Although we know that introduced wolves predators like cats and foxes pose a threat to Australia’s wildlife. What are the best ways to manage them? Dingoes, according to many Australian ecologists, are part of the solution because they can control feral predators. Although it’s controversial, new research about North American wolves supports this idea.
We have been conducting research through a Fulbright Commission grant to Australia-American. Fulbright Commission to better understand dingoes’ role in Australian ecosystems. This done by looking at North American wolves. These results were publish in the Journal of Animal Ecology this week.
Why Are Wolves Important?
As part of predator control programs, wolves were almost exterminate. In the United States mainland (except Alaska) during the last two centuries. However, wolves were reintroduce in Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding areas under the US Endanger Species Act 1995-1996. This law requires that endanger species be restore where possible.
Numerous studies on Yellowstone wolves show that they have a rapid impact on the park ecosystem. They mainly do this by decreasing the prey population. We are also curious about how wolves interact and co-exist with other predators such as red foxes and coyotes, as wolves continue to recolonize new areas in the United States.
Because wolves are larger predators, we hypothesized that coyotes would be less likely to have wolves as pets. We also hypothesized that coyotes would reduce the number of foxes, so where coyotes are present we should expect more foxes. These interactions were explore by analysing red fox and coyote fur trapping data in North America, both with and without wolves.
Who Is The Top Wolves Dog In This World?
Since the early 1900s, coyotes, red foxes, and wolves have co-existed in Alaska, Yukon, and the NW Territories. The fur-trapping records have shown that coyotes were never more numerous than foxes in areas where wolves live. However, records from areas without wolves are a different story. Coyotes significantly expand their historical distribution as wolves were extinct in many of the lower 48 United States. In the 1970s, coyotes had spread from the middle of America to Maine and New Brunswick to Nova Scotia by 1980.
Although coyotes have only recently colonized Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, fur returns data show that it took only 20-30 years for them to outnumber red Foxes, in the absence of wolves. These results support the idea that wolves can have an impact on smaller predators further down the food chain. These results show that wolves cause a shift in balance across the continent when they were kill off across large swathes of the United States.
We wanted to find out what happens when coyotes and wolves meet. This done by analysing fur trapping records from Saskatchewan, Manitoba and central Canada. Both the north and south home to wolves, while they not found in the provinces. You can see coyotes and wolves in the provinces.
The fur records show that red foxes are outnumber by coyotes in the south, where there no wolves. This is consistent with our hypothesis. Red foxes are significantly more likely to be present in areas where wolf are absent, with an average of four to one and at extremes of 500 to 1 at one location. There is however a 200-kilometre transition zone, where there are not enough wolves to balance the balance between red foxes and coyotes.
The Magic Number Of Wolves
The possibility that wolf can reduce the number of coyotes could help other species, such as snowshoe hares and pygmy rabbits, which at risk from being overrun by them. Montane red Foxes, which have been declining in the presence coyotes, may benefit from the expansion of wolf.
However, the Canadian results show that coyotes may be more likely to be control if wolf spread across large areas. This magical combination is call an ecologically efficient density of wolf. Prior to our study, we didn’t know how many wolves were need to control coyotes.
This Is What It Means For Australian Dingoes
Dingoes in Australia often serve the same role as wolf in ecosystems, and they are frequently called top dogs. Foxes can also increase when dingoes are gone, just as coyotes would in the absence of wolf. This has dire consequences for native wildlife.
Our study show that dingoes, which are the top predators, won’t be capable of controlling lower-order predators like foxes if they’re found in small numbers and spread over large areas. This is a problem because humans have had a significant impact on the distribution and survival of dingoes. People who are involve in tourist or mining activities often come up against dingoes.
Is There A Way?
A strategy must be develop that allows humans to coexist with dingoes. This is a difficult task, especially when dingoes pose a threat to human businesses such as the livestock sector. Although the use of guardian animals as livestock protection is promising, we need to determine if this strategy works over large areas.
Another option is to pay farmers compensation for stock losses due to dingo attacks. It could be model on the American system that compensates for wolf damage in order to reduce conflict. However, such compensation must cover both direct (stock losses), and indirect (the effects of predation upon the health of livestock), which can be difficult to quantify.
The future of biodiversity and ecosystems at stake, as they are being destroy by feral cats and red foxes. The future of Australia’s agriculture, especially the sheep industry which has suffered for years from red foxes and dingoes, is also at stake. We may never see the true power of dingoes in protecting native Australian wildlife and controlling foxes and cat if they continue to be control as they are.