1,200 wolves and about 100 other animals have been culled since the program began in 2005
An animal advocacy group says the province’s use of poison as a way to cull wolves is inhumane and kills too many other animals inadvertently.
Numbers obtained by Wolf Awareness Inc. through the Access To Information Act show about 1,200 wolves have been culled since the population control program began in 2005, and about 100 other animals have also been killed.
Most of those are ravens but the list includes a bald eagle and a golden eagle, along with coyotes, foxes, skunks and a grizzly bear, which is listed as a threatened species under Alberta’s Wildlife Act.
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Along with traps, the province uses firearms and poison to kill the wolves. An animal such as a moose or deer is shot, then the carcass is poisoned, said veterinarian Judith Sampson-French, a former conservation biologist with Alberta Fish and Wildlife.
Animals besides wolves feed on the carcass and are subsequently killed too, which Wolf Awareness Inc. calls unethical and inhumane.
“Some people are calling it a grand-scaled wildlife genocide because it’s very non-targeted,” said Sampson-French.
“The whole ecosystem is starting to break down because we’re getting way beyond ravens dying here, we’re getting caribou, we’re getting grizzly bears, eagles, cougars, all of those animals.”
Judit Smits, a veterinarian with a PhD in environmental toxicology, said the use of strychnine as a poison is especially troubling.
“We’ve been really discouraging the use of strychnine for predator control a long time because we are really aware of how totally inhumane it is,” she said.
“It takes a long time to die. The animals are completely lucid throughout the whole poisoning episode,” she said.
“They can hear everything, the can see everything, they can feel everything.”
Veterinarian Judit Smits says the province shouldn’t be using strychnine as part of its annual wolf cull. (Sarah Lawryniuk/CBC)
Strychnine causes the animal’s muscles to contract, said Smits, including the diaphragm, which eventually suffocates them.
One reason for the wolf cull is to protect caribou herds, which are listed as at risk in Alberta.
Dave Hervieux, the province’s expert on caribou preservation, said while the situation isn’t ideal, it’s about balancing the options they have in front of them.
“It is a complicated issue, obviously,” he said.
Another industry that can adversely affect caribou habitat is resourse extraction, which he pointed out is a sanctioned activity throughout caribou ranges.
“It’s trying to find a balance that will adequately enable those economic activities, but also have real and tangible benefits for caribou into the future.”
Hervieux said caribou populations have not risen or fallen significantly since the wolf cull began.