Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?

I have become more interested in wolves after a recent visit to the Scottish Deer Centre, near St. Andrews. I was surprised to learn that wolves are now a feature at a deer centre, and was slightly disturbed by the fact they were being fed venison. However, I listened with interest to an educational talk that was given on the possible re-introduction of wolves in Scotland, which is being debated at present.

The red deer population in Scotland has significantly increased since wolves were hunted to extinction, and although I am a big fan of deer, I am now aware of the problems they can cause. Due to their large numbers, deer graze an area of land until there is nothing left, which in turn affects other wildlife. Many deer die of starvation, which is extremely sad. Case in point, on Christmas Day last year, there were three young deer standing on my driveway (much to the delight of my children). The deer must have been extremely hungry to venture so close to humans, and it saddened me to think about it. Wolves were the only predator for deer, and so now they are culled by humans to keep numbers under control. Wolves being re-introduced would re-set the balance, reducing the need for human intervention. On the other hand, the main reason wolves were hunted originally, was because they were killing cattle. In re-introducing wolves, surely there is no way to prevent this from recurring again.

The talk also focused on the impact of the media on preconceptions about wolves. Everyone has seen films portraying wolves as extremely viscious, terrifying creatures, just waiting for an innocent human to set his teeth into. The talk about wolves said this is far from reality, and a wolf would far more likely run away from a human. I visited Vatra Dornei in Romania on a family holiday, and although it was very exciting to hear wolves howling in the mountains at night, I was also glad I was safe in my hotel. I guess it's understandable that wolves are thought of as dangerous animals,  even chidhood fairy tales portray wolves as "the baddies", like the wolf pretending to be Red Riding Hood's granny. I found an interesting page which asks a wildlife ecology professor if wolves in reality, would ever behave as they do in "The Grey", the Liam Neeson film. The post backs up what the deer centre said, that wolves are nowhere near as dangerous as people think. The link can be found here:

The talk made a valid point that since wolves were once native to Scotland, it was wrong for us to wipe them out. The topic is clearly a controversial one, I can understand why farmers would be worried about their livestock, and the impact on Scottish farming would need to be taken into account. Now that I know a little more facts about wolves, rather than the fiction, I think I would support re-introducing wolves into Scotland. What do you think?

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