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Wolf Cull Dilemma for Russia

Bounties Are Paid for Wolf Kills

CNN News / December 2000

VORONEZH, Russia -- Russian conservationists are facing a growing dilemma over how to control the 44,000 wolves estimated to be roaming the countryside.

There are fears that the wolf population is beginning to rise out of control, with officials saying thousands need to be culled.

However, there is also a growing movement, influenced by ecological thinking the West, against the culls. Nearly 13,000 were killed last year alone, but officials claim that is not enough to keep them under control.

Officials in Moscow say there are too many wolves in Russia and the government still pays a bounty to anyone who kills a wolf outside protected reserves.

Those fighting the cull argue it would be better to allow the wolf and its prey to strike a natural balance rather than having humans shoot the predator to protect other forest animals. Mikhail Starodubtsev keeps orhpan wolves in his backyard but, during 50 years as a forest ranger in southwest Russia, he has also killed many wolves. He says he likes wolves but sometimes culling is also needed to keep their numbers down.

That has been the policy in Russia for hundreds of years and wildlife biologist Andrei Poyarkov expects the annual wolf kills to continue or even increase.