Help Keep Wildlife Wild

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Feeding Wildlife – Never A Good Idea

 

There’s a reason the phrase “a fed bear is a dead bear” has become part of our lexicon. More than just bears, all wildlife can become food-conditioned when presented with a tasty reward. Whether it’s camp food dumped in a fire pit while you’re packing up to leave, garbage bags on the side of the road long before pick-up, or trail mix being handed out a window in order to get a close-up photo of a wild animal, feeding almost always ends badly for the wildlife.

Most wildlife is wary of people. This strategy helps to keep them safe. It also makes us more excited when we get the rare chance to see and observe a wild animal going about its normal activities. There’s never been a time that I’ve driven through Algonquin Park’s highway 60 corridor and not spotted at least a few cars on the side of the road watching a moose eating in a marsh, or a turtle making its slow, annual trek to a nest site to lay its clutch of eggs.

The most rewarding observations for us are the ones where we get more than a split second to watch them. Despite spending many hours tracking wolves for research, I’ve only actually seen an Algonquin wolf once – as I was driving, it darted across the road and disappeared after a quick glance in my direction that seemed to stop time.

I still remember that feeling that I was left with. I think of it every time I talk to someone about wildlife they’ve encountered. Most of the time, people are telling me about wildlife they spotted unexpectedly. Sometimes, though, I listen to stories of people watching people watching wildlife. These days, the thrill of wildlife-watching seems to be dampened if not shared on social media, and so people become increasingly bold, approaching a moose or a bear or a fox more and more closely to get just the right selfie.

Bold. That’s a word I hear much more often in reference to wildlife, rather than people. That, or aggressive. If I asked the person feeding wildlife that someone else has labelled bold, I would hear words like friendly, tame, cute or magnificent. The interpretation is our own, skewed by our own feelings of security or excitement. One person is happy for a wolf to come close enough to take food right from their hand. The next person feels threatened when the wolf goes to do the same thing to them expecting a similar food reward, when all the person wanted was a photo from their car window. Biologically, that animal has learned that people provide food, and that food is easier to come by than hunting for itself. Why not wait around for the next person to safely feed it rather than go back to the woods and look for a moose?

An animal is food-conditioned when it expects all people will feed it. It might try harder for food, prompting the person to understand what it’s supposed to be doing. Eventually someone will call the police or the park warden. Or maybe the wolf is struck and killed while it’s waiting on the road for oncoming traffic to stop and hand out some food. These situations escalate to a point where both people and wildlife are put in dangerous situations.

At this point you might be thinking, “What kind of person shares their lunch with a bear or a wolf?” What we all need to remember is that feeding wildlife comes in all shapes and forms. We may not even know who is eating the leftovers from our campsite or bird feeder. Our impact on wildlife usually goes unnoticed until something goes badly wrong.

For anyone who would never knowingly put wildlife in danger, but believes we can reverse the environmental damage humans do by feeding wildlife to help make their lives a little easier, please think carefully the next time you feel compelled to leave food out. Wild animals that are not ill or badly injured are perfectly able to forage for themselves – this is what keeps them safe in a world where human encroachment on the environment continues at an alarming rate. If an animal is in poor condition, you should call the relevant authorities, rehabilitators, animal control, or contact us to ensure the animal gets the help it needs. Everyone needs to understand that they are not helping wild animals by feeding them. Let’s keep wildlife wild for their sake and for ours!

 

 

 

How many wolf species are there in North America?

By | Uncategorized | No Comments
Last summer, right before the Ontario government decided to reduce province-wide protection for threatened Algonquin wolves to a few provincial park buffers,  a research paper made major headlines across the USA announcing evidence that eastern wolves (AKA Algonquin wolves) and red wolves were simply hybrids of grey wolves and coyotes, rather than unique wolf species.

 

In response to that research, a group of genetic experts from across North America published a review of last year’s genome data study this month.   Following a critique of the original study design, including unrepresentative groups of coyotes and eastern wolves and inappropriate hypothesis tests, they concluded that the genomic data still support the case that red and eastern wolves evolved a very long time ago. While they are now two distinct populations of similar wolves with different names, both are species-at risk, and both are able to mate with coyotes and grey wolves. It is this current hybridization that occurs in parts of their range that makes genetic research on wild canines confusing at best. However, the researchers show that the individuals from the red/eastern wolf lineage are distinct from the more common grey wolf and coyote species.

 

Genetic research progresses as tools are developed to look at and compare more and longer sections of DNA, and it was therefore no surprise when last year’s research was published in major newspapers in the USA after being the first to use the full genome of wolves and coyotes to discuss the evolution of these animals. As far as wildlife genetics goes, the wolf species debate has been a hot topic – wolves are in the news frequently being charismatic, controversial, some facing extinction while others face government killing programs.

 

Unfortunately, we tend to get caught up in the species-number debate: how many wolf species are there? Are red wolves and eastern wolves really different from the grey wolf? When did the eastern wolf become the eastern wolf? These questions have detracted from the most important, and indeed perhaps the only agreed upon conclusions from both side of the scientific discussion: that top carnivores are ecologically valuable, that the ‘species’ definition in endangered species legislation is too inflexible (after all, even humans genomes aren’t “pure” – we have neanderthal DNA) and that wildlife policies should strive to conserve the genetic diversity of populations, especially in the face of climate change. We hope that this ongoing discussion redirects decision-makers back to the conservation of biodiversity at all scales – both species, and genetic.

Are we acting on wolves or are they acting on us too?

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

When I was completing my Masters thesis, I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Stephanie Rutherford in reviewing the history of wolf management in North America. With the information collected, Rutherford asked an interesting question: What role do wolves have in shaping policy as active participants rather than just passive subjects?

The response draws from Donna Haraway’s book When Species Meet which suggests that people and animals influence each other through interactions, and that animals can resist or cooperate with us. Acknowledging animals’ agency contributes to the establishment of what is called a biopolitical view of policy, where the goal is to promote the mutual flourishing of humans and animals rather than asserting human dominance. Management for, rather than of, species – ourselves included.

