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Guns and Poison - Alberta’s Approach to Little Smoky Caribou Management

  • Published on Apr 03 2008 |
  • This article is tagged as: alberta

Helicopter gunning and baiting wolves with strychnine poison, are the main approaches being used by Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (ASRD) to protect the Alberta Foothill’s Little Smoky Caribou Herd. At the same time almost about 400 new petroleum well sites and their associated roads have been permitted by ASRD within the Foothills caribou ranges including the Little Smoky. It seems the government will go to any lengths to kill wolves, but continues to refuse to protect any of the caribou’s little remaining habitat from industrial use.

The Little Smoky is a caribou herd considered to be at immediate risk of extinction by the government, because of too much industrial development in their range which makes them more vulnerable to wolf predation. Now, in a final desperate effort to protect the herd, over 150 wolves have been shot over the past three winters, and an unknown number have been killed by poison. Strychnine poisoning results in an agonizing death, and can take over two hours.

“We reluctantly recognize that because of years of government mismanagement, wolf control is probably a necessity now to prevent the immediate extinction of the Little Smoky herd. However, we cannot accept that wolf control is being done without also protecting the best remaining habitat from industrial use,” says Helene Walsh with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Northern Alberta. “It is the industrial use that creates the young forest which brings in moose, deer and their predators the wolves closer to the caribou. By allowing ever more industrial use the government is ensuring that killing wolves will be necessary for an ever longer period of time until the caribou habitat is restored. Furthermore, strychnine should never be used, the government needs to make sure it is possible to control wolves in a more humane manner.“

The government’s multi-stakeholder planning team for caribou recovery in the Alberta Foothills has been in process for over two years and still no recommendations have gone to government except an interim strategy. This interim strategy agreed that industrial development in the ranges should be minimized until there was an approved range plan for the herds. “While refusing to give more detailed information the government has insisted it was minimizing industrial use. Now we have finally been provided with a map and the amount of development that has been permitted under the guise of minimization is appalling,” says Walsh, “Clearly we have been misled and wolf control in the Little Smoky will be needed for even longer because of this.”

Currently the Little Smoky range is the only Alberta caribou range undergoing wolf control. However, if those ranges are also mismanaged by government, it may become necessary to control wolves in other ranges to maintain the caribou populations. Habitat protection must be done now to limit the need for killing wolves to preserve caribou.

“The world is watching Alberta now because of the development of the tar sands. It will not help our reputation when it is known that as one of the richest jurisdictions in the world we will still not maintain our wildlife habitat because Alberta’s main priority continues to be more money for government and the industry,” says Glen Semenchuk, Executive Director of the Federation of Alberta Naturalists.

Strychnine poisoning causes muscles throughout the body have severe, painful spasms until the muscles are exhausted and breathing stops. Other species will also take the poisonous bait such as cougar, wolverine, fisher, coyotes, and eagles.



Helene Walsh 780 922 0908 or 780 432 0967

Glen Semenchuk 780 427 8124, c: 780 881 2941

CPAWS is Canada’s voice for wilderness protection. With 13 chapters across Canada and nearly 20,000 members, it has helped to conserve over 40 million hectares of Canada\'s most treasured wild places since 1963. It is a signatory to the Boreal Forest Conservation Framework, along with other leading conservation organizations, resource companies and First Nations.