a swift kick.  For this reason, packs tend to focus on weakened prey: those who are old, ill, or injured. Moose populations may be threatened, but predators are not necessarily the primary problem.
  • When adults of a wolf pack are killed, the pack loses their teachers. The role of adult wolves is to teach younger ones how to track and kill larger creatures. Without guidance, packs are more prone to go after easy prey such as livestock.
  • In Ontario we have Grey Wolves (canis lupus), threatened Eastern Wolves (canis lycaon), and Eastern coyotes (also known as coywolves, brush wolves, or tweed wolves).   Eastern coyotes are the result of Western coyotes travelling east and interbreeding with  eastern wolves–larger than pure coyotes, they are often mistaken for wolves. Small game hunters permitted to kill an unlimted number of coyote could kill wolf/coyote crossbreads and wolves without knowing the difference.

Proposed unrestricted shooting of coyote and increased wolf kill permits should be dicarded and replaced with a more thoughtful approach to protecting Ontario’s wildlife.

Rachel Plotkin sums it up in a David Suzuki Foundation blog post:

Predators and prey, like coyotes, wolves, moose and deer, have been part of an intricate food web for thousands of years.  If something is out of whack with a prey population, it can likely be traced to humans and not to a sudden decision by coyotes and wolves to supersize their meals.

When humans enter the web of life as predators of predators, we unfailingly disturb the balance.




11 thoughts on “When we become predators of predators

  1. A debate thrives today in parts of Europe as to whether we should reintroduce wolves. Personally I’m all for it, but we live in an environment that could make it difficult. However, the risk must be worth the attempt, and some even claim that the returning balance will be greater than we can imagine. I did’nt know about the Wolf moon, that’s nice.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. A very interesting post, Janice. Great to learn about the ‘Wolf Moon’ – sounds evocatively primeval. I was reading in the paper today about an intention to think about to possibly maybe in the future try to introduce more wolves into the UK. Space is an issue and the only place I reckon could be Scotland. I have heard wolves whilst in Sweden – quite frighteningly and lonely sound even though I know they’re far away on the other side of the lake! There they were nearly hunted to extinction for a while following a particular incident in the 1800s but are now spread all over the country. Phew…sorry about the long comment, Janice – I got carried away.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey no need to apologize for length–your information from beyond Ontario enhances my post. It’s good to know that wolves made a comeback in Sweden. Talking about howling… there is an event in a park here where people make howling sounds to enjoy hearing a pack of wolves howl in response.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Janice . An interesting and very sad sharing of information here. I wonder if the Ontario bureaucrats have actually examined the reasons for the loss of Moose, probably they will find humans are the cause. As for hunters I believe if they want to hunt then perhaps they should stalk each other , at least the odds will be even. Another example of human ignorance and stupidity turning on nature to save nature!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some great ideas Denis 🙂 I particularly liked your closing point about the irony of us taking it upon ourselves to kill wildlife in the name of saving wildlife.


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