Bill 108: The Demise of Ontario’s Endangered Species Act

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On June 6th, and without much fanfare, Ontario’s endangered species were stripped of the foundational protection afforded to them by the Endangered Species Act. Hidden in a “housing bill” alongside a number of other changes to legislation – the Environmental Assessment Act, the Environmental Protection Act, the Conservation Authorities Act, and the Ontario Heritage Act – which will do nothing to solve Ontario’s housing crisis, were 20-pages of legal amendments removing almost every single requirement designed to protect and recover species at risk.

The Progressive Conservative’s Bill 108 gives industry a pass to slay at-risk species, pave over their homes, extract natural resources in critical habitat, and cause unbridled destruction of sensitive ecosystems.

The timing of these changes are almost unbelievable – an about-to-be-published UN report concludes that the human-caused mass extinction is putting a million different species on the brink. Meanwhile, Ontario’s own species at risk, now numbering 243, have been swept into the arms of an all-powerful Minister of Environment.


Wasted opportunity for improvement

27 The demise of the Endangered Species Act was carefully and quietly introduced as a “10-year review”, an opportunity to consult about what was working, and what was not working, for Ontario and its imperiled species.

We’re under no illusion that prior to the 10-year review that the Act was being implemented in such a way as to effectively protect and recover species at risk. Certainly there was a lot of room for improvement in the Act’s implementation.

A perfect example is the “permit-by-rule” system. The previous Liberal government had a history of abusing this mechanism in the Act to exempt a slew of user groups from the prohibitions of killing threatened and endangered species or destroying their habitat. Thanks to permit-by-rule, forestry companies are allowed to destroy threatened caribou habitat, hunters and trappers are allowed to kill threatened Algonquin wolves, and endangered American eels are being cut up in hydroelectric dams—and these are just a few examples of exemptions that predated the new government.

None of the activities exempted this way were being monitored. Simply put, we had no way to measure how bad ongoing destruction was.

What we did have was an important backstop to benchmark a species progress (or regress): science- the essential tool wielded by expert and objective scientists who study Ontario’s biodiversity and the individual and often magnificent components of it.

Science in and of itself has no value unless it’s being used. Until last week, science was a foundation of the ESA.


A species’ journey through the Act

15 The species assessment committee called COSSARO (“Committee on the Status of Species At Risk in Ontario”) is a group of scientific experts that objectively determine whether a species is at risk or not in our province. If a species in trouble, depending on the severity of threats and the species’ rarity, COSSARO places it in one of the risk categories – special concern, threatened, endangered, or worse yet, extirpated (extinct in Ontario).

Before the Act was gutted this month, species assessments led to automatic legal listing of species on the Act’s Species At Risk in Ontario list (SARO list) a quick 3 months after assessment. If a wildlife or plant species made it to the SARO list as either endangered and threatened, it gained automatic protections under the Act. This makes sense; threatened and endangered species need immediate protection to stand a chance at bouncing back over the longer term while they wait for their recovery to be mapped out.

To direct recovery, a science-based Recovery Strategy was then due within a year of a species being listed as endangered (within two years for those listed as threatened). Then came the Government Response Statement within another 9 months, which is where politicians decided which activities suggested in the Recovery Strategy would actually be undertaken within a socioeconomic context.

For those species listed as special concern, the science-based Management Plan is due within 3 years, where important evidence-based suggestions are suggested. Special concern species don’t get any protection unless the government decides it’s necessary and willing to enact them.

Once government-directed actions are underway, a Progress Report would be due 5 years later to determine how well the species is doing. The cycle is complete when the species gets re-assessed by COSSARO every 10 or so years.

This cycle boded so well for species at risk it was dubbed “the gold standard”. What a marvel of integrated science and decision-making was promised when it was rolled out in 2008! Built-in flexibility meant that socioeconomics of recovery were considered as long as species’ recoveries were the priority. Provided a scientific expert concluded to the Minister that an activity or exemption wouldn’t jeopardize the recovery of species, harmful activities that could kill species and destroy their habitat were still allowed to happen in a controlled way. The Act was written so that it could carefully regulate ongoing destruction that was deemed necessary for the human community through the use of permits and authorization tools that either minimized adverse impacts, or provided some other overall benefit to a dwindling species on the ground nearby to where any habitat destruction was taking place.

It was in 2013 that the reigning Liberal government introduced a fistful of permit-by-rule exemptions that allowed destruction of certain species or in certain areas, enormous and embarrassing delays in the development of Recovery Strategies and Government Response Statements, which in turn delayed Progress Reports, and made it harder for scientists to use reliable updated data to re-assess a species.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Commissioner figured out that none of the exempted activities were being monitored, and that the Ministry didn’t track any compliance monitoring or enforcement for any other permit or authorization given to industry or landowners to conduct activities that harm species at risk or their homes.

These were important sticks stuck in the wheel of the Act, a wheel which was designed to move us forward toward a future where hundreds of species weren’t about to disappear from Ontario, perhaps forever.


The future of Ontario’s endangered species is now under more threat than ever before

38Fast-forward to 2018, when the Progressive Conservatives took over and the Act’s 10-year anniversary triggered them into announcing a “review”.  A review of a poorly functioning Act is in theory well-deserved. But then the PCs rolled out a discussion Paper, a single paltry consultation with biodiversity proponents (industry proponents each got their own consultation), an unclear summary of expected amendments, followed by 20 pages of legal language that spelled out the doom of the Endangered Species Act. This was all written under the guise of improving the Act, removing red tape, and importantly “ensuring positive outcomes for species at risk”.

What really happened was this. Timelines to assess, list, monitor, plan, and report were lengthened dramatically. COSSARO will now be open to special interests, diluting the scientific expertise and objectivity that are essential to accurate species assessments. COSSARO is also now required to match the assessment status of species that are doing OK elsewhere, but only if it means the species status will be downgraded. Extinction in Ontario isn’t an issue if the species still exists somewhere else, according to Premier Doug Ford. On the other hand, he doesn’t want us to panic when a species is going extinct next door. This compartmentalization of recovery planning is irrational. Wild animals don’t know where borders are, and certainly our federal government does an abominable job at forcing the provinces and territories to take action for imperiled species even though it’s written right into the federal Species At Risk Act.

What could be worse than diluting science and forcing their hand in assessments? Answer: under the new and not-so-improved Act, the Minister no longer has to consult a scientist before deciding to allow or exempt activities or proponents from killing species at risk or destroying their homes. In fact, businesses will now be able to pay to do this, and that money will be used by some “crown agency” which will have to make tough decisions about which species might benefit from the blood money, and which ones will be ignored and left to disappear.


Our rights to participate in decision-making processes have been undermined

35The scariest part for me (and this is coming from a biologist whose work to recover Algonquin wolves is being deliberately undermined by special interests and politicians who hate, fear and misrepresent the wolf) is that to rip up the Endangered Species Act so badly, the government also had to tear into our Environmental Bill of Rights to remove the sections saying that the public had to be notified and consulted when these arbitrary, political and anti-biodiversity decisions are being made by the Minister.

If this isn’t a cover up, I don’t know what is.

How can politicians claim that this is going to be good for species at risk, that it’s going to make a better Ontario? How can so many provincial representatives ignore the concerned scientists, the outraged municipal governments and the environmental community? Last time we checked, consultation meant listening to everyone, and taking all information into consideration. Checking off the wishlists of developer buddies and natural resource extraction CEOs is not what the Environmental Bill of Rights meant by consultation.


This is in no way “For The People”.

