Wolf population management protecting Little Smoky caribou

**Thanks to everyone for your comments. As it can be a lot of work to moderate this blog, sometimes we need to close comments after a certain period of time.

Our ecosystem is built with many moving pieces and there is never just one factor affecting a species or putting a population at risk, and this is true of the Little Smoky caribou range. Maintaining caribou population and habitat is a priority. There are several things being done to address this including restoring and managing lands and managing the populations of predator species in the area, this includes wolves. Let’s talk numbers When it comes to wolves (one of Alberta’s better known predators) the population has cycled between scarcity and abundance.  The current estimated wolf population in Alberta is 7,000 wolves, an increase from 4,000 wolves in the early 1990s. WoodlandCaribouElstonDzus How do wolves pose a threat to caribou? Wolf numbers are related to number of deer species in an area– this means the more food available for wolves, the better they survive and reproduce. Historically, there was usually some distance between caribou and moose because they used different habitats – caribou in the muskeg and moose in the uplands.  At the same time there were few deer in those areas, so the total wolf population was lower than it is now. Due to loss and fragmentation of habitat, increasing numbers of deer and moose are sharing caribou habitat. While government continues working to minimize these impacts, the increased numbers of other animals in caribou habitat means an increase in predators – namely wolves. Interactions with wolves and environment In some habitats, wolves can threaten the populations of other predators, such as cougars, and can limit their numbers by competing for prey or through direct contact resulting in cougar deaths.  Wolves will also kill coyotes when they have the opportunity, and in some areas have been known to reduce coyote numbers. While there are some deadly consequences when dealing with wolves they also contribute to their environment, as was the case when wolves were reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park. When does the government manage wolf populations? While localized, lethal removal of individual wolves is done when wolves attack livestock, the only time entire populations would be managed is when wolf predation could cause the extinction of an identifiable group of a certain species, such as the Little Smoky caribou herd. Wolf control is not used to increase game populations. How are wolf populations controlled? The only place a wolf control program is happening right now is in the Little Smoky caribou herd range in North Central Alberta.  The main methods of control are aerial shooting, trapping, and toxicants, which are only used in winter months when bears are hibernating so the bears will not be harmed. Toxicant bait stations are usually placed along known wolf travel routes to increase the probability that wolves will find the bait, and they are also buried in the snow to decrease the chances of other species finding them. Though occasionally coyotes and ravens will sometimes take the baits, when used in this way toxicants generally do not impact other animals in the area. While wolf population management is one of the tools considered to help protect caribou herds in Alberta, it’s not something that’s done lightly. Biologists and other scientists carefully study animal populations and always explore every available option to ensure the sustainability of Alberta’s wildlife before population control measures are implemented.

78 thoughts on “Wolf population management protecting Little Smoky caribou

  1. You are not addressing the root cause of habitat fragmentation by culling wolves. Have you examined the recent science about the beneficial impact of wolves on the ecosystem in Yellowstone? Why not an approach that focuses on sustaining ecosystem function versus reactive culling of predators? What measures are being taken to prevent habitat fragmentation?

  2. Try protecting the habitat, stop the logging etc and the caribou will be fine. Killing wolves is disgusting……shame on all of you for continuing down this path.

  3. For the last 50 years, both the federal and provincial governments have not moved a finger to prevent the oil & gas, forestry and mining companies from destroying the habitat of the woodland caribou in northern Alberta and B.C. The caribou numbers have been shrinking steadily during this period. Environmental Organizations such as the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society have warned about this decline for many years. Now that the Caribou are almost extinct it is suddenly the “big, bad wolf” that has been found guilty and received the “death sentence”. This wolf kill is absolutely perverse, sickening and disgusting.

  4. I think maybe you have misread the science ! It is appalling that you are using the wolf as a scape goat for the wanton destruction and fragmentation of the environment and Caribou habitat. Killing wolves and in such an appalling way is no answer. Does the government really think we believe it is? I resent that what I have seen as a reason to live in Alberta is being destroyed . I assume all the people who flock to the mountains in hopes of seeing wildlife are unaware of this dreadful descision or they may take their money elsewhere. It is shameful and embarrassing . Look to stopping the destruction of the habitat not destroying something else .

