Some scientists say that the predators are essential to curbing the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease because they pick off weak deer.
Are the wolves of Yellowstone National Park the first line of defense against a terrible disease that preys on herds of wildlife?
That’s the question for a research project underway in the park, and preliminary results suggest that the answer is yes. 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. 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.
“There is no management tool that is effective” for controlling the disease, said Ellen Brandell, a doctoral student in wildlife ecology at Penn State University who is leading the project in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service. “There is no vaccine. Can predators potentially be the solution?”
Many biologists and conservationists say that more research would strengthen the case that reintroducing more wolves in certain parts of the United States could help manage wildlife diseases, although the idea is sure to face pushback from hunters, ranchers and others concerned about competition from wolves.
Dr. Bastian responds to this article:
The question is how vulnerable these predators are. Big cats in zoos are susceptible. New variant disease in England began in cats. Remember the release of mink from mink farms into the wild by a group against animal abuse. COULD THAT RELEASE CAUSED A PROBLEM IN DEER?? Currently dogs are presumed not to be susceptible, but WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN THE FUTURE???
I believe the rationale of controlling CWD by predator release is questionable.