Herds of wolfdogs can pose serious difficulties and even lead to the extinction of wolves according to a new study produced by researchers of the University of Exeter. The wolf dogs, crossbreeds between dogs and wolves, could in fact drive out wolves from many regions of Europe, further reducing their habitats, until they accelerate their extinction.
The hybridization itself between dogs and wolves has been mostly driven by human activities. Humans have destroyed wolves’ habitats and encouraged an increasing spread of dogs in the wild, which has led to increasingly frequent crossings between the two species.
The study was based on the opinions of more than 40 scientists and experts on the subject, most of whom agree that it is a problem even though not everyone agrees on the methods to be used to address it. Not everyone agrees, for example, on the forced removal of dogs in freedom or on the fact that they should be kept in special facilities or sterilized or even suppressed.
The main author of the study, Valerio Donfrancesco, a researcher at the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter, states that these disagreements “have emerged from divergent ethical values among scientists from different backgrounds, such as ecologists and geneticists, from the lack of data on the effectiveness of different interventions and from the concern of some scientists that, on a practical level, allowing the removal of hybrids could open a legal loophole for the killing of wolves.
According to the other author of the study, Paolo Ciucci, of the Sapienza University of Rome, although the situation is indeed complex, there is still room for consensus “if further research will address topical issues such as the effectiveness and feasibility of control measures and their social acceptability”.
The study was published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.
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