Monthly Archives: August 2016

EBR 012-8105 Comment

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Species at Risk and Biodiversity Protection Section
PUBLIC INPUT COORDINATOR
Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
Policy Division
Species Conservation Policy Branch
300 Water Street
Peterborough, Ontario
K9J 8M5
Phone: (705) 755-1940
Fax: (705) 755-2901
 
RE: EBR 012-8105 Amendment of Ontario Regulation 242/08 (General Regulation – Endangered Species Act, 2007) in response to changes to the Species at Risk in Ontario List.
 
Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the proposed changes to the General Regulation – Endangered Species Act, 2007. We wish to express our disappointment in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) for proposing the amendments specifically as they pertain to the Algonquin wolf. The proposal states:

“It is proposed that exemption from section 9 (species protection provision) of the ESA apply to Algonquin Wolf if the following conditions are met: • The person is hunting or trapping (including protection of property activities) in accordance with the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act and its regulations; and • The person is outside of the identified core Algonquin Wolf occurrence areas”

The proposed amendment is inadequate for the recovery of Algonquin wolves and would effectively strip this at-risk wolf species of the most meaningful and biologically relevant protection afforded by the Endangered Species Act, namely section 9.

Below, we outline the flaws within the rationale used to justify this amendment, addressing each criteria included within the proposal, which states:

“An analysis of the regulatory provisions contained within O.Reg 242/08 was conducted for each of the newly listed species, using a range of factors including: the size of the species population in Ontario; the rarity of the species; whether the location of species and their habitats occur in the same location as the regulated activities; and whether certain types of activities are likely to adversely affect the species. Through this analysis, it is being proposed that certain provisions of the regulation would not apply to particular species added to the SARO List in 2015 and 2016, or reclassified in 2015 or 2016 as endangered or threatened. This analysis has resulted in the following proposed amendments to O.Reg 242/08:”

The criteria used are inadequate to evaluate whether there is a significant adverse effect on the species. The proposal effectively creates a category of habitat unknown to the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA) of “core occurrence area” and only protects the Algonquin wolf in
those areas. The ESA defines habitat very broadly and “habitat” under the ESA includes all of the Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) identified by COSSARO. Protection of only a portion of the habitat of the Algonquin wolf will cause significant adverse effects on the Algonquin wolf’s survival and recovery. Specifically, the proposal would prevent the recovery of the species by limiting dispersal. Accordingly the requirements of subsection 57(2) of the ESA must be met. The Minister has failed to meet these requirements or provide reasons why the proposal will not jeopardize the survival and recovery of the species or cause any other significant adverse effect. The significant adverse effects that will be caused by the proposal include:

  • Algonquin wolves will not be able to disperse due to hunting and trapping outside of the “core occurrence areas”. Dispersal is a natural process that is important to survival, genetic diversity and recovery.
  • Hunting and trapping outside the “core occurrence areas” will disrupt the social structure of Algonquin wolves residing within the “core occurrence areas” and jeopardize their survival and recovery as functional packs within the protected areas.
  • Connectivity between the “core occurrence areas” is too restricted.
  • The “core occurrence areas” are too small to sustain viable wolf populations.
  • There is a high risk of hunting and trapping of Algonquin wolves outside of the “core occurrence areas”.
  • Algonquin wolves, coyotes and their hybrids are exposed to poaching and vehicles during dispersal from protected areas, also putting their survival at risk.
  • ‘Baiting’, ‘hounding’ and ‘calling’ are common methods used by hunters to kill wild canids. These activities essentially facilitate a ‘forced dispersal’ outside of the suggested “core occurrence areas”.
  • Climate change is impacting the environment in unpredictable ways; numerous predator and prey species are being forced to alter their ranges and adapt to habitat disruptions. Limiting the hunting and trapping ban to three small areas will likely not allow Algonquin wolves to relocate as needed if weather patterns, sources of prey and habitat changes dictate the necessity.

 

1. Size of the species population in Ontario.

The Algonquin wolf was recently up-listed from a species of Special Concern to the higher risk status of Threatened Species this past June. The size of the species population in Ontario taken alone is not evidence that the proposal will not cause a significant adverse effect on the species or that the proposal will not jeopardize survival and recovery. The population size is uncertain, but researchers estimate that there may be as few as 154 mature individuals in Ontario (COSEWIC 2015). Wolves live in family-based packs and are cooperative breeders, averaging between 4 and 7 pups/pack/year. Pup mortality within Algonquin Provincial Park can be high and variable, despite protection from hunting and trapping (Benson et al. 2013). The authors emphasize that low pup survival may decrease dispersing Algonquin wolves that could potentially establish outside of Algonquin Provincial Park and also outside of the proposed protected areas. It should be the goal of the Ministry to increase the survival rates of Algonquin wolves, particularly maturing and mature individuals that disperse to find mates and a territory in which to raise another litter of pups, as they contribute to the recovery and expansion of the population. Allowing hunting and trapping is contrary to this goal.

2. Rarity of the species

The rarity of the species is a factor pointing to the potential for the proposal to have a significant adverse effect and to jeopardize survival and recovery. Globally, the species exists in only Ontario and Quebec. Approximately 65% of the mature population inhabits Ontario (COSEWIC 2015, COSSARO 2016). Quebec does not recognize or protect Algonquin/eastern wolves.

“In Québec, wolves are considered a furbearer and are protected under An Act Respecting the Conservation and Development of Wildlife but not under Loi sur les espèces menacées ou vulnérables [Act respecting Threatened or Vulnerable Species in Québec]. The Eastern Wolf is not officially recognized because the province does not recognize wolf subspecies (MFFP 2011); the Act only acknowledges taxonomic nomenclature as outlined by the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (www.itis.gov) (MFFP 2012a). Currently, wolf hunting and trapping is prohibited in all federal and national (provincial) parks but permitted elsewhere, including wildlife reserves (St. Louis pers. comm.). In most areas, the harvest season is late October – late March, and there is no bag limit.” (COSEWIC 2015).