10Let’s not kid ourselves. We know what is going to happen when a Minister is handed all the power to control species at risk, and it’s hardly ever going be to be a “positive outcome” for wildlife or rare plants. The new Endangered Species Act is a gift to housing developers in the south, hunters and trappers across the province, and natural resource extraction companies in the north. Logging companies will gain permanent exemption rights to destroy caribou habitat, mining is going to wipe out species habitat in the Ring of Fire, dams will continue to chop up endangered American eels, and Algonquin wolves will continue to be shot and strangled in neck snares for sport and profit. Wetlands, green corridors, vernal pools and vestigial forest in southern Ontario will be paved over and covered in houses that most Ontario residents will never be able to afford.

We are indeed in a housing crisis, but it is not limited to the houses of humans. More than the Endangered Species Act, Bill 108 – the housing bill – changed over a dozen other acts that will negatively impact every species that needs a secure home in this province, whether it’s a low-income person, an endangered salamander or a woodland caribou calf.

This government has it out for our species at risk. These species are the canary in the coal mine of so-called progress and the open-for-business mentality that Ford and company have been promoting for the last year. It seems too few governments are willing to recognize and address that species at risk recovery is inconvenient and will require science and tenacity to guarantee. There’s no denying that legislation geared to protecting and recovering them necessitates us to do business a little differently. After all, it’s just one species – our own – that is largely responsible for putting a million others at the precipice of extinction.

It’s hard to believe that any government can ignore the stark findings from UN reports about losing species, losing biodiversity, and losing intricate ecosystems that deliver invaluable, unimaginable, and often unmeasured services that we as the human race rely on for our very survival. The UN report reminds us why we should care about species at risk: without them, we face ecological collapse. How can a government “for the people” put our species at risk too?

At this point, asking head-scratching questions like this is a waste of time. Now we stand together. Now we fight for our human families, for our wildlife community, for the web of life that connect us all and gives us shelter. If we don’t fight now, it’ll all be gone. Please take action now! Extinction is forever.



Save our Endangered Species

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We need your help to stand up to the Progressive Conservative government who have just proposed sweeping changes to the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and to our Environmental Bill of Rights (they intend to cut the public out of further consultations on species at risk!).

The Algonquin wolf is being targeted again, even though they lost so much of the automatic protection the ESA should have given them under the ESA back in 2016.  They can’t afford to lose anymore safeguards from hunting and trapping!

Please send your official comments today.  By adding just one line or comment in your own words to our template letter, your voice can have an even bigger impact with the decision-makers!

The deadline for submissions is May 18th.

I am not protected


Will you go one step further and share our action alert with your friends, family and social networks? This consultation is the most important we’ve ever asked for your help with, and since our last round of comments which opposed further weakening of the ESA have largely been ignored, we need to get LOUDER!

Here’s how the proposed changes will impact Algonquin wolves:

1. The Minister will be allowed to remove or reduce protections for any threatened or endangered species, and doesn’t have to notify or consult the public, or ask species experts for their professional opinion;

2. The Minister can demand that COSSARO, the independent scientific body that conducts assessments of species at risk, re-assess any species. Moreover, the scientists will have less time to report, and COSSARO members may no longer be independent since the eligibility requirements are about to change;

3. Timelines for the government to create an action plan once a species’ science-based Recovery Strategy is finalized will be weakened. They also want to loosen monitoring of the recovery plan, meaning they don’t have to report on progress they don’t plan to make.

For Algonquin wolves this could even mean removing their protection from provincial parks that still allow hunting and/or trapping (most of them do!), even around Algonquin Park where the science clearly indicates how beneficial the no-kill zone is.

In a landscape populated by coyotes that have a better chance of survival, Algonquin wolves won’t stand a chance at recovery if their entire range is opened up to hunting and trapping again. If COSSARO re-assesses them as endangered in their next round of review, it won’t make a difference in legal protections if the proposed amendments go through.

Extinction is forever,  please speak for Algonquin wolves and the other 230+ species facing extinction in our beautiful province! 

Media Release: Earthroots echoes Environmental Commissioner’s call to recover at risk wolves

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Ontario needs to protect threatened Algonquin wolves from hunting and trapping

TORONTO (October 24th, 2017) - Today Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner Dianne Saxe released her annual report, “Good Choices, Bad Choices”, a critical assessment of the Ontario government’s environmental practices and recent decisions. The report outlines multiple areas where the province is failing to take effective action on pressing environmental issues.

