Biologists Claim Controlling Wolf Population Won't Save the Caribou

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Wolf management problems appear to be universal, and biologists have various ideas on how to manage the growing wolf populations that threaten wildlife, such as the caribou. In the fall of 2008 a University of Alberta scientist Evelyn Merrill, wanted to sterilize members of wolf packs in the Rocky Mountain House Area. Sterilizing seemed like a humane way of reducing the wolf packs' populations, which would also reduce the predators for elk and caribou in the area. This idea sparked debates, and was never used. Instead Alberta has spent over a million dollars on strychnine for poisoning and shooting them from the air, which some see as more humane than the sterilization experiment.

Biologists claim, wolves have long been used as scapegoats for wildlife management problems such as the one that the Alberta government is facing with caribou. Those in charge of management are trying to reduce the wolves numbers, this is an ongoing issue in animal management. Initially, bounties were used to encourage people to kill wolves. Then it was poison and leghold traps. In extreme cases, some jurisdictions sent men out to dig out dens and strangle the pups that were in them. In Jasper National Park, where wolves are protected there are a moderate number of packs, compared to the Little Smoky Region where they are trapped, poisoned and shot, the number of wolves is rapidly growing. The scientists and biologists believe that now they have a better idea on the numbers, and reducing the packs by percentage, but if there is a food source the wolf population thrives.

Managing the wolves will have to continue, if there is any hope for the caribou's survival, but it is not the only key to the equation. Habitat needs to be conserved for the caribou as well, without piecing it apart for roads and development. From the Montreal Gazette.

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groovy mike's picture

I’ll be looking forward to additional updates.

I don’t see anything in this article that ties in to the headline.  Instead I see a discussion of how best to control the wolf population with a mention of caribou.  Caribou probably are one of the species most susceptible to decline due to habitat loss.  No reindeer moss, no caribou.  So that is certainly a consideration that should be factored into herd management.  But I also agree that wolf predation affects the caribou herd population and that wolf population management problems appear to be universal.  But as I have stated elsewhere several times, my feeling is that any time that there is an animal population management question and the decision has been made to reduce that population,  hunting is the most sane, economical, and efficient solution to any need to reduce that animal population.  So I applaud the idea of letting hunters solve the wolf population control problem.  I don’t even think that bounties are necessary.  Just announce that there is an over abundant wolf population and allow outfitters to book inexpensive wolf hunts in that area.  That will meet the end goal of a reduction in the number of wolves.  And this is a win : win on every level for hunters, outfitters, and land owners.  Who knows, it could lead to developing a whole wolf hunting tourist hunter industry to bring hunters in from around the country and overseas, so that they can harvest multiple wolves on a long season tag.  Heck – I would sign up for that, wouldn’t you?

I don’t see how anyone could argue that sterilizing seemed like a humane way of reducing the wolf packs' populations.  I'm sure that the caribou would disagree!  And it just seems like fiscal and biological foolishness for Alberta to have spent over a million dollars on strychnine for poisoning.  You have to wonder how many scavengers were also inadvertently poisoned?  As for shooting wolves from the air that is not only unsporting, it is an incredibly expensive way to pursue game.  What bureaucrat authorized those thousands of wasted dollars worth of expense? And why aren’t they being called on the carpet and asked to justify their poor decision making at the risk of losing their jobs?  Why not let hunters pay for the privilege of doing that work and proudly taking home trophies? Those in charge of management are trying to reduce the wolves’ numbers; this is an ongoing issue in animal management.  So my advice to them and anyone involved in similar efforts in the  Jasper National Park, or the Little Smoky Region or in fact anywhere that the number of wolves is rapidly growing is to look to sport hunting as a solution to benefit the caribou, elk, and deer herds as well as any livestock that are being damaged by over abundant wolves.  This really seems like a no brainer to me.  Let all the scientists and biologists actually act on this better idea for reducing the packs.

 Thanks for sharing the article and information.  I am just a few hours drive from Quebec so I’ll be looking forward to additional updates as this situation unfolds.

hunter25's picture

I would agree that the wolves

I would agree that the wolves alone are not the only thing hurting the caribou herds but I bet they are a really big part of it. Almost seems like they want to take some of the attention back away fro the wolves and the damage they can cause. From what I have read it is true though that caubou are one of the most susceptible to decline due to habitat loss. Most other animals adapt well as the subdivisions and houses start to move in but the caribou not so well as they really do require the unbroken wide open wild places to thrive. Fortunately where they live is still mostly like that but time moves on and populations and land use will always continue to change. Hopefully they can be prtected and survive as they always have.