Species at Risk and Biodiversity Protection Section
PUBLIC INPUT COORDINATOR
Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
Species Conservation Policy Branch
300 Water Street
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.
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.
#410 – 401 Richmond St. W., Toronto, ON M5V 3A8
Hannah Barron, Director of Wildlife Conservation Campaigns
Coyote Watch Canada
P.O. Box 507, 341 Creek Rd., St. David’s, ON L0S 1P0
Lesley Sampson, Founding Executive Director
Wolf Awareness Inc.
R.R. #3, Alisa Craig, ON N0M 1A0
Sadie Parr, Executive Director
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
Bear With Us Inc.
3113, Hwy 518 W., Sprucedale, ON P0A 1Y0
Mike McIntosh, President
31 Colonel Butler Dr., Markham, ON L3P 6B6
Barry Kent MacKay, Senior Program Advisor
Canadians for Furbearing Animals
124-2 Clarendon Ave., Toronto, ON M4V 1H9
Citizens United for a Sustainable Planet
1181 Sunrise Beach Dr., Shuniah, ON P7A 0Z5
Paul Berger, Meetings Chair
Humane Society International/Canada
4035 Saint-Ambroise St., Suite 320, Montreal, QC H4C 2E1
Rebecca Aldworth, Executive Director
179 W. Broadway, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1P4
Lesley Fox, Executive Director
cc. Hon. Kathleen Wynne
Premier of Ontario
Hon. Kathryn McGarry
Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry
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