Research by Washington State University wildlife biology professor Rob Weilgus shows that killing a few wolves actually increases wolf depredation of livestock, but killing 25 percent of all the wolves reduces livestock depredation by wolves.
News reports about this research left out two crucial facts. One is the number of livestock killed by wolves.
In 2013, out of 2.5 million head of cattle and 225,000 sheep, a grand total of 73 animals were definitely killed by wolves (http://www.liv.mt.gov/LLB/lossdata_2013.mcpx). In other words, though wolves are hardly a threat, most people are led to believe wolves are a leading cause for the deaths of livestock. The truth is that wolves cause only 0.00003 percent of livestock fatalities. That’s the real news story.
The other point left unmentioned is that researchers also noted that killing 25 percent of wolves would be unsustainable. So the upshot is, to save an infinitesimal percent of livestock, we would have to slaughter a quarter of the population of wolves, but that would land the wolves back on the endangered list, so the maximum legal killing continues, perpetuating the problem.
Ranchers in an Idaho valley decided to live alongside wolves, reports Warren Cornwall for National Geographic (Dec. 3). They worked with Suzanne Stone of Defenders of Wildlife to protect 30,000 sheep from wolf depredation by using guard dogs, flashing lights and flags to scare wolves away from livestock. They avoid grazing sheep near wolf dens. Livestock owners are taking responsibility for their animals, rather than automatically killing publicly owned wildlife.
It's an unqualified success story; according to Cornwall, “Fewer than 30 sheep have been lost in seven years to wolves and no wolves have been killed.”
Why not try this in Montana? The old way is causing grief for everyone.