Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Wolves may help curb chronic wasting disease among deer through the 'predator cleansing effect'

A wolf near a hot spring in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming
(Associated Press photo by Jacob W. Frank of the National Park Service)

Chronic wasting disease is an increasing threat to deer, elk and moose, but gray wolves in Yellowstone National Park (and possibly elsewhere) may be a valuable tool in helping slow its spread, according to preliminary data from a research project.

"Researchers are studying what is known as the predator cleansing effect, which occurs when a predator sustains the health of a prey population by killing the sickest animals," Jim Robbins reports for The New York Times. "If the idea holds, it could mean that wolves have a role to play in limiting the spread of chronic wasting disease, which is infecting deer and similar animals across the country and around the world. Experts fear that it could one day jump to humans."

The possible benefit to humans is something to keep in mind as the federal and state governments consider protections for wolves. In the recent election, Coloradans approved restoration of gray wolves to public lands. Meanwhile, the Interior Department issued a final rule in October removing Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves.

No comments: