Raincoast scientists Dr. Paul Paquet and Dr. Chris Darimont, along with colleagues at the University of Saskatchewan, have published the paper “Maintaining Ethical Standards during Conservation Crises” in the journal Canadian Wildlife Biology and Management. It addresses the ethics and science of the Alberta wolf cull as published in Canadian Journal of Zoology, November 2014.
Download the press release
The wolf kill
For the last few years, Raincoast has been sounding the alarm about the slaughter of wolves at the hands of the Alberta government. This slaughter is a consequence of Alberta oil and gas development, and other industrial activities, that have endangered caribou. The Alberta government and its resource industries have transformed the caribou’s boreal habitat into a landscape that can no longer provide the food, cover and security that these animals need to survive. Rather than address this problem, Alberta has chosen to scapegoat wolves that are using a huge network of new roads and corridors to reach dwindling numbers of caribou.
For a decade now, the Alberta government has hired hitmen and biologists to kill wolves, more than 1,000 of them, through aerial gunning from helicopters, poisoning with strychnine, and allowing them to be strangled with neck snares. They also trap and collar wolves that become “Judas wolves,” leading the gunners to the pack. After shooting all but the collared wolf, the collared wolf then leads the gunners to more wolves and then watches as they too are slaughtered.
Not just wolves
In addition to aerial gunning, strychnine is set out to poison wolves. Many other species that incidentally eat the poison also die. We do not have a death toll for the additional animals that died from poisoning. Neck snares, another form of torture and suffering, are also permitted. Internal Alberta government documents show that up until 2012, neck snares were the primary cause of death for 676 animals, in addition to the wolves, around the Little Smokey region in Alberta. Note caribou, the reason for the wolf cull in the first place, are dying as incidental deaths in neck snares.
Number of animals/species that have died incidentally in Alberta’s wolf kill (up to 2012) near the Little Smokey region, primarily in neck snares. Numbers obtained from internal Alberta government documents.
Black bear 12
Eagle (bald and golden) 40
Grizzly bear 3
Small mammals (marten, mink, skunk, squirrel, weasel) 12
Calling it science
In 2014, 5 authors (3 from Alberta government, 1 from University of Montana, 1 from University of Alberta) published a paper in the Canadian Journal of Zoology (CJZ) called Managing wolves to recover threatened caribou
in Alberta. This paper describes, condones, and implements the use of aerial gunning and strychnine poisoning as acceptable methods to undertake their study on caribou survival. Neck snares are not included in the journal study methods, despite their known use for killing wolves in the Little Smokey Region.
The above response addresses the issue of ethics and animal welfare in science. Research on animals in Canadian universities and papers published in the CJZ must meet ethical standards from an animal care committee (nationally, the Canadian Council on Animal Care). Poisoning and aerial gunning (using Judas wolves) do not meet these criteria. Below is the call for proposal from the beginning of the study with the statement that the lethal methods being employed were approved according to protocols 008 and 009. Also below are protocols 008 and 009 that show such activities are not permitted. The objective of these protocols (specifically 9) is to enforce the humane treatment of animals and ensure minimal stress. In the event that a wolf is injured during a study it describes how euthanasia must occur. A gun shot is explicit to extreme cases in close range where a single shot to the head causes instant death. To imply such permits allow a wildlife slaughter is dishonest, at best.
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