Currently, there is no active scientific committee assessing the at-risk status of species in Québec, and protection measures are not predicted in the near future. It is therefore Ontario’s responsibility to begin recovering this globally threatened species.

3. Whether the location of the species and their habitats occur in the same location as the regulated activities.

There is considerable overlap between hunting and trapping activities and the species. This factor is also an inadequate criterion to be using to evaluate the potential impacts of hunting and trapping on the species. The species has been confirmed in WMUs 35, 36, 42, 47, 49, 50 and 56 (COSEWIC 2015, COSSARO 2016) where wolf/coyote hunting occurs under the seal but mandatory reporting averages less then 60% annually (Stuart pers. comm.). Accordingly the Ministry lacks adequate data on the potential impacts of hunting and trapping on the species outside the “core occurrence areas” to properly assess the risk of significant adverse effects on the species. Note that the proposed closure around Killarney Provincial Park accounts for less than half of the WMU 42 area. Hunting and trapping would be permitted by the proposal in the remaining area of WMU, as well as the other units mentioned.

Due to the low harvest reporting rate, the number of wolves/coyotes killed by hunters in each WMU must be extrapolated and is therefore not accurate. Not only are total numbers of wolves/coyotes killed therefore inaccurate, but the specific number of Algonquin wolves killed is unknown. This is alarming because Algonquin wolves have the lowest survival relative to all
other canids outside of protected areas (Benson et al. 2014) and hunting and trapping are the primary threats to Algonquin wolves (COSEWIC 2015, COSSARO 2016).

Trappers are not restricted with bag limits in WMUs 35, 36, 42, 47, 49, 50, and because traplines can extend through multiple Units (Stuart pers. comm.), reported trapping data are not compiled at a spatially fine enough scale to identify the WMU-specific maximum number of Algonquin wolves being trapped.

The species has been confirmed in WMUs 43B, 59, 60 75, 81B (COSEWIC 2015, COSSARO 2016) where wolf/coyote hunting and trapping is unlimited, year-round and untracked. There is no data available to estimate the number of Algonquin wolves killed in these Units. There is no evidence that Algonquin wolves are not being killed in these Units.

Of the Algonquin wolf records outside of existing protection in and adjacent to Algonquin Provincial Park used to describe the wolf’s extent of occurrence in Ontario (COSSARO 2016), one third are located where hunting and trapping would be permitted according to this amendment. Moreover, GPS satellite tracked Algonquin wolves provide a more accurate description of habitat use and locations of individuals across their lifetime. Algonquin wolves are extremely vagile animals, capable of traveling many kilometers in a single day. Those Algonquin wolves, whose single record location was found within an area that is proposed for wolf/coyote hunting and trapping closures, are not restricted to the proposed closure area; hunters and trappers can still kill Algonquin wolves that receive some protection within the enclosures. Therefore, these areas are not sufficient at fully protecting even one individual Algonquin wolf throughout its lifetime, let alone a viable population that will recover the effective population size and general population.

Search efforts have largely been limited to areas around provincial parks, and only the most recent surveys found those Algonquin wolves furthest away from Algonquin Provincial Park, their presumed population source (see discussion about source-sink dynamics in Benson 2013). It is therefore appropriate to apply the precautionary principle and assume that at least one Algonquin wolf is currently using, has used, or will use habitat in each of the WMUs that contain a portion of the extent of occurrence described by COSSARO. These WMUs are: 35-39, 41-61, 75 & 76A. Moreover, given that Algonquin wolves are positively associated with protection from hunting and trapping (see Benson et al. 2012, Benson 2013, Benson et al. 2014, Rutledge et al. 2010a and Rutledge at al. 2010b), it is possible that Algonquin wolves inhabit large, protected areas in Lake Superior Provincial Park and the Chapleau Crown Game Reserve. It is therefore necessary to ban wolf/coyote hunting and trapping in WMUs 28, 29, 31-34 & 40, areas that act as corridors between the extent of occurrence in Ontario and Québec and these large protected areas to the north, in addition to closing the wolf/coyote season in WMUs 35-30, 41-61, 75 and 76A until the range of the Algonquin wolf is defined by experts and extensive surveys are completed.

4. Whether certain types of activities are likely to adversely affect the species.

Hunting and trapping outside of the proposed “core occurrence areas” is likely to adversely affect the species. Referencing the type of activity, without examining reliable data on the potential impacts of that activity, is not an adequate approach to assessing the potential for significant adverse effects. The primary threats to the species are hunting and trapping (COSEWIC 2015, COSSARO 2016); these threats are obviously lethal and destroy individual Algonquin wolves. Of radio-tracked Algonquin wolves that dispersed from Algonquin Provincial Park, 80% were killed by hunters and trappers within one year (Benson 2013). Algonquin wolves must sexually mature, find a mate, and a territory before they can reproduce and contribute to population-wide recovery. Hunting and trapping likely prevents most dispersing Algonquin wolves from the source population in Algonquin Provincial Park from reproducing, and therefore helping to recover the population.

Conclusion

The amendment as proposed will likely have a significant adverse effect on the recovery of the Algonquin wolf population in Ontario. Significant adverse effects on a threatened or endangered population preclude such proposals, and should have precluded the exemptions proposed here. Hunters and trappers should not be exempt from section 9 of the Endangered Species Act in the areas outside of the closures proposed in EBR posting 012-8014, or in any part of Ontario. Instead, they should be prevented from killing wolves, coyotes and their hybrids throughout the extent of occurrence and in key corridor areas by closing wolf and coyote hunting and trapping seasons year-round under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (see our comments submitted on EBR 012-8104).

Hunters, trappers and landowners who accidentally or choose to kill wolves and coyotes in Ontario, must be required to submit a tissue sample for genetic assignment to ensure the animal is not an Algonquin wolf. Hunters and trappers wishing to profit from wildlife, especially species-at-risk, which the government holds in trust for all Ontario residents, should be held accountable if they are willing to run the risk of violating s. 9 of the ESA. This sampling would provide the additional benefit of tracking Algonquin wolf occurrences and providing opportunity to adaptively modify hunting and trapping closures for wolf and coyote beyond those WMUs suggested above.

Lastly, we encourage the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to commit to assisting landowners in preventing wildlife conflicts by working with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Foods and Rural Affairs and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, to develop and support a ‘Wildlife Friendly Farming Certification’ Program. Such programs recognize the implementation of non-lethal tools that minimize livestock predation by wolves and coyotes. Farmers and ranchers receive recognition and certification for executing best practices while celebrating the presence of carnivores. Rewarding monetary compensation to livestock and crop producers regardless of whether good husbandry practices are present, offers little incentive to deploy better strategies and foster appreciation for the ecologically important role wolves and coyotes bring to the landscape.

Prevention and education are the cornerstones of successfully farming and ranching while coexisting with carnivores. Landowners soliciting hunters and trappers that directly benefit from the destruction of top predators fail to identify or address poor husbandry practices. Killing individual wolves/coyotes disrupts their social, family-oriented packs, thus creating opportunities for more canids to move into the area. This strategy does not reduce the population of wild canids on the landscape; it simply perpetuates a cycle of persecution. Inherently invaluable and deserving of protection as part of our public trust, the threatened Algonquin wolf, along with coyotes and their hybrids, must be protected with ecological scrutiny and political integrity.
 
Earthroots
#410 – 401 Richmond St. W., Toronto, ON M5V 3A8
Hannah Barron, Director of Wildlife Conservation Campaigns
hannah@earthroots.org
 
Coyote Watch Canada
P.O. Box 507, 341 Creek Rd., St. David’s, ON L0S 1P0
Lesley Sampson, Founding Executive Director
coyotewatchcanada@gmail.com
 
Wolf Awareness Inc.
R.R. #3, Alisa Craig, ON N0M 1A0
Sadie Parr, Executive Director
wolfawareness@gmail.com
 
Animal Alliance of Canada and Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada
#101 – 221 Broadview Ave., Toronto, ON M4M 2G3
Liz White, Director and Leader
liz@animalalliance.ca
 
Bear With Us Inc.
3113, Hwy 518 W., Sprucedale, ON P0A 1Y0
Mike McIntosh, President
mike@bearwithus.org
 
Born Free
31 Colonel Butler Dr., Markham, ON L3P 6B6
Barry Kent MacKay, Senior Program Advisor
mimus@sympatico.ca
 
Canadians for Furbearing Animals
124-2 Clarendon Ave., Toronto, ON M4V 1H9
Ainslie Willock
ainsliewillock@hotmail.com
 
Citizens United for a Sustainable Planet
1181 Sunrise Beach Dr., Shuniah, ON P7A 0Z5
Paul Berger, Meetings Chair
paul.berger@lakeheadu.ca
 
Humane Society International/Canada
4035 Saint-Ambroise St., Suite 320, Montreal, QC H4C 2E1
Rebecca Aldworth, Executive Director
raldworth@hsi.org
 
The Fur-Bearers
179 W. Broadway, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1P4
Lesley Fox, Executive Director
lesley@thefurbearers.com
 
 
cc. Hon. Kathleen Wynne
Premier of Ontario
kwynne.mpp@liberal.ola.org
 
Hon. Kathryn McGarry
Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry
kathryn.mcgarry@ontario.ca

REFERENCES
 
Benson. 2013. Hybridization dynamics between wolves and coyotes in central Ontario. PhD Thesis.
 
Benson, Mills, Loveless, and Patterson. 2013. Genetic and environmental influences on pup mortality risk for wolves and coyotes within a Canis hybrid zone. Biological Conservation 166, 133–141.
 
Benson, Patterson, Mahoney. 2014. A protected area influence genotype-specific survival and the structure of a Canis hybrid zone. Ecology 95, 254-264.
 
Benson, Wheeldon, Patterson. 2012. Spatial genetic and morphologic structure of wolves and coyotes in relation to environmental heterogeneity in a Canis hybrid zone. Molecular Ecology 21, 5934-5954.
 
COSSARO. 2016. Ontario Species at Risk Evaluation Report for Algonquin Wolf (Canis sp.), an evolutionarily significant and distinct hybrid with Canis lycaon, C. latrans, and C. lupus. Available at: ancestryhttps://www.ontario.ca/page/ontario-species-risk-evaluation-report-algonquin-wolf-canis-sp-evolutionarily-significant-and
 
COSEWIC. 2015. COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Eastern Wolf Canis sp. cf. lycaon in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. xii + 67 pp. (www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/default_e.cfm).
 
Rutledge, Garroway, Loveless, Patterson. 2010a. Genetic differentiation of eastern wolves in Algonquin Park despite bridging gene flow between coyotes and grey wolves. Heredity 105, 520-531.
 
Rutledge, Patterson, Mills, Loveless, Murray, White. 2010b. Protection from harvesting restores the natural social structure of eastern wolf packs. Biological Conservation 143, 332-339.
 
Stuart, C. Director, Species Conservation Policy Branch, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Email correspondence dated: Mar 17 2016

EBR 012-8104 Comment

By | Protected Areas, Trapping | No Comments

Wildlife Section
PUBLIC INPUT COORDINATOR
Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
Policy Division
Species Conservation Policy Branch
Wildlife Section
300 Water Street
Peterborough Ontario
K9J 8M5
Phone: (705) 755-1940
Fax: (705) 755-2901

 

RE: EBR 012-8104 Amendments to wolf and coyote hunting and trapping seasons under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act in response to amendments to Ontario Regulation 230/08 (Species At Risk in Ontario List) under the Endangered Species Act, 2007 for Algonquin Wolf.

 

Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) proposed amendments to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act in response to the legal listing of Algonquin wolves as Threatened under Ontario’s List of Species At Risk. We are encouraged that the MNRF has proposed additional closures for both wolf and coyote hunting and trapping, in line with research that shows there is overlap in the morphological attributes for these animals and their hybrids (Benson, Patterson and Wheeldon 2012; Sears et al. 2003), and therefore the species cannot be distinguished without a genetic assignment test (MNRF, and see Rutledge et al. 2010a). However, we emphasize that the three proposed closures are inadequate to recover the Threatened Algonquin wolf population and urge that more protective measures be taken immediately.
 
In order to implement the required protection outlined in the Endangered Species Act for threatened populations, and to effectively increase the probability of recovery for the Algonquin wolf population, wolf and coyote hunting and trapping must be immediately banned in all Wildlife Management Units (WMU) that contain any portion of the Algonquin wolf’s extent of occurrence (as described by the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO 2016).
 
These WMUs are: 35-39, 41-61, 75 & 76A. We recommend that these closures should be additive to the existing protection in and adjacent to Algonquin Provincial Park. Given the vagility of these animals, these closures are conservative. Anything less than this is a blatant disregard for the recovery of this at-risk wolf population.
 
The proposal effectively creates a category of habitat unknown to the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA) of “core occurrence area”, and only protects the Algonquin wolf in those areas. The ESA defines habitat very broadly and “habitat” under the ESA includes all of the WMUs identified by COSSARO. Protection of only a portion of the habitat of the Algonquin wolf will cause significant adverse effects on the Algonquin wolf’s survival and recovery. Specifically, the proposal would prevent the recovery of the species by limiting dispersal. Accordingly the requirements of subsection 57(2) of the ESA must be met. The Minister has failed to meet these requirements or provide reasons why the proposal will not jeopardize the survival and recovery of the species or cause any other significant adverse effect. The significant adverse effects that will be caused by the proposal include:
 
 Algonquin wolves will not be able to disperse due to hunting and trapping outside of the “core occurrence areas”. Dispersal is a natural process that is important to survival and recovery.
 Hunting and trapping outside the “core occurrence areas” will disrupt the social structure of Algonquin wolves residing within the “core occurrence areas” and jeopardize their survival and recovery as functional packs within the protected areas.
 Connectivity between the “core occurrence areas” is too restricted.
 There is a high risk of hunting and trapping of wolves outside the “core occurrence areas”.
 Algonquin wolves, coyotes and their hybrids are exposed to poaching and vehicles during dispersal from protected areas, also putting their survival at risk.
 ‘Baiting’, ‘hounding’ and ‘calling’ are common methods used by hunters to kill wild canids. These activities essentially facilitate a ‘forced dispersal’ outside of the suggested “core occurrence areas”.
 The “core occurrence areas” are too small to sustain viable wolf populations.
 Climate change is impacting the environment in unpredictable ways; numerous predator and prey species are being forced to alter their ranges and adapt to habitat disruptions. Limiting the hunting and trapping ban to three small “core occurrence areas” will likely not allow Algonquin wolves to relocate as needed if weather patterns, sources of prey and habitat changes dictate the necessity.

The Ottawa River poses a significant geographic barrier to this threatened species. To preserve Algonquin wolves and allow for gene flow to populations in Québec, as well as protected areas north of their extent of occurrence (e.g. Lake Superior Provincial Park, Chapleau Crown Game Preserve), we recommend that wolf and coyote hunting and trapping is also closed in the following WMUs: 28, 29, 31-34 & 40.
 
We have chosen the WMU as the unit for closures, in lieu of townships, as the WMUs have more biologically relevant boundaries and enforcement at this level is simpler given the existing maps made available to the public. In all cases, the closures must be year-round, as dispersal times vary for individual wolves.
 
In support of the closures we have outlined, we document the positive benefits to the Algonquin wolf population and local economy following protection implemented in townships adjacent to Algonquin Provincial Park (APP), and scientific rationale outlining why the three proposed closures are insufficient to protect Algonquin wolves or lead to a population recovery of this unique species.
 
 

1. Wolf and coyote killing ban in Algonquin Provincial Park and adjacent townships.

In 2001, a moratorium was placed on killing wolves, coyotes and their hybrids in the townships adjacent to APP in recognition of the significant mortality occurring immediately outside of park boundaries, and concerns about the viability of the park wolf population as new genetic evidence concluded that these wolves were a unique species Canis lycaon (Wilson et al. 2000). This protection was made permanent in 2004. These two proposals earned widespread support from the public, and subsequent research concluded that the protection afforded to canids inside and adjacent to APP had several important positive effects on the park’s wolf population and social structuring:
 
a. The wolf density inside the park stabilized almost immediately following the ban in 2001 (Theberge and Theberge 2004, Rutledge et al. 2010b). Widespread culling of the park wolves in the 1960s was responsible for introgression of coyote genetic material (Canis latrans) into the park wolf population (Rutledge et al. 2011). Therefore, despite many years of culling, the park’s canid population was likely saturated, supported by evidence showing that packs of wolves, coyotes and hybrids were found to be spatially segregated within the park (Benson and Patterson 2013). This explains why the wolf population did not increase significantly following the hunting and trapping ban. While the stabilization of Algonquin wolves within Algonquin Provincial Park is a measure of success, it is not adequate to allow for dispersal, nor full species recovery.
 
b. The ban restored the natural, family-based pack social structure of the Algonquin wolves (Rutledge et al. 2010b). The authors stress that:
 
“Despite the high kinship within packs, incestuous matings were rare. Our results indicate that even in a relatively large protected area, human harvesting outside park boundaries can affect evolutionarily important social patterns within protected areas. This research demonstrates the need for conservation policy to consider effects of harvesting beyond influences on population size.”
 
Furthermore, research suggests that maintaining family-based relationships in social wildlife species is evolutionarily important in maximizing fitness (Silk, 2007), which is a crucial element of species-at-risk recovery and persistence. For wolves specifically, the authors describe the benefits of maintaining natural, family-based social structures:
 
“Wolves are highly intelligent animals that have evolved under a family-based social framework. Although the influence of this structure on fitness is not well understood, recent work suggests that maintaining the social organization of wolf packs is important for effective resource use (i.e. knowledge of prey
distribution and ability to detect, pursue and subdue prey) (Sand et al., 2006; Stahler et al., 2006), pup survival (Brainerd et al., 2008; Schmidt et al., 2008), and may be effective, at least in part, at precluding hybridization with coyotes (C. latrans) due to the lower turnover of individuals within packs and the tendency during hybridization events for genes to flow from the more common into the rarer species (Grant et al., 2005). Breeder loss is particularly influential and can result in abandonment of territories, dissolution of social groups, and smaller pack size (Brainerd et al., 2008). Mate loss can also result in unusual behavioural responses of the surviving breeder (Smith and Ferguson, 2005) or incestuous pairings if mate loss occurs close to breeding season (VonHoldt et al., 2008). Minimizing the anthropogenic impact on social structure in populations that form highly related groups is likely to improve overall fitness by allowing evolutionary processes to occur in response to natural selection, not human-mediated mortality (Darimont et al., 2009). In this way, conservation strategies can bolster the adaptive evolutionary potential of populations facing environmental fluctuations, including climate change. When compared to other conservation and management approaches such as translocations and habitat restoration, reducing levels of exploitation by expanding no-harvest zones to include areas outside park boundaries is a relatively simple, long-term solution to promote persistence of top predators that are integral to healthy ecosystems (Terborgh et al., 2001; Soule et al., 2003; Chapron et al., 2008).”
 
c. The protection zone is associated with a larger proportion of Algonquin wolves relative to other canids (Benson et al. 2012, Rutledge et al. 2010a) and some data suggest that Algonquin wolves may be able to exclude and/or displace eastern coyotes (Patterson pers. comm.).
 
d. The Park wolves are world-famous and contribute positively to the local economy, having attracted over 167,000 people from all over the world to the Public Wolf Howls that take place in August, 4 times per year. Wolf ecotourism contributes a significant amount of money to the local economy around Algonquin and Bonnechere Provincial Parks, offsetting the potential economic effects of reduced hunting and trapping.
 

2. Proposed closures around Killarney Provincial Park (KPP), Kawartha Highlands Signature Site (KHSS) and Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands (QEIIW) are insufficient to recover the Algonquin wolf population.

 

COSSARO described the extent of occurrence for Algonquin wolves using single record locations for confirmed individuals. Approximately one third of the records of individual locations found outside of existing protection in and adjacent to Algonquin Provincial Park fall outside of the proposed closure areas.
 
It is inaccurate, misleading and inappropriate to describe the three proposed closures as “core occurrence areas” or to use these areas as sufficient for survival and recovery of Algonquin Wolves, for the following reasons:
 
a. Search effort has been minimal and limited outside of provincial parks; there may be as-yet unidentified clusters of Algonquin wolves that have successfully established beyond the parks, for example where human access (via roads etc.) is low enough and moose density is high enough to allow persistence despite ongoing hunting and trapping at a coarser scale (see Benson et al. 2014). Continued hunting and trapping of wolves outside these areas could prevent dispersal and recovery of Algonquin wolves.
 
b. The most recent surveys have found sparsely distributed Algonquin wolves along the periphery of the extent of occurrence, suggesting that the currently described extent of occurrence is a conservative estimate. For example, the most recently identified Algonquin wolves have been recorded near Sault Ste. Marie and Minden.
 
c. The proposed closures encompass a small portion of the complete extent of occurrence. This would provide inadequate protection for a species with large territorial requirements. In addition, this would limit dispersal and could potentially lead to in-breeding ingression.
 
d. Algonquin wolves, coyotes and their hybrids are wide-ranging animals. The records used to create the extent of occurrence polygon are single locations that do not accurately depict the home range, territory or dispersal patterns of individual Algonquin wolves. The extent of occurrence is therefore a conservative estimate of the Algonquin wolf’s true range or habitat. The average minimum (straight-line) distance that an Algonquin wolf travels from its natal pack is 32km (Patterson pers. comm.). There have been two recorded Algonquin wolves (Patterson pers comm. & COSSARO 2016) in areas very far from Algonquin Provincial Park, the presumed source of the population (Benson et al. 2013), providing clear evidence that at least some Algonquin wolves travel hundreds of kilometers in search of mates, territory, and/or prey. In addition, the extensive travel of some wolves, often referred to as “dispersers”, may be essential for maintaining genetic diversity and thus integrity.
 
e. The proposed closures are too small and disconnected to protect individual Algonquin wolves throughout their life cycle. Dispersal is a process inherent to the animals’ survival and recovery through establishment in new areas; without this ability to disperse and recover, there will be a significant adverse effect on the species. Moreover, it is unlikely that viable wolf populations can be supported in such a small area (Theberge 1991). The proposed closures are largely disconnected from one another and from Algonquin Provincial Park, except for a narrow corridor connecting the Algonquin panhandle to the closures proposed north of Kawartha Highlands Signature Site. Provincially funded research showing satellite-tracked movements of confirmed Algonquin wolves has provided clear evidence that wolves living in the areas where the closures have been proposed are not restricted to the closed season boundaries.
 
It is important to recognize the possibility that outside of APP, Algonquin wolf clusters around KP, KHSS and QEIIW are not viable to begin with.
 
“Increased human-caused mortality of wolves and coyotes in harvested areas outside of APP may result in higher rates of mate turnover. Understanding whether the pre-reproductive mechanisms that have maintained the distinct population in APP are intrinsic or environmentally mediated, and whether they are also exhibited by the patchily distributed eastern wolves in unprotected landscapes would provide insight into whether these wolves represent viable extensions of the APP population. If these mechanisms are absent at lower densities, the occurrence of highly assigned eastern wolves outside of APP may be ephemeral and largely maintained by regular dispersal from the park.”
(Benson, Wheeldon and Patterson, 2012).
 
Given the high risk of Algonquin wolf mortality due to hunting and trapping outside of protected areas (Benson 2013), it is alarming that the government would knowingly jeopardize the survival of individuals that cross the proposed closure areas; these closures are biologically and ecologically meaningless to wolves and coyotes.
 
Regardless of the biologically flawed definition of “core occurrence areas”, it remains that the Endangered Species Act was created with the intent of recovering species facing high risk of extinction, and this proposal insinuates that all wolves, coyotes and wild canid hybrids occurring outside of these three proposed closures are not worth protecting. This is completely unacceptable given the rarity of the Algonquin wolf, population size, substantial evidence showing that hunting and trapping are the primary threats to the species, and ecological and inherent value of all species, sub-species and hybrids.
 
f. Algonquin wolf mortality across the extent of occurrence is unknown, but likely significant. The Algonquin wolf population is unlikely to expand without further protection (Benson 2013). Despite the fact that these wolves have been listed as a species at risk for over a decade, management regimes pertaining to wolves and coyotes in Ontario do not provide adequate data for the government to quantify Algonquin wolf mortality:
 
i. Ontario previously defined a “core wolf range” where small game licence holders can purchase up to two wolf/coyote game seals per year for use between September 15th and March 31st, and mandatory reporting averages approximately 60% (Stuart pers comm.). To begin, the government does not have sufficient numbers of conservation officers to enforce these restrictions. Secondly, the low reporting rate of data required by hunters holding wolf/coyotes seals (data which we emphasize is not necessarily accurate, as it is collected by special interest groups and is at best, anecdotal given that coyotes and wolves cannot be identified using visual cues, and the surveying consistency between hunters has not be analyzed) appears to be without consequence. Hunters who do not report their take should be denied a licence the following year, as trappers are denied access to traplines when they do not report their take. MNRF must hold each hunter licensed under the FWCA accountable to the regulations.
 
There are no trapping bag limits and trapping data is compiled provincially without finer scale analysis (Stuart pers comm.) which is required to determine the amount of trapping occurring within the Algonquin wolf’s extent of occurrence. Like hunters, trappers are unable to differentiate between Algonquin wolves, coyotes or their hybrids and are therefore unable to accurately report how many of each species they have killed. However, MNRF still required trappers to differentiate between “wolf” and “coyote” which is extremely inconsistent. That MNRF does not require genetic assignment testing of commercially sold pelts is alarming and leaves room for further exploitation of a species which is supposed to be protected by law.
 
ii. In southern Ontario, coyote/wolf hunting and trapping are permitted year-round without bag limits or mandatory reporting requirements. The extent of occurrence of Algonquin wolves includes areas under this management regime. Absolutely no information has been obtained by the government to quantify the probability of wolves dispersing south into habitat identified as historical range by the Committee on the Status of Species At Risk In Canada (COSEWIC) and currently available in the Adirondack region (COSEWIC 2015). This is antiquated, unethical and scientifically unsound management; coyotes and wolves in southern Ontario receive no protection, not even during periods of the year when they are nursing and raising their young. Thousands of animals are killed every year under the pretence of “population control” which research continues to show to be ineffective, unnecessary and which can exacerbate conflicts such as livestock depredation (Wielgus and Peebles 2014. Musiani, M. and P. Paquet 2004).

 

Conclusion

 

It is very concerning that for many years ongoing killing of at-risk Algonquin wolves, across their extent of occurrence, has barely been quantified or mitigated. Algonquin wolf populations would likely be unviable within the proposed closures, which are insufficient at protecting even individual wolves throughout their life cycle. To increase the probability that Algonquin wolves recover, all wolf and coyote killing in the above mentioned WMUs must be banned under the FWCA, in line with the intent of the protection provisions outlined in s. 9 of the Endangered Species Act.
 
While these three closures are marketed as an interim strategy as we await the Ontario government’s Recovery Strategy and Response Statement, we would like to take this opportunity to remind MNRF that a Management Plan has been overdue since 2008, as mandated by the Endangered Species Act and federal Species At Risk Act since the wolves’ listing as a species of Special Concern. Furthermore, these proposals ignore the vast majority of Algonquin wolf research that has been undertaken by experts. Ignoring the science at the behest of the profits made by hunters and trappers is an abysmal waste of the money that supports the wildlife research division, as well as the time, energy and skills that numerous biologists have dedicated to the study of Ontario’s wild canids.
 
The province of Ontario released then-progressive provincial wolf and black bear conservation strategies in 2005, recognizing that large carnivores are ecologically and inherently invaluable and irreplaceable. A provincial coyote conservation strategy is long overdue, and we urge the MNRF to prioritize the conservation of all canids alongside the implementation of meaningful regulatory changes that will stand a real chance at recovering at-risk Algonquin wolves.
 
Earthroots
#410 – 401 Richmond St. W., Toronto, ON M5V 3A8
Hannah Barron, Director of Wildlife Conservation Campaigns
hannah@earthroots.org
 
Coyote Watch Canada
P.O. Box 507, 341 Creek Rd., St. David’s, ON L0S 1P0
Lesley Sampson, Founding Executive Director
coyotewatchcanada@gmail.com
 
Wolf Awareness Inc.
R.R. #3, Alisa Craig, ON N0M 1A0
Sadie Parr, Executive Director
wolfawareness@gmail.com
 
Animal Alliance of Canada and Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada
#101 – 221 Broadview Ave., Toronto, ON M4M 2G3
Liz White, Director and Leader
liz@animalalliance.ca
 
Bear With Us Inc.
3113, Hwy 518 W., Sprucedale, ON P0A 1Y0
Mike McIntosh, President
mike@bearwithus.org
 
Born Free
31 Colonel Butler Dr., Markham, ON L3P 6B6
Barry Kent MacKay, Senior Program Advisor
mimus@sympatico.ca
 
Canadians for Furbearing Animals
124-2 Clarendon Ave., Toronto, ON M4V 1H9
ainsliewillock@hotmail.com
 
Citizens United for a Sustainable Planet
1181 Sunrise Beach Dr., Shuniah, ON P7A 0Z5
Paul Berger, Meetings Chair
paul.berger@lakeheadu.ca
 
Humane Society International/Canada
4035 Saint-Ambroise St., Suite 320, Montreal, QC H4C 2E1
Rebecca Aldworth, Executive Director
raldworth@hsi.org
 
The Fur-Bearers
179 W. Broadway, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1P4
Lesley Fox, Executive Director
lesley@thefurbearers.com
 
 
cc. Hon. Kathleen Wynne
Premier of Ontario
kwynne.mpp@liberal.ola.org
Hon. Kathryn McGarry
Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry
kathryn.mcgarry@ontario.ca
 
 
REFERENCES
 
Benson. 2013. Hybridization dynamics between wolves and coyotes in central Ontario. PhD Thesis.
 
Benson and Patterson. 2013. Inter‑specific territoriality in a Canis hybrid zone: spatial segregation between wolves, coyotes, and hybrids. Oecologia 172 p. 1539-1550.
 
Benson, Patterson, Mahoney. 2014 A protected area influence genotype-specific survival and the structure of a Canis hybrid zone. Ecology 95, p. 254-264.
 
Benson, Wheeldon, Patterson. 2012. Spatial genetic and morphologic structure of wolves and coyotes in relation to environmental heterogeneity in a Canis hybrid zone. Molecular Ecology 21, 5934-5954.
 
Brainerd, Andren, Bangs, Bradley, Fontaine, Hall, Iliopoulos, Jimenez, Jozwiak, Liberg. 2008. The effects of breeder loss on wolves. Journal of Wildlife Management 72, 89–98.
 
Chapron, Andren and Liberg. 2008. Conserving top predators in ecosystems. Science 320, 47.
 
COSSARO. 2016. Ontario Species at Risk Evaluation Report for Algonquin Wolf (Canis sp.), an evolutionarily significant and distinct hybrid with Canis lycaon, C. latrans, and C. lupus. Available at: https://www.ontario.ca/page/ontario-species-risk-evaluation-report-algonquin-wolf-canis-sp-evolutionarily-significant-and
 
COSEWIC. 2015. COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Eastern Wolf Canis sp. cf. lycaon in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. xii + 67 pp. (www.registrelep sararegistry.gc.ca/default_e.cfm).
 
Darimont, Carlson, Kinnison, Paquet, Reimchen, Wilmers. 2009. Human predators outpace other agents of trait change in the wild. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 106, 952–954.
 
Grant, Grant, Petren. 2005. Hybridization in the recent past. American Naturalist 166, 56–67.
 
Musiani, Paquet. 2004. The Practices of Wolf Persecution, Protection, and Restoration in Canada and the United States. BioScience 54, 50-60.
 
Rutledge, White, Row, and Patterson. 2011. Intense harvesting of eastern wolves facilitated hybridization with coyotes. Ecology and Evolution 2, 19-33.
 
Rutledge, Garroway, Loveless, and Patterson. 2010a. Genetic differentiation of eastern wolves in Algonquin Park despite bridging gene flow between coyotes and grey wolves. Heredity 105, 520-531.
 
Rutledge, Patterson, Mills, Loveless, Murray, and White. 2010b. Protection from harvesting restores the natural social structure of eastern wolf packs. Biological Conservation 143, 332-339.
 
Sand, Wikenros, Wabakken, Liberg. 2006. Effects of hunting group size, snow depth and age on the success of wolves hunting moose. Animal Behavior 72, 781.
 
Schmidt, Je˛drzejewski, Theuerkauf, Kowalczyk, Okarma, Je˛drzejewska. 2008. Reproductive behaviour of wild-living wolves in Bialowieza Primeval Forest (Poland). Journal of Ethology 26, 69–78.
 
Sears, Theberge, Theberge, Thornton, and Campbell 2003. Landscape influence on Canis morphological and ecological variation in a coyote–wolf C. lupus x latrans hybrid zone, southeastern Ontario. Canadian Field-Naturalist 117, 589–600.
 
Smith, Ferguson. 2005. Decade of the Wolf: Returning the Wild to Yellowstone. The Lyons Press, Guilford, CT.
 
Soule, Estes, Berger, Martinez del Rio. 2003. Ecological effectiveness: conservation goals for interactive species. Conservation Biology 17, 1238–1250.
 
Stahler, Smith, Guernsey. 2006. Foraging and feeding ecology of the gray wolf (Canis lupus): lessons from yellowstone national park, Wyoming, USA. Journal of Nutrition 36, 1923S.
 
Terborgh, Lopez, Nunez, Rao, Shahabuddin, Orihuela, Riveros, Ascanio, Adler, Lambert, Balbas. 2001. Ecological meltdown in predator-free forest fragments. Science 294, 1923–1926.
 
Theberge. 1991. Ecological classification, status, and management of the Gray wolf, Canis lupus, in Canada. Canadian Field Naturalist 105, 459-463.
 
Theberge, Theberge, 2004. The Wolves of Algonquin Park: A 12 year Ecological Study. Department of Geography, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
 
Theberge, Theberge, Vucetich, Paquet. 2006. Pitfalls of applying adaptive management to a wolf population in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario. Environmental Management 37, 451–460.
 
Wielgus, Peebles, 2014 Effects of Wolf Mortality on Livestock Depredations. PLoSONE 9.
 
Wilson, Grewal, Lawford, Heal, Granacki, Pennock, Theberge, Theberge, Voigt, Waddell, Chambers, Paquet, Goulet, Cluff and White. 2000. DNA profiles of the eastern Canadian wolf and the red wolf provide evidence for a common evolutionary history independent of the gray wolf. Canadian Journal of Zoology 78, 2156 – 2166.
 
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Media Release: Ontario plans to allow rare wolf killing

By | Uncategorized | 49 Comments
19 organizations call for full protection of Algonquin wolves

TORONTO, CANADA (Aug 12 2016).  On Friday July 22, the Ontario government announced plans to allow hunters and trappers to kill at-risk Algonquin wolves across the majority of their range.  The plan requires an erosion of the automatic protection that was said to be afforded by the province’s Endangered Species Act (ESA) following the wolves’ up-listing to Threatened status on June 15th 2016.

Over 165,000 people from around the world have attended the “Public Wolf Howls” in Algonquin Provincial Park for a chance to hear the wolves in the only area where they are fully protected. As few as 154 mature animals, or 65% of the global population, inhabit Ontario.

A large coalition of organizations (see Addendum) has gathered together to call for full protection of Algonquin wolves across their entire range. Algonquin wolves are sparsely distributed across Central Ontario. The groups are urging the public to comment on 2 government proposals (EBR #012-8104 & EBR #012-8105) before Aug 22nd 2016 to ensure the ESA is used to recover the Algonquin wolf population as intended. The coalition stresses the need to extend protection to eastern coyotes and their hybrids, neither of which can be differentiated from Algonquin wolves without a genetic test.

Proposal #012-8104 will limit the ban on wolf and coyote hunting and trapping to three disconnected “core” areas around 3 other provincial parks that currently allow trapping. These closures are too small to support family-based Algonquin wolf packs, reduce coyote interbreeding or protect wide-ranging wolves, which naturally disperse to find new territory and mates in surrounding areas.

“Of the radio-collared Algonquin wolves that dispersed from Algonquin Park’s protection, 80% were killed by hunters or trappers within 1 year,” says Sadie Parr, Executive Director of Wolf Awareness Inc. “It is because of hunting and trapping that so few wolves have been found outside of the “core” areas the government has proposed to protect.”

Proposal #012-8105 will erode the ESA to exempt hunters and trappers from provisions that would otherwise prohibit them from killing, harming and harassing Algonquin wolves. This exemption will apply in all areas outside of the three new closures proposed in #012-8104 and existing closures in and around Algonquin Park.

“Ontario is transparently prioritizing a minority of people who profit from the slaughter of wolves and coyotes over the recovery of a species at risk,” says Hannah Barron, Director of Wildlife Conservation Campaigns for Earthroots.  “It is appalling that the government would continue to ignore their own research showing that without more extensive protection from hunting and trapping, the Algonquin wolf population will not recover.”

“These proposals are marketed to the public as a step in the right direction while we wait for the Recovery Strategy now mandated by the Endangered Species Act,” adds John McDonnell, Executive Director of CPAWS-OV.  “However, a Management Plan, required when the wolves were still listed as Special Concern, has been overdue since 2008. We cannot wait forever.”

Remarks Lesley Sampson, Executive Director of Coyote Watch Canada, “Full hunting and trapping season closures for both species are crucial for recovering these rare wolves and essential for conserving intact, family-based eastern coyote populations.”

– 30 –

ADDENDUM

 

For further details, please contact:

Hannah Barron, Director of Wildlife Conservation Campaigns, Earthroots      (647) 567-8337   hannah@earthroots.org

Sadie Parr, Executive Director, Wolf Awareness Inc.                              (250) 272-4695   wolfawareness@gmail.com

Lesley Sampson, Executive Director, Coyote Watch Canada     (905) 931-2610        coyotewatchcanada@gmail.com

John McDonnell, Executive Director, CPAWS-Ottawa Valley                (819) 778-3355             jmcdonnell@cpaws.org

 

The coalition includes the following organizations:

  • Algonquin to Adirondacks Collaborative
  • Animal Alliance of Canada
  • Animal Alliance and Environment Voters Party of Canada
  • Bear With Us Inc.
  • Born Free
  • Canadians for Furbearers
  • Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society, Ottawa Valley
  • Citizens United for a Sustainable Planet
  • Council of Canadians
  • Council of Canadians, Ottawa Chapter
  • Coyote Watch Canada
  • David Suzuki Foundation
  • Earthroots
  • Humane Society International/Canada
  • Sudbury Animal Rights Association
  • The Association for Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals
  • Wolf Awareness Inc.
  • Wolf Conservation Center
  • Zoocheck

See: Rare Wolf or Common Coyote? It Shouldn’t Matter, but it Does. Smithsonian Magazine, August 3 2016.