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Poisoning wolves with strychnine is unacceptable in experimental studies and conservation programmes

July, 2015

To reduce predation on a woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) population threatened by industrial disturbance, a recent study in Alberta (Canada) used strychnine baits to kill wolves (Canis lupus). Strychnine should not be used to control wolves because it is: (1) inhumane; (2) in contravention of animal welfare guidelines; and (3) non-selective.


Indiscriminate, Inhumane and Irresponsible: Compound 1080 Is no longer an acceptable form of wildlife management

May, 2021

Canada’s mammalian and avian predators and scavengers are at risk of exposure to the inhumane and deadly Compound 1080 (sodium monofluoroacetate), a poison authorized by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency to kill wolves (Canis lupus) and coyotes (Canis latrans) under the following circumstances: i) following instances of livestock predation; ii) where predation has been identified as the primary factor affecting survival of a specific wildlife population, or iii) where a serious threat to human safety exists.


Maintaining Ethical Standards during Conservation Crises


The effects of killing wolves (Canis lupus) on the Little Smoky woodland caribou population, Hervieux et al. (2014a) employed lethal methods that included shooting a firearm from a helicopter and the use of strychnine baits. Both of these methods raise critical questions with regard to animal welfare. When it is necessary to kill an animal, reliable humane procedures must be used to avoid pain or distress, and produce rapid loss of consciousness until death occurs.

To determine the minimum effect of strychnine baits placed for wolves in winter during a program targetting Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) in west-central Alberta from 2005 to 2020, I present a summary of all recorded species killed (n = 522). Fewer wolves (n = 245) were killed compared with non-target animals (n = 277), which included 10 mammal and four bird species. These data provide context on the environmental and ethical impacts of using poison as a component of wildlife management

Evaluating fact claims accompanying policies to liberalize the killing of wolves
Wildlife Conservation & Management in The 21st Century - Issues, Solutions, and New Concepts
Alpha Wildlife Publications, 2024

Here we address 4 fact claims (assertions of fact) commonly provided in policies for permitting or encouraging an increase in the legal killing of wolves and other large carnivores: (1) increasing human safety, (2) raising human tolerance for surviving wolves, (3) preventing livestock loss, and (4) increasing wild ungulate populations.  We evaluate the fact claims (hereafter ‘claims’) by summarizing published scientific meta-analyses and systematic reviews in addition to reviewing >36 newer scientific studies on the social and ecological effects of killing wolves. 

An overview of experimental Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) poisoning programs in northern Ontario, 1956 to 1964
The Canadian Field-Naturalist, Volume 135, No 2 (2021)​

Although completed over 50 years ago, the studies summarized here provide context on the ecological impacts and ethics of poison use to control wolves.

Mountain caribou, a behaviourally and genetically distinct set of ecotypes of the Woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) restricted to the mountains of western Canada, have undergone severe population declines in recent decades. Although a broad consensus exists that the ultimate driver of these declines has been the reduction of habitat upon which mountain caribou depend, research and policy attention has increasingly focused on predation. Recently, Serrouya et al. (Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 116:6181–6186, 2019) analysed population dynamics data from 18 subpopulations in British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, subject to different treatments and ‘controls’, and concluded that lethal wolf control and maternal caribou penning provide the most effective ways to stabilize population declines. Here we show that this inference was based on an unbalanced analytical approach that omitted a null scenario, excluded potentially confounding variables and employed irreproducible habitat alteration metrics. Our reanalysis of available data shows that ecotype identity is a better predictor of population trends than any adaptive management treatments considered by Serrouya et al.

International consensus principles for ethical wildlife control
Conservation Biology, Volume 31, No 4 (2016)

International perspectives on and experiences with human–wildlife conflicts were explored to develop principles for ethical wildlife control. 

Wildlife conservation and animal welfare: Two sides of the same coin?
Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (2010)

The notion that animal welfare applies to wildlife has escaped many animal welfarists and conservationists.

It is possible to integrate ethical aspects of wildlife conservation and animal welfare, and encourage a ‘wildlife welfare’ ethic among conservationists.

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