Category Archives: Uncategorized

How many wolf species are there in North America?

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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?

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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

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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

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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

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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).

 

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EBR 012-8105 Comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

1. Size of the species population in Ontario.

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

2. Rarity of the species

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

Media Release: Ontario plans to allow rare wolf killing

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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

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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

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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

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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.