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Delayed Alberta report shows little caribou progress despite federal deal

Health Canada to completely ban use of strychnine poison by September

Culling wolves alters the survivors and that could be 'bad news' for caribou, study finds - Researchers examined unintended consequences of lethal predator control tactics

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Photo courtesy of Peter Dettling

AERIAL GUNNING in the news
A myopic view of success: Killing wolves is not the answer
National Observer,  (June 28, 2024)​

A recent publication in the journal Ecological Applications by 34 authors provides a myopic view of success in the recovery efforts of an endangered species, and what defines "success." Briefly, it describes that caribou numbers in western Canada are finally beginning to increase due to the slaying of thousands of wolves and suggests this action must continue. There is grave danger in the "glossing over" of important ethical concerns that verges on callousness, in addition to a blatant disregard for ecological considerations that go unmentioned or are perhaps willfully ignored.

Canada wolf cull subsidy damages caribou habitat
Science, Vol 383, Issue 6682 (February, 2024)​

In December, 2023, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation revealed that British Columbia's controversial wolf cull has resulted in at least 1944 wolves shot and killed from helicopters. The government program, designed to keep 13 mountain caribou herds from going extinct, began in 2015 and has direct costs of more than CAD10 million. Despite conflicting reports about the effectiveness of culling, the provincial government seems to be using the ongoing program as permission to allow industrial activities to continue degrading caribou habitats. British Columbia must acknowledge the uncertainty in the scientific evidence and critically assess and adjust its caribou conservation plans accordingly.

Many wolves killed by aerial gunning – a method supported by the B.C. government – will die a slow and agonizing death. If the wolves were lab test animals, their painful deaths would not be compliant with the federally-funded Canadian Council on Animal Care guidelines — ethical standards strictly observed by most researchers throughout Canada.

Written last October by two members of the Provincial Mountain Caribou Recovery Science Team, "Next Steps for Southern Mountain Caribou recovery in planning unit 3A,” provides a rationale for shooting wolves from helicopters in a southeastern part of the province known as the Revelstoke–Shuswap region. It would bring the total approved area for aerial gunning from two to three regions.

In the same breath however, the authors of the report concede: “There are no humane methods to directly reduce wolf numbers, but aerial removal is the only method of killing enough wolves (and entire packs) to reduce wolf densities with no risk of by-catch.”​

Conservationists are once again calling for an end to B.C.’s controversial annual wolf cull, saying it is cruel and unnecessary.

Advocate and activist Sadie Parr said she became aware of the wolf cull in B.C. around 2007, which she said was being done “under the guise of caribou recovery. “But the fact of the matter is, we’re still destroying caribou habitat to this day.”

Parr has spent years investigating the program and among the many things about it that disturb her is the so-called Judas Wolf technique. This involves capturing a wolf in a net and putting a radio collar on it to lead government-contracted shooters back to its pack so they can be killed.

“Most often wolves are captured, one wolf will be captured, it might be ground-trapping or it might be net-trapped from a helicopter and this wolf is immobilized and a radio collar is placed around it,” Parr said.

“And then that one wolf, it’s often called the ‘Judas Wolf’, would be left alive for the next year,” she said.

This letter was submitted by several scientists across North America in reply to a response from Alberta's S. Boutin regarding killing wolves under the guise of caribou recovery.

An Alberta government document suggests the province has made little progress in protecting its 15 threatened caribou herds, despite having signed an agreement with Ottawa that promised it would.

That document, released three years late on Jan. 19, is the first report into the so-called Section 11 agreement between the province and Environment Canada. The 2020 agreement was made under threat of the federal government stepping in to protect critical habitat for the herds, which are in many cases almost entirely disturbed by resource development.

poison
In the news

OTTAWA—Wolf Awareness, WeHowl, Animal Justice, Humane Society International/Canada, and Animal Alliance of Canada, along with a coalition of 17 animal and environmental protection groups, have filed a notice of objection under the Pest Control Products Act with Canada’s Minister of Health, asking that he reverse course on a decision to continue registering the “super poison” Compound 1080. 

Compound 1080 (or sodium monofluoroacetate) is a poison used to kill wolves and coyotes in Alberta – the only Canadian province where this cruel and indiscriminate poison continues to be used. It causes extreme suffering to wolves and coyotes, as well as non-target animals who consume poison baits, causing them to experience vomiting, anxiety, frenzied behaviour, tetanic seizures, and eventual death from cardiac failure or respiratory arrest caused by cell death and a lack of oxygen to the brain. Poisoned animals, including companion dogs, can suffer for hours before dying.  

Scientists who have advised Ottawa's pesticide regulator say it could be exposing Canadians to chemicals at unsafe levels — and one has resigned from the agency, citing concerns about transparency.

Both researchers told CBC News they're calling for changes at Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA). They say the agency relies on an "obsolete" system that could be allowing pesticides with worrisome impacts on nature and human health to remain in use.

"I am not 100 per cent confident that all the pesticides (that were approved), that they are all safe," said Valerie Langlois, a researcher and professor at the University of Quebec's National Institute of Scientific Research.

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