Historically, wildlife policies have excluded animal agency from consideration, instead understanding animals as materials for capital gain. Wolf management has long been equated with bounties, poisons and other tools of systematic eradication, treating living wolves as economic risks and dead wolves as a source of currency. Tools such as bounties provide economic aid to rural communities and reassert human control over nature. While there is little evidence that wolf control is financially beneficial, bounties and killing contests continue in many parts of Canada even today at a great cost to government and wildlife.

It became clear that a new relationship between humans and wolves was emerging in Ontario in 1963 with the first Algonquin Park Public Wolf Howl – an unexpected hit that continues to draw people in by the thousands each August. Less than 10 years after the public howls began, bounties were banned in Ontario.

Tourism, research and even urbanization have resulted in the public’s attitude of wolves moving away from fear and intolerance, and toward appreciation. Perhaps because of the park’s popularity as a tourist destination or the unique genetics of its wolf inhabitants, Algonquin has become something of an exception within Canada. This exceptionalism is perhaps best exemplified by the province’s 2001 decision to ban wolf and coyote killing adjacent to the park boundaries to preserve the wolves’ genetic identity even before they were recognized as a Threatened species.

This exceptionalism is perhaps because we have been interacting with them via hugely popular park programs, rather than strictly acting upon them. Through these types of positive interactions, our policies may well continue to be changed by the wolves themselves, persuading us to see them as more than just capital.

Across Canada we appear hesitant to relinquish our dominance over ecosystems, instead preserving our ‘control’ by killing predators. The ongoing governmental wolf eradication programs in British Columbia and Alberta suggest that wolves are still widely considered an economic or ecological threat to be controlled. Instead, let us learn from the Algonquin experience and consider a new biopolitical approach that aims to establish policies beneficial to humans and wolves alike.

Adam Marques, MSc

Guest contributor

Launching the Ontario Wolf Survey

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

ontario-wolf-survey As 2016 drew to a close, we launched a new non-invasive research program called the Ontario Wolf Survey.  Designed to target areas identified within the Algonquin/eastern wolf’s suspected range, we collect urine, scat and hair samples for DNA profiling to identify whether local canids are either Algonquin wolves or the more numerous eastern coyotes.

By identifying more Algonquin wolves living in protected and unprotected areas of the province, our data will contribute to the information collected by provincial staff from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, as well as the Eastern Wolf Survey. At Earthroots, we realize that good policy comes from good science, and that carnivore conservation can be accomplished once we have a better idea of where rare wolves live, and how they are surviving in a landscape where they only receive partial protection.

Thanks to many generous donations to our crowdfund campaign, we completed the first round of our Ontario Wolf Survey in an area where the government has found only 1 Algonquin wolf so far. We identified and followed wolf/coyote tracks on back roads, trails, hydrolines and deep within crown forests and collected 7 frozen urine samples that  were left by canids marking their territory. These samples will be delivered to Trent University’s Natural Resources DNA Profiling and Forensics Centre for species and gender identification, and will directly contribute to provincial and academic research on the Algonquin wolf and eastern coyotes.

wolforcoyoteWe will be returning to the same area over the coming months to survey and set up a  trail camera to capture images of the elusive animals we track. We are planning  surveys further afield to fill in the geographic gaps that other researchers are unable to  get to – please consider contributing directly to our work by visiting our Ontario Wolf  Survey campaign page - donations provide you with tax receipts!

To learn more about the methods we use to collect samples for DNA analysis, and to find out how these date are used by biologists, you can read the results published in this month’s issue of the scientific journal Diversity and Distributions, featuring Dr. Linda Rutledge’s Eastern Wolf Survey.

Sign up as a Wolf Defender to receive updates about the Ontario Wolf Survey!

Looking back at 2016

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

As this year comes to a close, let’s take a moment to celebrate our wolf conservation victories and look to the future!

As 2016 started, we sent thousands of comments to the Ontario government opposing their plan to liberalize wolf hunting across much of the province.  We demanded that wolves be conserved because they are both inherently and ecologically valuable, and the government listened.  Ontario’s first-ever wolf killing restrictions remain in place thanks to your support.

Come summer time, eastern wolves were renamed Algonquin wolves and listed as a Threatened species in Ontario.  In response to that up-listing (they were previously Special Concern), Ontario proposed an “interim strategy” because Algonquin wolves and eastern coyotes can’t be told apart by sight, and coyotes are heavily hunted and trapped.

Again, thousands of you rallied behind us and told the government that these rare wolves (and the coyote they resemble) must be protected throughout their range.  While the government refused to add more land to the 3 new closure areas around provincial parks where the wolves have been found, it’s important to remember that the only reason the government bothered to close any land to wolf and coyote killing at all is because they know we are watching them, and that we won’t stop until these amazing animals are better protected.

The single most important thing Earthroots can do for wolves right now is contribute to surveying research in Ontario.  If we can locate more lone Algonquin wolves or whole family packs in the unprotected landscape, we have a very good chance of extending protection to both wolves and coyotes in those areas. That’s why this year we are beginning the Ontario Wolf Survey.

Before I joined Earthroots, I had the distinct pleasure of managing Dr. Linda Rutledge’s Eastern Wolf Survey, a research project designed to refine the distribution of these rare wolves by collecting non-invasive samples in our province’s provincial parks.

It was that research that led to the protection granted to wolves and coyotes this summer.  Dr. Rutledge taught me how to research wolves non-invasively – instead of capturing, anaesthetising and collaring them with GPS beacons, a practice that is very invasive and disruptive to the wolves and their health, we collect urine, scat and hair in wolf habitat and identify the species, gender and relationships of those animals using tiny fragments of DNA.  We find the wolves, but the wolves themselves hardly notice, and continue their wild lives without interruption.  This is science at its very best.

Please give generously in support of our Ontario Wolf Survey and help put Algonquin wolves on the map so we can fight for their protection!  Each and every donation will help us reach our goal.

Do you live or travel to wolf habitat in south-central Ontario and want to get involved in the surveying? Scat surveys aren’t as gross as they sound, we promise, and we need help with trail cams too! Get in touch and we’ll plan a way for you to get involved in this landmark survey.

On behalf of the wolves and the wilderness we all enjoy, I want to wish each and every one of you a healthy and happy New Year – keep howling!

Hannah Barron

Director, Wildlife Conservation Campaigns

Earthroots

Media Release: Awenda Provincial Park Canis Family Shot Dead and Abandoned

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

December 14, 2016

Niagara Falls – Last week, two wild canids were found shot to death and dumped in the snow just outside Awenda Provincial Park, where hunting is illegal.

The animals were identified as a female adult and female pup of the year. Upon finding the two animals the hiker notified the Ontario Provincial Police, who are now investigating the incident with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Last week, the same hiker found three canids shot to death approximately 1km inside the park boundary. When he returned to the site several hours later, the hiker found the bodies were removed by person(s) unknown.

The hiker noted that the way the coyotes or wolves were killed is referred to as ‘rot shot’ – gunfire directed at the side of an animal, used to deliver an excruciating and slow death.

“The number of animals, their ages, and the small scale of the region in which they were found indicates they were probably a family pack,” says Lesley Sampson, Founding Executive Director of Canada Watch Canada. “Coyotes and wolves are highly social, family-oriented keystone species that manage Ontario’s diverse ecosystems. The fragmenting of a coyote or wolf family can have a drastic and detrimental impact on the stability of the family structure, while disrupting the prey/predator relationships throughout their home range.”

Hunting is currently legal in 128 provincial parks, undermining the ecological integrity of these areas.

DNA tests have not yet been performed but are required to determine if the animals are to be identified as eastern coyotes or Algonquin wolves, a threatened species in Ontario.

“Such disregard and malice directed towards coyotes is not uncommon,” remarks Hannah Barron, Director Wildlife Conservation Campaigns, Earthroots. “Top predators such as coyotes and wolves are both ecologically and inherently valuable. Provincial parks should act as refuges for these animals, particularly as coyotes and wolves can be hunted or trapped year-round without bag limits or reporting across Southern Ontario.”

Coyote Watch Canada and Earthroots encourage the public to come forward and report any information they may have about these or other poaching incidents. This information can be shared anonymously with the Ministry of Natural Resources Tip Line at 1-877-TIPS MNR (847-7667) or the Ontario Provincial Police Crime Stoppers at www.crimestopperssdm.com call1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

 

-30-

 

algonquinwolfdecisionlogos

Ontario makes controversial decision to allow rare wolf kill

By | Hunting, Media Release, Protected Areas, Trapping | No Comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Majority of 17,301 public comments opposed to hunting and trapping threatened Algonquin wolves


MONTREAL (September 19, 2016) – Last week, as the hunting and trapping seasons opened, the Ontario government announced its decision to strip at-risk Algonquin wolves of protection from hunters and trappers across the majority of their range. Ongoing hunting and trapping, the primary threats to the species, caused the wolves’ at-risk status to deteriorate to Threatened on June 15th 2016. A mere 154 adult wolves are left in Ontario. Conservation and animal rights groups from across North America are condemning the decision.


Ontario claims their decision is justified due to the inability of hunters and trappers to differentiate between coyotes and Algonquin wolves. Without genetically testing each animal killed, the government cannot track how many Algonquin wolves are killed. There is no limit on the number of wolves that can be trapped and hunting bag limits are absent in some parts of the wolf’s habitat.


Hunting and trapping were banned in the townships surrounding Algonquin Provincial Park in 2001 due to overwhelming public concern for the park wolves. This year, public concern has been ignored – the majority of the 17,301 comments submitted in response to the proposals opposed the regulation changes.


“The Ontario government is peddling their decision as improved protection for the wolves because they have closed hunting and trapping in three additional areas bordering provincial parks,” said Hannah Barron, director of wildlife conservation, Earthroots. “However, these new closures are too small to protect Algonquin wolf packs, let alone individual animals capable of traveling hundreds of kilometres in their lifetime. Any wolf outside of these closures can be killed.”


“Allowing these rare wolves to be killed is not only inhumane and shameful, it can have unintended consequences for farmers and the animals in their care. A growing body of research shows that hunting and trapping can increase future livestock depredation by causing social chaos amongst wolf and coyote populations,” noted Gabriel Wildgen, campaign manager for Humane Society International/Canada.


“If the government was actually serious about protecting farmers’ livelihoods, they would subsidize non-lethal strategies to prevent depredation in the first place. This decision not only endangers a threatened wolf species, it also fails the farming community.” remarked Lesley Sampson, executive director of Coyote Watch Canada.


“By allowing hunters and trappers to kill Algonquin wolves across the majority of their extent of occurrence, Ontario’s message to the American people and their own constituents is that species-at-risk recovery is not a priority,” stated Maggie Howell, director of the Wolf Conservation Center in New York. “This decision is in direct contravention to its ministry’s mandate.”


Photos of Algonquin wolves available upon request.


                                                                                                                             -30-


Media contacts:

 

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

Christopher Paré – office: 514 395-2914 x 206, cell: 438 402-0643, email:cpare@hsi.org

EBR 012-8105 Comment

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

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.
 
VonHoldt, Stahler, Smith, Earl, Pollinger, Wayne. 2008. The genealogy and genetic viability of reintroduced Yellowstone grey wolves. Molecular Ecology 17, 252–274.

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.

