Wolves and lynx: Plausible ideas make for testable hypotheses


  • Associate Editor: Grado


We recently wrote an opinion piece (Ripple et al. 2011) hypothesizing that the presence of wolves (Canis lupus) could indirectly benefit Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) by suppressing competition with coyotes (Canis latrans). Subsequent comments by Hodges (2012) and Squires et al. (2012) raise several issues regarding our essay. In our reply, we 1) emphasize that many valid hypotheses precede rather than follow data collection, 2) provide additional evidence showing negative effects of wolves on coyotes and an inverse relationship between wolf and coyote abundance, 3) indicate that wolves could increase the availability of hares to lynx by reducing not only hare predation by coyotes but also potential impacts on hare habitat by ungulates, and 4) reject the notion that our expressed views conflict in any way with existing conservation and recovery goals for lynx in the continental United States. We conclude by reaffirming our support for opinion pieces in professional journals, whether or not they are buttressed by large amounts of data, as vehicles for new ideas and catalysts for scientific debate and discussion. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.