In particular, Commissioner Saxe emphasizes that the Algonquin wolf, a unique species that was listed as Threatened last year, needs more protection. Threatened species receive immediate province-wide protection under the Endangered Species Act but the protection of Algonquin wolves was stripped down to 4 provincial parks and buffers around them on the opening day of hunting and trapping season in 2016. Outside of these areas, where eastern coyotes are heavily hunted and trapped, Algonquin wolves receive no protection because it is difficult to visually distinguish them from each other (a genetic test is required to correctly identify them).

“It is critical that our government upholds the objectives of the Endangered Species Act, and prohibits non-aboriginal hunting and trapping of Algonquin wolves across their range,” said Hannah Barron, Earthroots Director of Wildlife Conservation Campaigns. “We need our government to take immediate measures to protect these wolves – there may be as few as 250 mature Algonquin wolves left in the world, mostly in Ontario. Scientific research funded by the Ontario government shows that without additional protection, this small yet ecologically invaluable population of top predators will not recover.”

The Algonquin wolf is the only Threatened species that can be legally sport hunted and trapped, even in some protected areas. Commissioner Saxe builds on this point in her report, stating that, “Thousands of Ontarians expressed concerns about the inadequacy of the government’s new measures to protect Algonquin wolves. If the MNRF is incapable of protecting a small number of threatened Algonquin wolves in only one part of the province, it creates doubt about the ministry’s commitment to sustainably managing any species of wildlife – let alone an imperilled one.”


For more information, contact: Amber Ellis, Executive Director, / 416-565-0795

Key Excerpts: Good Choices, Bad Choices

“Hunting and trapping is a central threat to the long-term survival of the Algonquin wolf, which is a threatened species at risk. Ontario’s Endangered Species Act prohibits threatened species from being killed or harmed, but the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has chosen to exempt the Algonquin wolf from this important protection across much of its range. The ministry has opted to only protect Algonquin wolves from hunting and trapping in and around a few isolated provincial parks. Scientists have concluded that the Algonquin wolf stands little chance of recovery unless the ministry bans hunting and trapping of wolves and coyotes throughout its range.” (ECO 2017, Good Choices, Bad Choices, page 253)

“The three new areas with closed hunting and trapping seasons will not suffice. These areas cover only a small fraction of the region where Algonquin wolves have been found. Moreover, the newly closed areas primarily consist of provincial parks – where the Algonquin wolf already received substantial protection – doing little to change the status quo. The closures also do not provide adequate connectivity between these areas.” (ECO 2017, Good Choices, Bad Choices, page 265)

“Controversy has surrounded how the Ontario government has managed eastern (or Algonquin) wolves for decades. Scientists believe that there may be less than 250 adult Algonquin wolves left in the world. The top threat to the long-term survival of the threatened Algonquin wolves is hunting and trapping. Unlike the pressures facing many other species, the Ontario government has the ability to easily eliminate the biggest threat to Algonquin wolves by simply amending a regulation.” (ECO 2017, Good Choices, Bad Choices, page 266)

“The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is not only turning a blind eye to the best available science, it is also disregarding the significant public interest in protecting this ecologically and culturally significant animal.” (ECO 2017, Good Choices, Bad Choices, page 266)

“Algonquin wolves must receive the full protection of the law if this threatened species is to have any chance of recovery. Algonquin wolves need to be protected from Peterborough to North Bay, and from Pembroke to Sault Ste. Marie. The ECO recommends that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry prohibit hunting and trapping of wolves and coyotes throughout the Algonquin wolves’ entire “extent of occurrence” (i.e., where they live).” (ECO 2017, Good Choices, Bad Choices, page 267)

Help Keep Wildlife Wild

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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?

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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


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

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December 14, 2022

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 call1-800-222-TIPS (8477).