In the effort to preserve endangered woodland caribou populations in Alberta's northern regions, the province's government has initiated a large-scale wolf cull. In recent years more than 500 wolves have been hunted by air and shot, left to suffer and die in the woods. According to the government, effective population control of the wolf, a known caribou predator, will help eliminate continued decreases in caribou populations.
However, recent peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown that the region's wolves are hunting far more deer than caribou. This evidence lead scientists to look for other reasons for caribou population decline. By examining caribou scat, scientists found that caribou in the area are dealing with serious levels of stress which they conclude is due to the rapid scale of oil and gas development, most notably of the tar sands, in traditional caribou habitat. Tar sands development, which requires the destruction of ancient boreal forest, means that caribou are being forced into less-densely wooded areas where they are more exposed to hunters, vehicles and predators.
Also, the loss of old growth forest means caribou have little access to the lichens they feed on to survive Alberta's cold winters. Woodland caribou are highly sensitive to disruptions in their habitat, migration and mating patterns. Increased industrial activity, forestry, hunting and off-roading have all contributed to the decrease in caribou populations, although the Albertan government is holding the wolf responsible.
Biologists have come forward to condemn the wolf cull as "morally and biologically wrong" and more scandalously "a waste of time."
We must urge the government to consider alternative methods to ensure the survival of endangered caribou species, alternatives that do not in turn threaten the health and preservation of treasured wolf populations. The Albertan government must know that the population of Canada does not see this wolf cull as an adequate solution.
Culling wild wolves provides no guarantee that the problem will be solved and worse, deflects attention from the destructive industries which should be held accountable for their role in declining caribou populations and habitat.
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