Date: 19th March 2017
This blog by W. H. “Hank” Halliday will be a continuing feature for Wolf Awareness. The presentation will be both informative and evidenced based so as to give the reader the facts and let them make up his or her own mind as to the validity of the information presented. If you have a particular topic you would like explored, please drop us a note and we’ll do our best oblige. Email us at email@example.com.
In the 1960’s the State of New York paid professional hunter/trappers to eliminate the coyote from the state. The cost was approximately six million dollars over about six years. Keep in mind, those were 1960’s U.S. dollars. The end result – more coyotes at the end of the program than there were at the beginning. The lesson should have been clear regarding reproduction rates and vacant territory, but given recent events, apparently not.
Today, as most of you are aware, Alberta and Saskatchewan have legislation allowing for the funding of bounties on wolves and coyotes among other animals. Wildlife professionals know that bounties don’t work and this begs the question, why are they still in vogue?
The answer in almost every case is political interference in wildlife management programs.
A recent paper by Proulx and Rodtka (2015)* laid out, chapter and verse, the many negative affects of bounties – the unethical use of poisons, animal cruelty, hunting not for sport but for avarice – to name a few. This is an open source paper and its references are listed at the bottom of this missive. It’s definitely worth the read if you wish to get a researcher’s first hand look at bounties.
Historically predators, usually wolves, are targeted as a major cause in the decline of wild ungulates but there are other mitigating circumstances that impact prey/predator interactions. The disruption of the local ecosystem brought on by resource extraction is one of the major problems. Putting roads into a previously undisturbed habitat can have multiple affects, for example some ungulate species require seclusion during the breeding season. Predators use the new roads as easy travel routes making hunting a little easier for them. Furthermore, ungulate densities fluctuate. Food supplies do not remain constant and are affected by changes in weather conditions such as rainfall. Disease and severe weather during the time that calves are born affect ungulate populations.
Wolves and other predators are only one of a large number of factors that impact the number of prey animals available. Unfortunately human impacts on the environment are the only factors over which we have complete control.
Wildlife biology is extremely complex and often mystifying to the general public as well as surprising to those who do the research. It can have many unexpected twists and turns. Applying “computer models” to the realities of prey/predator relationships can only hint at “possibilities”. Real science is done in the field not at a computer keyboard and wildlife conservation should be based on facts, not computer models.
Wolves are also targeted in other ways. Unlike bounties, those responsible try to claim the high road. You decide whether it’s ethical and the proper response to the situation.
Mountain caribou numbers are down in British Columbia. These animals are classified as a subgroup of Woodland caribou. There is no genetic difference between the Boreal caribou and those which are the focus of this government program. They are the same animal. Some of these Mountain caribou herds are now very small numbering in some cases less than 14 animals, making them extremely vulnerable. The biggest threat to these animals is commercial. Logging, mining and recreational activities such as snowmobiling and heli-skiing. Although hunting of these caribou is not allowed, current habitat protection is not sufficient to allow for an increase in their numbers.
The B.C. governments response is the aerial gunning of wolves, ignoring all of the above information in what is a complex ecosystem. A similar situation is underway in Alberta, killing wolves as part of an experiment that several biologists have deemed “pseudo-science”.
Aerial Gunning – Your Tax Dollars at Work!
One final point. The Mountain Caribou may, in many cases become extirpated from areas in B.C. and the government’s single scapegoat, the wolf, is not the problem. Human activity and decision-making are.
Learn more about our current research and outreach project underway in Alberta bounty areas in partnership with Alpha Wildlife Research and Coyote Watch Canada. Donate securely on-line now to add your support to the project HERE.
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