FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Fear and Loathing in the Northern Rockies

by CHRIS GENOVALI

Having recently attended the 20th annual North American Wolf Conference in Pray, Montana, it has been particularly dismaying to learn that literally days after the gray wolf was de-listed from the Endangered Species Act in the United States, trophy hunters in Wyoming had already shot numerous wolves.

When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the recovery program for the gray wolf population in the Northern Rockies was “complete,” the power to manage gray wolves in the Northern Rockies was transferred from the federal government to state wildlife agencies in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. The de-listing has thrown open a dark door for states in the region to apply their preferred old- school “big game” approach to managing wolves; the trophy-hunting-as-legitimate-management-tool stance essentially serves to mask a thinly veiled, irrational fear and loathing of these predators.

Hearing about the struggles at the wolf conference regarding the oft-times desperate attempts in the lower 48 to save certain populations–such as the Mexican wolf–from extinction, and the uphill battle combating the disproportionate influence of special interests in the ranching industry, our British Columbian delegation couldn’t help but contrast the status of wolves in Canada’s two western-most provinces with that of their brethren in the contiguous USA.

Should we feel fortunate we have wolf populations that are in relatively far better shape than those in the lower 48? Yes, but with some significant qualifications. B.C. and Alberta have none of the legislative mechanisms in place the U.S. has to protect species and their habitat and both provinces have virtually no prohibitions on the trophy hunting of wolves–and in fact regularly encourage the recreational killing of wolves. Demonized and scapegoated for the decline of everything from marmots to mountain caribou, it is official government policy to cull, sterilize and otherwise persecute these animals.

This persecution is often carried out for the purpose of managing for ungulates, which is designed to increase trophy-hunting opportunities.

Witness the current controversy surrounding the Alberta government’s proposed “experiment” to control wolves (by capture, euthanasia and sterilization) along the central east slopes of the province, in order to, in great part, bolster elk numbers for humans to trophy hunt.

And in many areas of B.C. and Alberta where wolves live, the habitat of their prey continues to be degraded by logging and other industrial activity, which has a cascading negative impact on the wolf population; a perfect example of this is Vancouver Island.

The B.C. Ministry of Environment estimates that 150 wolves remain–a 50 percent drop from 20 years ago. Black-tailed deer are the primary prey of the Island’s wolf population, but according to MoE the deer population has dropped from 200,000 to about 55,000 in last 20 years.

Black-tailed deer need old-growth forests, but out of 91 primary watersheds over 5,000 hectares, only six are left intact here on the Island; not one watershed on eastern Vancouver Island remains intact or is protected, and 75 percent of the Island’s productive ancient forests have been logged.

So why, at least from a province-wide perspective, are B.C. and Alberta in a comparatively more advantageous situation when it comes to wolves when contrasted with their neighbors to the south? It certainly isn’t due to any enlightened provincial government policy; nor is it due to any advanced laws or regulations–particularly given the absence of substantive legislation to protect species in B.C. and Alberta. The conclusion one inevitably comes to is that we have been spared simply because of the favorable ratio of people to land mass; in other words, the wild country in B.C. and Alberta is big enough that our relatively moderate human population hasn’t been able to despoil it all or hunt down all the wolves . . . yet.

British Columbians and Albertans should not be lured into one-dimensional, artificial and strictly numerical arguments about how many wolves should be allowed to be killed for “sport” or “management.” B.C.-based conservation biologist and wolf researcher Dr. Chris Darimont has written that “wolves have complex social traits . . . they are keenly sensitive and caring animals and are known to mourn for extended periods when a group member is killed. Hunting of wolves by humans likely has severe ecological effects that are difficult for scientists to study and may take generations to become evident.”

A Raincoast Conservation report on wolves authored by Darimont and internationally recognized large-carnivore expert Dr. Paul Paquet points out that “the provincial government allows an annual limit of three wolves to be killed for sport by resident hunters. There is no limit for wolves killed on guided hunts, nor is there a kill limit for trappers. Adults and pups can be legally killed. Wolves are granted immunity from hunting during only part of their reproductive period. When wolves with dependent young are killed, the transfer of information between generations is disrupted. This may ultimately be the same as killing the pups directly.”

On average, approximately 800 (out of an unknown number) wolves are legally killed each year in B.C.; that mortality figure is most likely a conservative estimate given the almost non-existent reporting requirements. A laissez faire approach is taken in managing the hunting of wolves in B.C. and is simply based on the reproductive potential of the species.

There is a consensus among scientists that top predators serve an important role in the ecosystem and their removal often has negative consequences for the ecosystem. The removal of a large proportion (i.e., more than 20 percent) of individuals from a population with a low effective breeding size can lead to severe reductions in genetic variability, especially within an insular landscape such as Vancouver Island.

Maybe one day British Columbians’ and Albertans’ generosity of spirit and willingness to peacefully coexist with the wolf will evolve to be as expansive as the physical landscape of both provinces. But if the current level of intolerance toward these iconic large carnivores continues unabated, then just look south to take a peek into the possible future for canis lupus in the Canadian far west.

CHRIS GENOVALI is the executive director of Raincoast Conservation Society. He can be reached at: chris@raincoast.org

 

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail