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Are wolves a solution to CWD? — some wolf advocates think so

Gray wolves

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Are wolves the solution to chronic wasting disease (CWD)? According to some advocates, maybe. In fact, supporters of Colorado’s recent push to let voters decide on whether wolves should return to the state believe it’s definitely a possibility. Because wolves typically prey on weak or vulnerable animals, those in favor of wolf reintroduction say that “the logic follows they might pick off CWD-infected animals,” essentially, helping to thin herds of disease-ridden animals and stop the spread of the fatal disease, High Country News reports. 

While the logic may seem reasonable, resulting in support by various groups—sportsmen and women included—not everyone believes it’s a good idea to reintroduce wolves for CWD relief. Those against a forced reintroduction say that the “predators could further harm ailing herds,” according to High Country News since CWD already impacts 31 of the state’s 54 deer herds and 16 of the state’s 43 elk herds. 

“Ballot box biology is a little dangerous,” said Mark Holyoak, director of communications for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. “To take this type of approach is a reckless and a really big gamble as far as what the impacts would be.”

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Holyoak is referring to the current petition circulating to put the issue on the 2020 ballot. Supporters need a minimum of 124,632 valid signatures by Dec. 13 to make that happen. If it does, Colorado will be the first state to allow voters to decide this type of wildlife management issue. 

Instead, according to High Country News, Holyoak would rather support the state’s current wolf strategy: let the animals come on their own. With two confirmed recent sightings, the wolves could return anyway. But if they do, will they help keep CWD under control? Some say that seems like a real stretch.

Matt Dunfee, who leads the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance in Fort Collins, CO, believes that the return of wolves would change the ecosystem entirely, “[b]ut to claim that if we add wolves back in it will positively impact the disease prevalence in wild herds? We just don’t have enough information to know that.”

7 Comments

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jacob m. - posted 1 month ago on 07-24-2019 07:45:58 am
goHUNT INSIDER

If I understand CWD correctly this a fatal condition that will kill the host. The scary and most important note to this is once the host is dead it can still infect other deer. The piron is still present in the ground. So the question I have is what good does it do to have a wolf kill a deer infected or not if the carcass can still infect other deer? Seems to me your going to kill deer that will 100% die from there condition and healthy deer as well. I’m sure I don’t have a full understanding of CWD but seems like a bad idea to me.

Scott K. - posted 1 month ago on 07-17-2019 08:28:44 pm
Damascus, Oregon

Aren't the wolves able to detect weaker/sicker (CWD included) animals before humans can? Seems like I read that somewhere.. I don't think unchecked wolf reintroduction is a good idea, but they have a couple good points. Aint like we can do it very well

Bill B. - posted 1 month ago on 07-17-2019 05:29:16 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

Yeah, I'm in favor of having the wolves come in and kill all the CWD infected deer . . . as long as they sign an agreement that they'll only kill CWD deer and that they'll all leave when they're finished.

Hugh M. - posted 1 month ago on 07-17-2019 10:45:31 am
Grand Junction
goHUNT INSIDER
Drew S. - posted 1 month ago on 07-17-2019 06:18:40 am
Monument, CO
goHUNT INSIDER

"In most cases, animals with CWD show no visible, outward symptoms of the disease for all but the last few months of the disease’s cycle. Thus, the majority of infected animals are virtually impossible to distinguish from healthy, non-infected animals. Because CWD affects the neurological system of an infected animal first, other causes of mortality (predators, vehicle collisions, other diseases) usually remove the animals from the population far before outward signs of the disease become apparent." From - http://cwd-info.org/faq/
Nice try "some wolf advocates"...

Jordan B. - posted 1 month ago on 07-16-2019 06:08:34 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

Wolves would be a great way to eliminate wolf advocates too. Reintroduce them in the advocates backyard and watch them run!! Wolves have desimated many of the deer herds in northern Wisconsin, to my knowledge the areas in WI with wolves do not have CWD.
Until I hear confirmation of CWD being an issue with humans I will oppose the eradication of deer. If a deer looks sick I won't eat it. My grandpa grew up in northern WI, they saw sick looking deer when he was young. They would shoot the sick deer and not eat it, and that was in a time when they had no money for food or extra bullets.
Very, very poor arguing points from the advocates.

Bruce B. - posted 1 month ago on 07-16-2019 02:49:12 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

Well, if they eat all the deer, moose and elk in a state then they can probably eliminate cwd from the state.