Media release: Rare Wolf’s At-Risk Status Deteriorates

By | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

For immediate release

Earthroots, Wolf Awareness Inc and Coyote Watch Canada urge government to enforce ESA,
ban ongoing hunting and trapping
Photo credit: Wes Liikane

Photo credit: Wes Liikane

   TORONTO – On June 15th, 2016, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) announced that Canada’s rarest wolf faces a higher risk of extinction than previously thought.  Now named ‘Algonquin Wolves’, after their stronghold population in Algonquin Provincial Park, the wolves were upgraded from Special Concern to Threatened status in Ontario. A Management Plan, legally mandated for Special Concern status, has been overdue since 2008.

Under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, Threatened status affords the wolves and their habitat immediate and automatic protection from harvest.  However, under existing regulations, the wolves will continue to be killed in unknown numbers in legal wolf/coyote open seasons.

“Outside of Algonquin Park, Algonquin wolves are largely unable to find a mate of their own kind, and more commonly mate with eastern coyotes. This interbreeding makes it impossible to tell the difference between the two animals without a genetic test,” explains Lesley Sampson of Coyote Watch Canada.  “MNRF does not require these tests, and therefore has no idea how many Algonquin wolves are being killed each year.  Algonquin wolf recovery requires a government commitment to protect the eastern coyotes they live alongside and are often confused for.” 

As the last representatives of the once wide ranging Eastern Wolf species, Algonquin wolves have been found infrequently across central Ontario and western Quebec, numbering somewhere between 250 and 1000 animals.  Naïve to the risks associated with humans – hunting, trapping and vehicle collisions – the animals’ survival is low outside of protected areas.  MNRF’s own research shows that without more protection in Ontario, where most of the wolves are found, recovery is virtually impossible.

“Ontario set a terrific conservation precedent when wolf and coyote killing was permanently banned in a buffer zone made up of all townships adjacent to Algonquin Park in 2004,” says Hannah Barron of Earthroots. She adds, “To recover this rare wolf, hunting and trapping wolves and coyotes must be immediately prohibited beyond the buffer zone, across the full range of Algonquin wolves. They also require a Recovery Strategy now that their at-risk status has deteriorated.” She notes that the buffer zone had the added benefit of maintaining the genetic integrity of Algonquin wolves, which is diluted when the wolves interbreed with eastern coyotes.

“Collectively, we urge the Honourable Kathryn McGarry, newly appointed Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, to capitalize on the proven success of Algonquin Park’s buffer zone,” says Sadie Parr of Wolf Awareness. “Expanding the ban on wolf and coyote killing is necessary to safeguard an at-risk keystone species that benefits all Canadians. Wolves increase biodiversity and have many other effects that trickle down through the ecosystem.”

                                                            — 30 –

For more information, contact:

Earthroots

Hannah Barron, Director of Wildlife Conservation Campaigns

hannah@earthroots.org or (647) 567- 8337

 

 

5 reasons to oppose Ontario’s proposed war on wolves & coyotes

By | Uncategorized | 21 Comments
1. It distracts the public from the lack of concerted efforts to halt moose declines

“consider the potential additive effects of calf hunting cautiously when contemplating changes to moose hunting regulations.” – MNRF research biologist Brent Patterson, 2013

Moose are declining at an alarming rate in many jurisdictions such as Ontario, Manitoba, Minnesota and Montana. Many of those areas have prohibited moose harvesting while they investigate the reasons behind the declines. Ontario needs to build on its commitment to change hunting regulations, manage resource extraction and development to limit impacts on wolf-moose-caribou dynamics and plan for the long-term effects of climate change.

MNRF currently collects data on wolf/coyote sightings and hunting effort, which helps to clarify moose-predator dynamics. Part of the proposed regulation changes are to remove the mandatory game “seal” reporting requirements for coyote and wolf hunters in Central and Northern Ontario. This reduction in research effort clearly demonstrates the MNRF’s lack of commitment to determine the true cause of moose declines.

 

2. Wolf and coyote control is unethical and will not prevent moose declines

“Unfortunately, the notion of humane treatment is often the first casualty of turning a species into a pest” – renowned ecologists Fryxell, Caughley and Sinclair

The Ministry has no scientific evidence showing that encouraging hunters to kill wolves and coyotes will benefit moose. In fact, the Moose Project website summarizes scientific research that suggests the opposite.

Only the removal of an entire pack can substantially reduce predation but this practice may not be ecologically or socially desirable. Changing hunting and trapping regulations to allow more wolves to be harvested is unlikely to remove an entire pack.” – MNRF Moose Project

Ministry biologists learned that in Ontario, “relative to what’s out there, wolves killed proportionately more old and vulnerable moose”.  They also learned that eastern coyotes don’t pose a significant threat to moose:

“it seems unlikely that predation by coyotes and hybrids is cause for conservation concern in central Ontario.” - MNRF research biologist Brent Patterson & Dr. John Benson, 2013

Moreover, there is strong evidence from Central Ontario that hunting pressure increases moose deaths, instead of compensating for deaths from predation and natural causes. Ontario’s moose are managed under the compensatory framework. Clearly moose harvest policy must be changed to reflect this new knowledge.

The BC and Alberta governments are currently attempting to exterminate wolves in endangered caribou habitat, yet the caribou populations are not increasing. Once again, government encouragement of predator control as a band-aid solution to the larger problem of declining prey species fails at the expense of thousands of wolves.

 

3. By eliminating the wolf/coyote seal across much of Ontario, MNRF will lose funds needed to enforce regulations and conduct future research 

“the 2013 budget restored some of the funding but the ministry had already made deep cuts, reducing the number of MNRF technicians to 21 from 48” – Toronto Sun, 2015

Wolf and coyote seals cost a mere $11.14 for Ontario residents and are currently limited to 2/hunter/year.

At a very small cost to individual hunters, the MNRF collects badly needed funds that help them carry out essential research and management enforcement.

This proposal perpetuates the under-funding of MNRF by removing the wolf/coyote seal once required across all of Central and Northern Ontario. Without adequate funding, MNRF researchers will be unable to identify the reasons behind moose declines.

