Alberta protesters furious over wolf kill. By Jim Farrell. Edmonton Journal.

The government wants to kill wolves to protect caribou, but the caribou have been disrupted by all the natural gas development and exploration in the Rocky Mountain foothills.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

7 Responses to Alberta protesters furious over wolf kill

  1. avatar Anthony H says:

    wow, didn’t realize the fallacies presented in ‘Never Cry Wolf’ still hold true today : /

  2. I don’t understand your comment. Can you elaborate?

  3. avatar Layton says:

    “As new growth replaces old growth that new growth attracts increasing numbers of deer and moose. That leads to a larger wolf population and those wolves kill off the few remaining caribou”

    Is this saying that the caribou are more suceptible to being killed by the wolves — or are they just saying that they will kill the caribou too and there aren’t enough to sustain a herd??

    Layton

  4. These are mountain caribou, Layton, which are much rarer than barren ground caribou. Mountain caribou rely on old undisturbed forest. They are specialized in a way that moose, and especially deer and wolves are not.

  5. avatar Howard says:

    Mountain caribou–in both the lower 48 and southern Canada– persist as tiny remnant bands in isolated pockets of old growth climax forest. As Ralph said, they are habitat specialists, and the habitat they need no longer occurs in blocks large enough to sustain viable populations. Because these populations are so abysmally low (single digits in some locales), predation is a threat because literally every individual counts (with every reproductive female counting for a lot). Low numbers may make mountain caribou especially vulnerable (this I do not know, as I’m not especially familiar with optimal herd size or herd dynamics in mountain caribou) particularly in regards to calves… the “predator swamping” strategy doesn’t work so well with a single digit number of young. In the case of the woodland/mountain caribou, it is probably correct to list predation as a major factor undermining recruitment. HOWEVER, the extreme effects of predation are a direct result of the extreme effects wrought on mountain caribou populations by habitat destruction/alteration; predators themselves did not cause these herds to dwindle to 70, 35, 12 etc. individuals. Furthermore, while removing predators may, in the short run, boost some of these populations by allowing the handful of calves born to reach adulthood, in the long run, it does nothing to actually recover these populations. Even with no predation, remaining suitable habitat is too small and fragmented to support viable populations. At best, removing predation pressure will allow these mountain caribou populations to grow by a handful of individuals —no real recovery and no end to the isolation of populations—until disease outbreak, genetic entropy, or the degredation of what little habitat they have left does them in. The only hope for mountain caribou is protecting their habitat and linking populations. If oil and gas exploration are destroying necessary habitat and disrupting/fragmenting population corridors, then these actions are both a short term threat and, in the long term, essentially doom any possibility of any kind of future viable population. Alberta’s wolf killing plan is a band-aid over a bullet wound. The fact that the government wants to kill predators to “save the mountain caribou” while giving development/mineral exploration full reign to do as they please proves that “saving” the mountain caribou is a joke; killing predators is a dog and pony show performed by agencies that can’t or won’t stop the mineral companies, but are required to do “something” for endangered mountain caribou. The case of mountain caribou is one of the only instances in North America in which I think it may be (unfortunately) necessary to conduct temporary and very localized predator reductions to allow some tiny populations to get out of predator pits and recruit new individuals—BUT ONLY in conjunction with a long term program of strong habitat and seasonal migration route (altitude more than latitude with mountain caribou) protection and creating gene flow between populations. Canada’s plan simply kills a huge number of wolves, turns a blind eye to the real problem, and ultimately dooms the mountain caribou…at best, there will be a few more of them for slightly longer.
    Attempts have been made to reintroduce the woodland caribou to Maine—where there are no grizzlies, wolves, or cougars– and all have failed; the old growth boreal forests that woodland caribou require simply doesn’t exist any more in most of Maine. Not only has the habitat changed, but white tailed deer have moved in, and white tails are notorious vectors for parasites like brain worm that are absolutely disastrous for other cervids. In Canada, as deer and other cervids that were formerly excluded from, or only found in very low numbers in, caribou country proliferate, they may present a huge danger in the form of parasites and pathogens. Deer and elk may need to be locally reduced as much or more than predators to preserve mountain caribou. Much better than killing large numbers of other wildlife or having armed guards stationed over caribou herds… preserving enough habitat (all necessary seasonal habitats…calving grounds, winter and summer forage, etc.) so that caribou can rebound and maintain populations that withstand natural predation, in the old growth boreal forest habitat that naturally excludes (or maintains at low densities) competitors and potential plague carriers like white-tailed deer.
    Sadly, the future looks grim for mountain caribou.

  6. avatar David watson says:

    We here in BC are going through the same thing, except it’s not caribou people are worried about it’s their household pets. 2 dogs were killed this year and one was seriously hurt by a few wolves that live near town. This wolf pack is on an island as the city of Prince Rupert BC. I have been tracking and following the wolves for 3 years, it’s sad that when we keep expanding our urban areas that it’s only the wildlife that suffers…

  7. avatar Tracy Deighton says:

    Is there not some other way to deal with this? I understand that they want to replenish the herds of caribou, but there has to be another way. One that occomodates both the herds of caribou and the packs of wolves. This is very disturbing that the government can murder so easily.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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