  5. Wolves are not the problem, humans are! Stop “culling ” ANY species. Mankind needs to be repaired and stop interfering with nature.

  6. If the Alberta Government was serious about protecting caribou they would halt all further forestry and oil and gas development in the Little Smoky now! This is a balanced approach. There are many other places in Alberta that industry can access without extirpating a species. Habitat loss continues to get worse in the Little Smoky.

    In this regard Alberta is worse than Brazil or Indonesia or all those poor countries we criticize.

    Killing wolves while allowing business as usual industry is indefensible and is certainly not ‘world class’. This is shameful spin.

  7. Loss of habitat from the tarsands and logging is the problem here, lets not kid ourselves. Show me 1, just 1 ‘SCIENTIFIC’ study that shows that culling wolves works to restore balance in an ecosystem ravaged and pillaged by man. To the contrary, they will all show that it makes the problem worse. And for the barbaric methods used to murder these animals. Lets wake up Alberta. The cold war is over and most of the rest of the world has advanced itself out of the stone age.

  8. Our world is avery delicate place, please consider stopping the destruction of our lands. Simply stop letting oil and gas rule. We must get off of the things that destruct the world. That means we all need to learn to do with less. Our governments should be helping us go into the future with renewable energy and continue to research better renewable’s. Or air, water and land would be better off for all living things including but not limited to wolves and caribou. Love to ALL:-)

  9. Please stop this cull. Wolves have risked almost disappearing in most of europe. A lot is being done to care for the remaining wild ones. Do not let this happen,

  10. This isn’t going to save the caribou long term. The provincial government should be putting resources into habitat conservation and restoration so that wolf culls are not necessary. Please put the dollars into habitat protection and conservation so that we don’t have keep doing this over and over again.

  11. Mans interference with nature has messed it up. Nature knows what needs to be done not man. Perhaps nature is trying to balance itself out, and it may not make sense to scientists.
    Maybe there needs to be an imbalance to regenerate. I think nature needs to be observed at this point and monitored before any drastic action is taken.

  12. I take no stand on the killing of wolves in general. I understand that the government is under pressure from all side to deal with conflicting issues. Not a good place to be I’m sure.

    My concern is the irresponsible use of one of the most diabolical poisons on earth.

    First, lets be clear here. The use of strychnine doesn’t only kill wolves. At least it doesn’t the way it is being used here. It kills everything that feeds on the bait. And not just those animals die a horrible death but so do does any creature that feeds on those poisoned animals and birds.

    Just how far this chain reaction goes I do not know. I was told by people who had used strychnine that it could effect up to four layers of creatures. That is to say, the animal that fed on the bait, those that feed on the first animal, those that feed on the second victim in the chain, those that feed on the third victim in the chain and those that feed on the fourth victim in the chain will get very very sick but possibly not die.

    From what I was told the numbers of by-catch could be dozens of times higher then what is being reported. And from what I was told by people who used strychnine extensively back before it was outlawed, it is a totally unnecessary by-catch.
    From what I was told it is very possible to achieve a near zero by-catch if one knows what they are doing.

    From what I am hearing and seeing, not only is it doubtful that this program will achieve the desired results. It is also run by people who don’t understand the tools they are using.

    In my opinion, Strychnine is not something that should be used by anyone in this world today, or ever.
    It’s the nuclear bomb equivalent of wildlife management tools and it’s being used by what amounts to a private in the army deciding on and using a nuclear bomb.

    I’d like to say a bit about what this poison does to an animal. Again, I heard this from people who used the poison extensively back before it was outlawed.
    Strychnine kills by causing massive convulsions that stop breathing and perhaps the heart as well. People I knew who had used the stuff talked about seeing animals do back flips into the air, when the first convulsions hit. They told about convulsions so violent that the victims limbs were broken, teeth broken from the jaw and they told about finding many victims still locked in a convulsion even after death.

    The by catch and the mechanism of death are both good reasons why I think this poison should be restricted to a place in history, only. It has no place in this world today.