 

4. The regulations result in an expansion of Ontario’s war on the coyote

“Know thine enemy” – Barry Potter, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs livestock specialist

By encouraging hunters to kill as many coyotes as they want in Northern Ontario, this proposal worsens the already medieval management of the species. It is time these animals are managed with more compassion and respect for their ecological contribution to Ontario’s diverse landscapes. 

Eastern coyotes are fascinating examples of evolution. Arriving in Ontario in the early 1900s, they bred with remnant eastern wolves and became incredibly well-adapted to a variety of habitats.

Following the systematic extermination of wolves in Southern Ontario during European settlement, rodent and deer populations became hyperabundant and have cost millions in crop devastation. Described as wily, wolf-like vermin, the eastern coyote’s ability to fill the role of top predator in areas dominated by people is actually a blessing. Coyotes are now the only predator capable of controlling deer in Ontario’s populated areas – deer culling would not be necessary in areas with a coyote population protected from harvesting.

However, coyotes are still slaughtered to prevent livestock depredation in most of the province. MNRF and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) support these actions, ignoring science that shows coyotes populations are next to impossible to control, that non-lethal predator management can successfully mitigate livestock losses and that attempts to control coyote populations likely exacerbate livestock losses.

Wolves and coyotes evolved alongside wild prey that are considerably harder to catch than livestock such as newborn calves and fearless, fenced-in sheep. By killing members of a coyote family, hunters splinter the tight pack structure that allows coyotes to take down larger prey like white-tailed deer. As such, fragmented coyote packs might be more of a threat to livestock than coyotes that are left alone by hunters.

Coyotes and wolves dispersing south are never safe from hunters in Southern Ontario under existing legislation. Whole pack families can be destroyed as they nurse and raise newborn pups each spring.

  

5. Proposed regulations endanger Ontario’s at-risk eastern wolves 

“There are probably fewer than 500 Eastern Wolf in Canada … Special concern species do not receive species or habitat protection.” – MNRF

On December 8th 2015, The Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO) voted on the re-assessment of eastern wolves. COSSARO was expected to follow the lead of their sister committee in Canada and reclassify the animals as a unique species at a higher risk of extinction – up from “Special Concern” to “Threatened” or “Endangered”. Either of these levels would automatically and immediately protect Ontario’s eastern wolves.

Typically, COSSARO notifies MNRF about their decisions on December 31st, half-way through the commenting period for this proposal.

MNRF’s own research shows that there are eastern wolves in various parts of Central Ontario, well outside their stronghold (and only fully protected habitat) in and around Algonquin Provincial Park. The research also shows that compared to coyotes and hybrids, eastern wolves are the most likely to die outside of protected areas. Researchers have consistently claimed that the recovery of the species is virtually impossible if hunting and trapping seasons remain open in Central Ontario.

With this proposal, MNRF suggests new canine management boundaries to mitigate threats to this at-risk species. However, hunters will still be allowed to shoot up to 2 wolves/coyotes in eastern wolf range, and will no longer be required to report on their hunting activity.

Without genetic testing, no one can distinguish between coyotes, eastern wolves or their hybrids in Ontario. The government admits that they have no way of determining how many eastern wolves hunters or trappers are killing each year across the province. This is completely unacceptable.

Timing is Everything for the Eastern Wolf

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Ontario’s eastern wolves are a species of Special Concern. Scientists estimate that there are fewer than 500 individuals left, so why are they not better protected?

Eastern wolves residing in Algonquin Provincial Park and its adjacent townships have year-round protection from hunting and trapping. But wolves outside of those areas are not so lucky. With the exception of Algonquin Park, trappers are permitted to harvest eastern wolves in all provincial parks and conservation reserves.

Hybridization with coyotes also threatens the wolves. And since eastern wolves can only be distinguished from eastern coyotes through genetic analysis, hunters targeting coyotes can unwittingly kill wolves instead.

Given the threats this species at risk faces, why does the killing continue?

This year, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) recommended that the Minister of Environment up list eastern wolves to Threatened. Under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), this change in their legal status would require the release of a ‘recovery strategy’ within 2 years.

In response to the growing backlog of species waiting to be listed and protected with a conservation plan by the Minister, Environment Canada published a realistic timeline for the release of overdue management and recovery strategies. Unless Minister McKenna, the new Minister of Environment, is better able to address the at-risk dilemma, we should not expect the release of the mandated ‘management plan’ until 2017 – a staggering 9 years late. If the management plan is 9 years late, how late will a recovery plan be?

The silver lining on this cloud is that the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO) will assess the eastern wolf during their winter meeting on December 9-10th, 2015. Hopefully, COSSARO’s assessment will lead to protective measures.

In the meantime, what fate awaits other species whose listing status changes during the time it takes for the Canadian government to address the growing number of species at risk?

When it comes to wildlife at risk, we do not have the luxury of time to waste.

New trapping regulation proposal endangers eastern wolves

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

On August 12th, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry proposed an amendment to the regulations that govern trapping in Ontario.  Ministry biologists and a trapper conducted an experimental capture of coyotes using new devices called “relaxing cable restraints”. The results showed that of 20 animals trapped, 17 were coyotes. The three others were a domestic dog caught around the neck, and a white tailed deer and raccoon both caught around the torso; they were released by the trapper, apparently unharmed.

Injuries to coyotes were assessed after each animal was shot in the head by the trapper and submitted to a veterinary pathologist. Six coyotes were submitted skinned, the trapper having sold their pelt for profit.

Injuries were deemed acceptable according to the Agreement on the International Humane Trapping Standards but were gruesome: including one coyote who suffered several injuries having tried to chew himself out of the trap and many instances of lacerations on the neck. Three traps were chewed through entirely and one was dragged away, likely having captured a large animal such as a bear or an adult deer.

Earthroots does not believe that these results show that relaxing cable restraints are selective. Instead, they appear to pose a serious threat to non-target animals.

