Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Fear and Loathing in the Northern Rockies


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:


Your Ad Here





More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future