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Province closes season for hunting and trapping wolves

Earthroots says much more is needed to protect the wolf’s future in Ontario

(Toronto) Today Minister of Natural Resources, David Ramsay, announced his decision to close the season for hunting and trapping wolves and coyotes from April 1st to September 14th in northern and central Ontario. Earthroots welcomes the new restrictions on wolf killing as Ontario has long been recognized as one of the worst jurisdictions in the world for its exploitative wolf management policies. Until this year, wolves were killed year-round by sport hunters and trappers. Earthroots is calling today's announcement a good first step but says much more work still needs to be done to protect wolves and their habitat.

“Earthroots is optimistic that the days of managing the Big Bad Wolf are finally coming to an end,” says Melissa Tkachyk, Earthroots’ Wolves Ontario! Coordinator. “Closing the hunting and trapping season when the pups are vulnerable is an important first step towards improving the conservation of wolves across the province.”

However, Earthroots contends that few wolves are killed during the spring and summer as most wolf hunting and trapping occurs during the late fall and winter when the wolf’s pelt is prime. The environmental group is also concerned that the Minister has yet to move forward on key aspects of the provincial wolf conservation policy which he proposed late last year. Aspects of the proposal that have not yet been implemented include:

 Developing and implementing a research and monitoring program to determine the status of wolf populations in Ontario

 Requiring wolf and coyote hunters to purchase a special wolf game seal in addition to a small game licence

 Limiting the number of wolf game seals to two per hunter per year

“It is of great concern that wolves can still be killed in any number whether for fur, sport or because they are perceived as a nuisance,” said Tkachyk. “Until hunters and property owners are required to report all wolves killed as trappers are currently required to do, the government has little knowledge of the impact these activities are having on wolf populations and the ecosystem they are a part of."

Wolves are only adequately protected on 3% of their range in the province, while 97% is still open to hunting and trapping. Only a few parks are off limits to hunters and trappers and large enough to sustain a viable wolf population. "There is clearly an imbalance between the percentage of the province where wolves are managed as game and the few protected areas, off-limits to traps and bullets where wolves can just be wolves," says Tkachyk. “Keeping critical wolf habitat areas free of exploitation is necessary if we want true wilderness in Ontario."


For more information contact:

Melissa Tkachyk (Ta-caw-chik), Earthroots’ Wolves Ontario! Coordinator - Tel: 416-599-0152 x12 (office) / 416-819-7424 (cell).

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Background Information:

Provincial wolf population

The MNR estimates that there are between 8,000 and 10,000 wolves in the province. This estimation was made over 40 years ago and has remained unchanged. However no reliable survey method has been employed.

There are two wolf species in Ontario: the Gray wolf (Canis lupus) and the Eastern wolf (Canis lycaon) which is also known as the Algonquin wolf because of its declining yet popular presence in Algonquin Provincial Park. The MNR implemented a permanent ban on hunting and trapping wolves and coyotes in 40 townships surrounding the park last spring in an attempt to curb the park's population decline. The Eastern wolf has been added to both the National and Provincial Species at Risk lists as a species of “Special Concern”.

Impacts of hunting and trapping wolves

Approximately 500 wolves are trapped every year for the commercial sale of their pelts. There are no accurate records on how many wolves are hunted every year or killed because they were viewed as vermin or a threat on private property. Population numbers alone are not the sole indicator for the long-term viability of a wolf population. Human activity, including hunting and trapping can affect wolf behavior and the social integrity of the wolf pack. Wolf populations diminish or cease to exist in areas with road densities exceeding 0.58 km/km2.

Protected Areas for Wolves

Wolf biologists estimate that at least 500 km2 is needed to ensure the viability of a wolf population because of their large territorial requirements. There are only 4 areas in Ontario that are off limits to wolf hunters and trappers that are also large enough in size: Algonquin and Lake Superior Provincial Parks and Chapleau and Nipissing Crown Game Preserves. These total a mere 3% of protected sanctuary within the wolf’s range.

Public Opinion

A province-wide poll conducted by Oraclepoll Research of Sudbury this year surveyed Ontarians’ attitudes about wolves and the government’s management of the species. Key findings include:

  • 88% strongly oppose the practice of sport hunting wolves and more than 70% want an end to the practice of baiting and using dogs to hunt wolves.
  • 82% strongly oppose killing wolves in order to sell their pelts.
  • 88% favour having a sustainable wolf management program, as most do not see that enough is currently being done now to manage wolves.
  • 74% support protecting more wolf habitat.
  • A strong majority also want bag limits, kills to be reported and closing the spring season when pups are born.

Earthroots is a non-profit, grassroots environmental organization dedicated to protecting wilderness, wildlife and watersheds through research, education and action. Founded in 1986, Earthroots has over 12,000 supporters throughout Canada.

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