Research? Central Alberta wolf reduction planned to "balance" wolf and elk populations

Alberta gives the wolf no protection to begin with. Elk populations in the area are high, and it is questionable whether this is research. This is not a huge wolf killing/sterilization project, but it could devolve into such a project.

The major newspapers don’t like it.

Wolves targeted to boost elk hunt. Sterilization part of Alberta experiment to shrink packs. Cathy Ellis, For the Calgary Herald.

Editorial. Culling wolves so hunters can cull elk. The Edmonton Journal.

Keep researchers at bay. Calgary Herald

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The first wave of wolves to Yellowstone and Central Idaho (1995) came from this area.



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  1. jimbob Avatar

    Genius!! Experiment is just an excuse as opposed to saying outright “we are going to kill x numbers of wolves.”
    Some of the public can’t see through that type of rhetoric. Even a junior high science student knows the results of decreasing predator numbers in an ecosystem (for the short term)!
    They tried to use this “experiment” excuse in Arizona to kill many mountain lions to “benefit” bighorn sheep. A lot of us spoke against it as junk science (including scientists from the Government). It didn’t matter. The “experiment” is still going on, but without removing domestic sheep from the equation. I’m no scientist, but I guess I’m smarter than the ones they have……

  2. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    My own research into wolf control in the Yukon indicated that wolf control was/is a failed attempt to mitigate human economic development of crucial ungulate habitat. That is, rather than protect and expand ungulate habitat, it’s easier for government agencies to kill wolves. That’s precisely what is happening in Alberta with this so-called “research.”

  3. JB Avatar

    “Culling wolves so hunters can cull elk. The Edmonton Journal.”

    Apparently not everyone’s heard: it’s “cabela queen” not “hunter.”

  4. Jay Avatar

    Robert, am I misinterpreting your comment about the Yukon? Are you referring to the Yukon Territory? If so, how on earth are they supposed to “protect and expand ungulate habitat” in a region two-fifths the size of Alaska, with a miniscule 30k population base (2/3s of which is in one city), in about as close to pristine a state as your going to find in this day and age? It’s vast, and virtually untouched–I can’t imagine anything anybody could do to preserve and protect it any better than it already is? I’m not trying to be sarcastic here, just trying to figure out where you’re coming from.

  5. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    In the Yukon Territory, as well as in Alaska, where you find demands for wolf control you also find significant degradation and/or fragmentation of habitat, chiefly from roads and tracks, many of which are constructed to support mining exploration and development, or energy easements (pipelines, electrical transmission lines, etc).

    The chief problem road is the Alaska Highway, and there are of course numerous roads and tracks that “spider” off the Alaska Highway that provide relatively easy motorized access into the wilderness, whether by auto or OHV (mostly snowmobiles, or “skiddoos,” as they’re known up North.

    The primary impacts of this fragmentation of habitat (mostly in southern Yukon and central Alaska, but it’s spreading all through the North) are twofold: obstruction and/or blockage of traditional migrations, mainly of woodland caribou, and facilitation of overhunting by both Native and urban populations (Whitehorse, Anchorage, and Fairbanks), into which you also have to account for military personnel stationed in Fairbanks and Anchorage, who, before Iraq, represented a significant portion of total take of big game (caribou and moose) in Alaska. The famous “Taylor Highway” north of Tok running to Dawson City in the Yukon is a well-known firing line popular with American military personnel especially. It’s also a major skiddoo route in the winter.

    An interesting impact of the proliferation of roads and tracks is that this proliferation also facilitates wolf movement, especially in winter, and that also has an impact on successful wolf predation of moose and caribou, who are sometimes “fixed” on their ranges by the roads and tracks, that is, the human use of these roads and tracks. As you might suspect, anti-wolfers tend to focus on the predation, and not the roads that make access by wolves to moose and caribou easier and more successful. Not to mention making human access easier. (But then, that’s what it is all about).

    Get rid of the roads, and you make predation by all predators, two- and four-legged, more difficult. However, that is precisely what human hunters refuse to accept. To meet demand, the wildlife agencies ignore habitat fragmentation and gear up the aerial gunning programs for predators.

    I read recently that SFW-Alaska was recruiting “hunters” to man bait stations 24-7 to kill black bears, including sows with cubs, to release local moose populations from bear predation. My, that’s a comforting advertisement for ethical hunting.

    “Wilderness hunting? What’s that?” asks the average hunter from Anchorage, who can’t abandon his umbilical cord to his ATV or skiddoo.