Despite the Ministry’s reasoning that these traps are more selective than killing snares, the point remains that the Ontario government condones killing coyotes and other wildlife deemed as a threat or nuisance, instead of educating the public to prevent conflict in the first place. Not only is harming and killing wildlife ethically bankrupt, science shows that it does not reduce and can actually exacerbate livestock depredation.

Furthermore, legalizing this trapping device would give trappers false confidence in trap selectivity for coyotes. Given that eastern wolves and coyotes are physically indistinguishable in Ontario, the unintentional trapping and killing of eastern wolves is possible where their ranges overlap.  The government knowingly endangers eastern wolves, a species at risk of extinction, by supporting this trapping device and the use of trapping in general as a response to perceived threats from wildlife.

In collaboration with several other conservation organizations, Earthroots authored a comment in opposition to this proposal addressing the fundamental flaws in the arguments for trapping and killing wildlife in Ontario.

 

You can read our public comment below. Sign up as a Wolf Defender and we’ll let you know about government proposals like these and provide information about how to exercise your right to comment on legislative changes. Use your voice to speak up for wildlife!

 

 

 


 

 

September 28, 2015

 

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

 

 

Subject: EBR Registry Number: 012-4735: Amendments to Ontario Regulation 667/98 (Trapping) made under Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act to regulate the use of relaxing cable restraints for trapping in Ontario

 

Dear Sir/Madam,

 

Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the proposed changes to trapping regulations in Ontario. We acknowledge the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s (MNRF) attempt to mitigate the effects of trapping on non-target species by testing the relaxed cable restraint device (RCR).

 

We agree with Knowlton et al. (1999) that “because various segments of society attach different values to coyotes, resolution of depredations should use management programs that integrate the social, legal, economic, and biological aspects of the animals and the problem. Preferred solutions should involve procedures that solve problems as effectively, efficiently, and economically as possible in the least intrusive and most benign ways.”

 

However, we are concerned that the proposed changes made under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (FWCA) do not provide such a solution. We outline these concerns below and provide recommendations to address the underlying reason for the proposed regulation changes.

 

  1. There is little to no evidence in the scientific literature that supports the use of lethal control/removal of canids as an effective, long-term tool for reducing livestock depredation.

 

Trappers and farmers permitted to use trapping devices to capture coyotes and wolves in defense of property do not often have access to the scientific literature that addresses predator control. They often lack the best available information about mitigating livestock depredation. We suggest that MNRF focus on equipping farmers and trappers with this information in order to help reduce conflict between predators and farmers.

 

Several studies on predator management discuss results that are perhaps counter-intuitive to farmers and trappers:

 

  1. Harper et al. (2008) and Wielgus & Peebles (2014) found no evidence that removal of wolves decreased the rate of depredation the following year, in Minnesota and Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, respectively, unless the population was harvested at an unsustainable rate. In fact, both studies found that livestock depredation increased the following year. Wallach et al. (2009) found that lethal control of dingoes in Australia did not necessarily reduce abundance of the predator and led to socially fractured populations. They add that socially unstable predator populations are often correlated with higher livestock losses, a result echoed by Allen and Gonzalez (1997, dingoes in Australia), Conner et al. (1998; coyotes in the USA) and Peebles et al. (2013, cougars in the USA). Ongoing harvesting of canids to reduce their population to near-zero in order to reduce livestock depredation risk is both ecologically and socially unacceptable. Coyotes and wolves provide useful ecosystem services to farmers such as controlling rodent and deer populations and are inherently valuable and deserving of protection from systematic eradication.

 

  1. Selective removal of problem/breeding coyotes is both difficult and ecologically complex (Conner et al. 2007) and appears to reduce depredation for only a very short period of time (see review in Jaeger 2004).

 

  1. There exists a wide variety of methods to prevent livestock depredation by wolves and coyotes including but not limited to: removing deadstock quickly and reducing other open attractants, confining or concentrating livestock during periods of high vulnerability (e.g. calving/lambing), using livestock guardian animals (e.g. dogs, llamas, donkeys etc.), maintaining a human presence in areas of the property where animals are pastured using deterrents such as fladry, turbofladry and sound/light deterrents. When used correctly and adaptively, these tools can be combined on a case-by-case basis to effectively reduce livestock depredation and replace lethal predator management altogether. For example, Harper et al. (2008) analyzed lethal management by trapping in particular, and suggested that daily visits simulating trapping may be a more cost effective tool than actually trapping wolves.

 

 

Recommendations:

 

  1. Educate farmers in wolf/coyote range about non-lethal predator management to complement the existing livestock compensation program.

 

  1. Transition from the reactionary trapping and the compensation program administered by the Livestock, Poultry and Honeybee Protection Act to the prevention of livestock depredation by providing financial incentives to farmers who adopt non-lethal predator management approaches.

 

 

 

  1. Coyote trapping in many areas of southern and central Ontario continues to threaten the survival and dispersal of eastern wolves (Canis lycaon), a species at risk.

 

Eastern wolves were recently assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), where they were deemed a unique species (see Rutledge et al. 2015) and listed as Threatened. Following the recent appointment of a new chair of the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO), eastern wolves will be re-assessed at the provincial level by 2016. We hope that a recovery strategy for the species will be released in a timely fashion in conjunction with studies, past and present, (e.g. those conducted by Rutledge and Benson in collaboration with Dr. Brent Patterson) of the MNRF that detail the various threats to eastern wolves. Conclusions from these studies include:

 

  1. Anthropogenic mortality is a threat to eastern wolves. Eastern wolf survival is lower than that of other canis types outside of the protected area in and around Algonquin Provincial Park (APP).
  2. Hybridization is a threat to eastern wolves. Hybridization with coyotes is higher in areas where canids are harvested.
  3. Eastern wolves are not likely to recover outside of APP to their historical range without protection from harvest.
  4. Eastern wolves and the coyotes that inhabit Ontario are physically indistinguishable – without genetic testing, you cannot differentiate between a pure eastern wolf and a coyote or a hybrid.
  5. Eastern wolves and other canis types have overlapping body sizes.
  6. MNRF is uncertain about the current and historical range of the eastern wolf in Ontario.

