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Legal Hunting May Not Reduce Poaching: Study

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Legalized hunting may not help reduce poaching activities, a new study finds. In the battle against illegal hunting, many governments and organizations have resorted to the legalization of controlled hunting activities. However, new findings showed it may not be a solution after all.

Due to the new evidence, the authors urged officials to reevaluate the regulations on legalized, controlled hunting.

"Today the notion that killing is conservation has become a mainstream one. It is now used by many governments to justify killing. Our study shows that there is no scientific support behind this notion," said study co-author Guillaume Chapron from the Grimsö Wildlife Research Station at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

The researchers analyzed the data on carnivore protection policy changes in the United States along with the data on wolves' growth rate. This enabled them to create a model on how controlled, legalized hunting has affected the carnivore population in Michigan and Wisconsin in the past years.

They found repetitive slowdowns in the wolves' growth rate. In particular, they found that the wolves' growth rate went down from 16 percent to 12 percent during the periods of legalized culling.

Since no natural factors can explain the pattern, the authors theorized that poaching was the most likely culprit. They also found that during the periods of policy changes, poaching activities increased.

The findings suggested that legalizing the culling of wolves might have painted a different and negative image on the carnivore's value. It also painted an image that the government may no longer impose prohibitions on poaching, thus the increase.

Chapron added that the effects of the controlled, legalized hunting or culling affect other carnivores such as lynx, mountain lions and wolverines.

"The fact is that humans are in many cases one of the primary causes of animals getting knocked off," said Jason T. Fisher, an Alberta government wildlife research ecologist who reviewed the new study and commented that it was "very convincing."

However, there are other scientists who remain unconvinced. Wildlife Ecology Assistant Professor and Wolf Expert Daniel MacNulty from the Utah State University commented that as a whole, the research drew a "bold conclusion from questionable evidence."

The findings were published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal.

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