    Another interesting fact not known outside northern conservation circles is that during the construction of the Alaska Highway in the Yukon in the early 1940s, the US engineer general commanding the project demanded and received resident hunting licenses for US military personnel. The American GIs then proceeded to shoot out everything that moved on four legs along the Highway corridor. The devastation of both moose and caribou populations was profound, and in my view, and the view of many biologists, the populations still haven’t recovered from World War II.

    In other words, when one takes a historical perspective on the “progress” of economic development in the Yukon and Alaska and its impact on big game, it is clear that wolf control becomes a morally and practically ambiguous activity.

    I have spent quite a bit of time in the Yukon, and one could hardly call the motorized transportation corridors in the Territory “pristine.” Go up and look for yourself. Get behind an 18-wheeler hauling ore from the mines down to the Alaska port of Skagway in the dead of winter when it’s 30 below and tell me that’s a wilderness experience. It’s depressing, not at all like what one thinks the Northern wilderness “should” look like. But when you consider the almost pathological pursuit of mining companies and mineral development by the Yukon Territorial Government, whether the party in power is of the left or the right (rarely the center, not that it makes a difference), it’s not surprising.

    And of course, let’s not forget the pathological demand of many Alaskans to dig, mine, log, or drill everything in sight.

    So, the assumptions about the North as unlimited wilderness by people who haven’t spent much time there are generally incorrect. In the North, it’s 2008, not 1908, and what was once pristine is rapidly being turned into massive scars. That’s where the damage to wildlife and wildlife habitat is, not with wolf or bear predation. Look, for example, at diamond mining in the Northwest Territories, or even worse, the tar sands development in northwestern Alberta, which is merely following in the tracks of natural gas development in northeastern British Columbia.

    Oops, let’s not forget Alaska’s North Slope and the slobbering by the oil companies over ANWR, critical calving range for the Porcupine Caribou Herd.

    I can’t decide who’s worse about development: Alaskans or Canadians. It’s neck and neck to the edge of the cliff.

    Of course, this development process only continues what began in 1898 with the Gold Rush on both sides of the International Boundary. It’s taken only 110 years to damn near ruin the North.

    The plight of wildlife in the North is directly attributable to the virtually unfettered and poorly regulated economic development of natural resources. And wolves are catching it both ways–directly from the development itself and also from wolf control because humans refuse to protect what once was unlimited and extensive, but now fragmented and degraded, big game habitat. Rather than refrain from constructing new roads and tracks, and rather than refusing to reclaim and close old roads and tracks, people find it easier to kill wolves to limit the competition for big game as well as make it easier and easier to drive out from Anchorage, get your moose, and get home in time for a beer and Monday Night Football.

    Oh, and let’s not forget that interior Yukon and Alaska aren’t the most ecologically productive habitats in the best of times–that is, pre-European times.

    Wildlife just can’t win for losing up North.


  6. April Clauson Avatar
    April Clauson

    Thank you for that post. You of all folks know what is up and I appreciate your support and letting folks know what is the truth. I fear not only wildlife”can’t win for losing up North”, but anywhere they need to thrive is the same. If only we all could see things as you and other folks do.

  7. Don Riley Avatar
    Don Riley


    This is a surprise, especially coming from Wyoming, but then again this is a scientific project, not a (add your own description)

    I believe that the researchers on the Northern elk herd are coming to the same conclusions.

    “Although not the primary objective of the project, Kauffman said, the research team has begun to explore interactions between elk and wolves — surveying which types of elk the wolves are choosing to hunt, and the impacts of wolf predation on the herds.

    Results are still preliminary, but it appears that habitat and long-term drought are having greater effects on the elk than wolves are, Kauffman said.

    “The last eight or nine years of drought have been the worst period for drought in 100 years,” Kauffman told the commission.

    It appears that wolves are taking fewer elk in the area than hunters are at this point, he said.

    “I don’t doubt they have an effect. We’re just not sure yet how much, and what it is,” Kauffman said.

    Wolves probably are not killing moose calves, Kauffman said, but grizzly bears and black bears might be.”

    I wonder how long this UW professor will have this job? No mention of any reaction by member of the commission.

  8. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    In Wyoming, it’s not necessary to note in the press reports the reaction Commissioners have to this kind of news. Their reaction is a given.

    I think Dr. Kauffman has tenure, so he’s safe.



Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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