 

It follows that eastern wolves are very likely caught in traps laid for coyotes. Furthermore, since a trapper or farmer is unable to differentiate between a coyote and an eastern wolf, they may be killing eastern wolves unintentionally. The relaxed cable restraint (RCR) will not protect eastern wolves despite MNRF’s intent to reduce non-target species mortality and endangers this species at risk. The federal and provincial status of the eastern wolf therefore precludes the use of RCR or any other coyote trapping device in suspected, known and historic eastern wolf range while the species is threatened with extinction.

 

 

 

Recommendations:

 

  1. Immediately prohibit all wolf/coyote trapping in known and suspected eastern wolf range.

 

  1. Incorporate direction for non-lethal, preventative predator management of both wolves and coyotes for farmers into the Strategy for Wolf Conservation in Ontario and the FWCA.

 

 

We strongly urge you to adopt our recommendations and ensure that famers are protected from the economic costs of maintaining healthy, resilient and socially stable canid predator populations in Ontario.

 

 

Signatories,

 

Hannah Barron, Director of Wildlife Conservation

Earthroots

 

Amber Ellis, Executive Director

Earthroots

 

Lesley Sampson, Founding Executive Director

Coyote Watch Canada

 

Lia Laskaris, Director

Animal Alliance of Canada

 

Camille Labchuck, Director of Legal Advocacy

Animal Justice Canada Legislative Fund

 

Liz White, Leader

Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada

 

Barry MacKay, Canadian Representative,

Born Free USA

 

Ainslie Willock, Director,

Canadians for Bears

 

Liz White/Donna DuBreuil, Spokespersons

Ontario Wildlife Coalition

 

Donna DuBreuil, President

Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre

 

 

References:

 

Allen L and Gonzales T.1998. Baiting reduces dingo numbers, changes age structure yet often increases calf losses. Australian Vertebrate Pest Control Conference 11:421–428.

Conner MM, Jaeger MM, Weller TJ and McCullough DR. 1998. Effect of coyote removal on sheep depredation in northern California. Journal of Wildlife Management 62:690–699.

Conner MM, MR Ebinger and FF Knowlton. 2008. Evaluating coyote management strategies using a spatially explicit, individual-based, socially structured population model. Ecological Modelling 219: 234-247.

Harper E, Williams PH, Mech LD and Wiesberg S. 2008. Effectiveness of lethal, directed wolf-depredation control in Minnesota. The Journal of Wildlife Management 72:778-783.

Jeager MM. 2004. Selective targeting of Alpha coyotes to stop sheep depredation. Sheep and Goat Research Journal, Paper 9.

Knowlton, FF, EM Gese and MM Jaeger. 1998. Coyote depredation control: An interface between biology and management. Journal of Range Management, 52, 398-412.

Peebles KA, Wielgus RB, Maletzke BT and Swanson ME (2013) Effects of remedial sport hunting on cougar complaints and livestock depredations. PLoS ONE.

Rutledge LY, Devillard S, Boone JQ, Hohenlohe PA and White BN. 2015 RAD sequencing and genomic simulations resolve hybrid origins within North American Canis. Biology Letters. 11: 20150303.

Wallach AD, Ritchie EG, Read J and O’Neill AJ. 2009. More than Mere Numbers: The Impact of Lethal Control on the Social Stability of a Top-Order Predator. PLoS ONE 24.

Wielgus RB and Peebles KA. 2014. Effects of wolf mortality on livestock depredation. PLoS ONE 9(12): e113505.

 

 

 

Ontario’s Moose Project: A Death Sentence for Wolves?

By | Uncategorized | One Comment

The Ontario Government has begun Phase 2 of the Moose Project. In response to recent moose declines in some areas of Ontario and many other jurisdictions in North American, the government has proposed changes to the moose hunting season, and is consulting the public about other possible factors in the decline of Ontario’s moose.

Not surprisingly, many people who profit from killing moose have been lobbying the government to reduce hard-won protection for wolves.  An alarming amount of wolves are already killed in the more accessible parts of Ontario.

- Removing the 2 wolves/hunter bag limit would exacerbate the unsustainable harvest of wolves in those areas.

- Opening up the closed season in core wolf range endangers wolf families when they are most vulnerable – when they are rearing their pups.

Wolves and other predators are being scapegoated for the moose declines. Help ensure the government considers the full range of management options and does not condone the slaughter of more wolves for the sake of moose hunters – submit your comments in opposition to predator control at mooseproject@ontario.ca.

Sign up as a Wolf Defender and become engaged as the Moose Project unfolds.

Eastern wolves assigned threatened status

By | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Following over two years of deliberation, the federal Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) announced that the at-risk status of eastern wolves has worsened.  On May 4, 2015 COSEWIC released their decision to assign the eastern wolf, now considered a unique species (Canis c.f. lycaon), threatened status in Canada. Prior to this latest decision, eastern wolves were designated a grey wolf subspecies of ‘special concern‘ in 2001.

The management plan required for species of special concern under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA) has been overdue since 2008. SARA requires that a recovery plan be released within 2 years of a species being listed as threatened. The public will have the opportunity to comment on the proposed recovery strategy.

Currently, both provincial committees on species at risk in Ontario (COSSARO) and Quebec are unable to assess the status of eastern wolves as a unique species due to lack of members and budget cuts, respectively.  Sign up as a Wolf Defender to learn about ways you can help ensure eastern wolves gain increased protection despite these obstacles.

Read COSEWIC’s press release here.

Awaiting the federal re-assessment of the eastern wolf’s at-risk status

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Earthroots is eagerly awaiting the results from the federal Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada’s (COSEWIC) re-assessment of the eastern wolf’s at-risk status.

