Examined across populations, human killing of wolves is generally not compensatory, as has been widely argued. Management policies should not assume that an increase in human-caused mortality will be offset by a decline in natural mortality.Seems pretty cut and dried, and looking at the way they analysed their data, I can't find any reason to disagree with them. Given their result, this is a very balanced and fair statement; they also say that some level of wolf harvest probably is sustainable. However that sustainable harvest is probably lower than proposed in current Montana and Idaho management plans.
Dr. The Bird Man wondered if Adaptive Management could be used to resolve the Additive/Compensatory controversy, along the lines of the North American Waterfowl Harvest Management Plan. I don't think it would help in this instance. The wolf harvest is marked by sharp distinctions in how wolves are valued among various stakeholders. In addition, the institutions tasked with managing wolves are new at the game - for the past 30 years that job has been handled by the USFWS. This means that everyone - for or against harvest of wolves - is learning a new set of skills, interacting with new people, and old people in new ways. In contrast, when the AM plan for waterfowl harvest was adopted in 1995, the institutions managing the harvest had been doing so for decades, using the same types of data, and the value diversity was (and still is) much lower than in the wolf case. It's worth noting that even after 12 years of analyzing data, the waterfowl AM process still couldn't distinguish between compensatory and additive harvest (Nichols et al 2007). I wonder if a meta-analytic approach similar to what Creel and Rotella used wouldn't be more helpful.
This does not mean that careful analysis and thinking about wolf populations won't be useful. The risk is that parties on both sides of the debate substitute arguments about the quality of the science for the real debate about how many wolves we want, or are prepared to live with. That's a value based question, and until the debate turns away from the science and focuses on the emotional, subjective, icky stuff, it'll be hard to resolve anything.