  13. The wolf cull, corralling cows to protect their newborn calves and chasing the critters off the highway in winter, have all been tried by wildlife managers that have been recommending the following solutions (2011) since hunting was stopped in about 1980. Predator management is at the bottom of the list.

    ” Maintaining caribou habitat is the immediate priority.
    • Restoring disturbed habitat is a critical component
    of caribou habitat management.
    • Management efforts will recognize habitat changes
    naturally in type and location over time.
    • Prudent management of the land base and associated
    development will be required to reduce the impact on
    and facilitate the restoration of caribou habitat.
    • Effective management of wildlife populations
    (e.g., predators and other prey species) will be
    required.”

    Politicians have not listened to wildlife managers or protected habitat for caribou. Politicians have not listened to the public that apparently abhor the use of strychnine and understand the need for habitat protection.
    Would the Minister please answer the concerns of many Albertans: 1) explain the real priorities for the East Slopes & foothills and, 2) accept responsibility for the demise of mountain caribou and many other species of fish & wildlife that are listed as ‘Threatened or At Risk’?

  14. where is the reply from the ministers office to all the questions being asked above by albertans…where is government accountability when being told to STOP this insane wolf murder plan??????

  15. If the Alberta Government was serious about protecting caribou they would halt all further forestry and oil and gas development in the Little Smoky now! Wolves have been proven to restore habitat. Killing wolves is shortsighted.

  16. The Alberta Government needs to inform itself on the vital role that wolves play in the eco-system. You are acting in ignorance without taking into consideration the full impact of your actions. The culling of wolves will also mean larger coyote populations. Further, poisoning has no place in culling programs even if implemented while bears hibernate. Other forms of wildlife as well as domestic dogs feed on carcass! From failing to protect sensitive wetland areas, to wolf, coyote and wild horse culls and questionable “population management” practices, this government gets an F for protecting the environment and our precious wildlife species. Would the Alberta Government kindly listen to and follow the advice of wild life experts and conservationists?

  17. oh great…again ignore all the advise from your own biologists and issue more resource development leases in caribou habitat (already non sustainable from all the impacts)…oh..nope now just put them on hold….what is the next flavour of the month policy??? when are you actually going to do what the public have demanded???? please stop the insanity and stand up for what is right..NOT what industry keeps taking and demanding more…the future will have nothing left for our children

  18. When will the Minister stand up and publicly declare that all remaining caribou habitat, in a fully sustainable format, will be protected from Industry?
    The public is demanding some ACCOUNTABILITY please respond in kind.

  19. more caribou habitat lease give a ways coming in April to Industry I see….so how much more unaccountable to the people do you have to get? Does any one in SRD actually stand up and take charge for the benefit of caribou or does industry just keep on destroying our children’s future and all the other life forms that need a clean, protected and sustainable habitat?
    Oh yes does the wolf murder still continue as well?…how many more fragmented caribou regions will you be expanding into?

    I have yet to get one single reply to any of the questions posted……is this blog for window dressing or dos someone actually respond to citizens requests??
    Still waiting….

  20. It’s all been said in the comments above, however is this just a space for the public to vent? or is someone in Government listening? Not likely, but because they are not they are driving concerned members of the public to do something about this. It will happen soon. This abrogation of public trust and responsibilities will not go unchallenged much longer.

  21. You are right the poison spreads to a lot more than just the wolves. A local trapper made comment to me today , when is the last time you have seen a Whiskey Jack out here. The real upsetting comment I was told is that perfectly healthy moose are being shot and moved by choppers to certain areas to be used for bait and the poison placed in the carcass. I’am sure animal wast from local butcher shops would work. This small caribou herd should have been moved to a better area years ago as forestry and oil and gas have taken over the bush and I don’t see that changing back anytime soon. Basically our wild life has no where to go anymore, we have well sites , compressor sites, gas plants and pipe lines running everywhere. The Bald Mountain road has 2 pipe line right of ways side by side and the latest one has 3 pipe lines being placed in the ground at the same time. I can say hats off to the forest industry for their reforestation as we do have lots of new trees doing very well and it sure looks good.

    Alaska Last Frontier is looking better every day as we have lost our wilderness.

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