The dark shape stood watching us. Outlined against the golden stubble of the hayfield, he was the largest dog we had ever seen. He shifted his attention to our sheep. Studying him through the binoculars, we realized we were watching a wolf. The wolf was watching dinner.
When the wolf crossed an invisible barrier, our two Akbash guardian dogs exploded into action. The male placed himself between the wolf and the flock. The female ran in barking pursuit. Although the female was much smaller than the wolf, the wild canine turned and trotted off. None of our cattle-ranching neighbors had guardian dogs. Their calves were easier prey than our protected sheep.
Wolves are an essential part of the ecosystem. A research collaboration among 22 scientific and educational institutions in six countries “shows how the decline in large predators affects everything from habitat loss to pollution, deforestation, carbon sequestration, climate, the spread of disease, and more.”
Reporting on the research on his Supermarket Guru site, Phil Lempert cites two other examples of the impact of the loss of predators at the top of the food chain: “One case details how industrial whaling may have shifted the diet of killer whales, leading to the dramatic decline of sea lions, seals and sea otters. Another details how the loss of lions in Africa has led to a population explosion in olive baboons, which bring intestinal parasites to humans living nearby.”
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