COSEWIC is currently meeting in Quebec City for the first of its 2015 meetings.  As of 2001, eastern wolves (Canis lycaon) were listed as a grey wolf subspecies of special concern.  Since this assessment, researchers discovered that eastern wolves are a unique wolf species  occurring only in Canada, and are closely related to the endangered red wolf in the United States.  The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources estimated that the total population does not exceed 500 individuals.  However, a management plan (legally required under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) within three years of a species being designated ‘special concern’) was never released.  In 2014, Environment Canada published a 3-year plan that outlines the timelines for release of all overdue recovery documents, including recovery documents for the eastern wolf in 2016-1017.

Earthroots originally applied to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources to provincially re-assess the eastern wolf in 2010.  The government denied the application, citing that COSEWIC was already reviewing the population. The federal assessment is only now being released, five years later.  The provincial assessment will likely match the federal designation, and is expected to be released by the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario in Spring, 2015.

In Ontario, eastern wolves are only fully protected from hunting and trapping in and around Algonquin Provincial Park.  However, the latest research contributed by OMNR biologists reveals that eastern wolves are prone to being trapped, hunted and killed by vehicle collisions outside of their protection zone.  Earthroots urges the provincial government to immediately expand full protection from harvest to both eastern wolves and the indistinguishable eastern coyote in all suspected eastern wolf range, including the Frontenac Axis that joins the Algonquin and Adirondacks protected complexes.

 

Ontario limits the number of wolves that can be killed for sport

By | Media Release | No Comments
Earthroots says Minister Ramsay is leading the pack in the right direction

(Toronto) Earthroots congratulates Minister of Natural Resources, David Ramsay, who today announced his decision to improve the conservation of wolves across the province. The Minister will regulate the recreational hunting of wolves by limiting the number each properly licensed hunter can shoot to two per year. Effective September 15th, hunters who want to shoot wolves, must now purchase a special wolf seal. Ontario hunters will have to pay $10 for the seal but non-residents will have to pay $250. Earthroots hopes this will lead to an end to sport hunting wolves; an activity that Americans are predominantly participating in. The Minister is also making it mandatory to report all wolves killed regardless of the method and reason.

“The days of managing the Big Bad Wolf are finally coming to an end,” says Melissa Tkachyk, Earthroots’ Wolves Ontario! Coordinator. “These new regulations will enable the government to better assess how many Eastern or Gray wolves are killed each year for sport or to protect livestock and the impact this is having within the ecosystem.”

Earthroots welcomes the new regulatory improvements calling today’s decision a good first step but says more work still needs to be done to protect wolves and their habitat. Wolves are only protected on 3% of their range in the province, while 97% is still open to hunting and trapping. Only a few parks are off-limits to hunters and trappers and large enough to sustain a viable wolf population.

“There is clearly an imbalance between the percentage of the province where wolves are managed as game and the few protected areas, off-limits to traps and bullets where wolves can just be wolves,” says Tkachyk. “Keeping critical wolf habitat areas free of exploitation is necessary if we want true wilderness in Ontario.”

Ontario had long been recognized as one of the worst jurisdictions in the world for its exploitative wolf management policies. Up until this year, wolves were treated as vermin and could be killed 365 days of the year without any limitations. This is the first time in the history of Ontario, that there are restrictions on killing wolves across the majority of their provincial range.

There is still no limit on the number of wolves each trapper can kill. Earthroots says between 500-600 wolves are trapped every year for the commercial sale of their pelts. The majority of wolves are caught in strangling neck snares, which Earthroots calls ‘a cruel and non-selective’ trap. 

Permanent Protection Granted for Algonquin’s Wolves

By | Media Release | One Comment

Earthroots congratulates Minister of Natural Resources, David Ramsay who permanently banned the hunting and of wolves and coyotes in the 30 townships surrounding Algonquin Provincial Park on May 3, 2004.

Protection measures for the wolves of Algonquin Provincial Park include:

  • A permanent ban on the hunting and trapping of wolves and coyotes year-round in the 39 townships surrounding Algonquin Provincial Park. (The inclusion of coyotes in the regulation is essential to ensure the wolf killing prohibition is enforced. This measure reduces the likelihood of accidental wolf kills as it is difficult to distinguish between an eastern wolf, a coyote and a hybrid of the two).
  • A ban on the chasing of wolves or coyotes with dogs, both in the park and in townships surrounding the park
  • Adding the eastern wolf to the new list of Species at Risk in Ontario as a Species of Special Concern, which is consistent with its national designation given by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC)
  • The continuation of wolf research and monitoring to ensure the sustainability of the wolves in and around Algonquin Park
  • The developement of a provincial wolf management strategy

*Landowners are still permitted to harass, capture or kill wolves or coyotes in protection of their property and farm animals. 

Moratorium on canid harvest to protect eastern wolves around Algonquin Provincial Park

By | Media Release, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

(Toronto) Today Minister of Natural Resources announced a 30-month moratorium on the hunting and trapping of wolves in the 39 townships immediately surrounding Algonquin Provincial Park.

In 1998, Minister Snobelen appointed the Algonquin Wolf Advisory Group (AWAG) to recommend a long term Adaptive Management Plan for the wolves with the goal of reducing human-caused wolf mortality. On January 15th 2001, the committee’s recommendations were posted to the electronic Environmental Bill of Rights registry for a two-month public comment period. The central and most contested feature of the report was the suggestion to merely limit the hunting and trapping season in 37 townships surrounding the park. A full year round closure on hunting and trapping wolves was only recommended for 4 of the 37 townships. These townships: Finlayson, McClintock, Livingstone and Airy border the south gate of the park. Killing the wolves within these townships would affect the success of the popular public wolf howl. 

Dr. John Theberge is critical of this short-term decision – “The timeframe for the ban, limited to 2 ‡ years, is still not long enough. It is not long enough for a significant population recovery; ultimately a permanent ban must be implemented.”