As celebrations rolled across Canada recognizing 150 years of confederation, non-human residents had and still have little to be festive about. Ironically, human Canadians are failing to recognize neither the widespread persecution of wildlife we are responsible for, nor the harm we bring to the biotic community that we share this country with.
In Canada, outdated policies continue to permit the brutal killing of one of the most intelligent, sentient and family oriented non-human animals that walk the planet.
We intentionally destroy family bonds and irreplaceable ecological processes, dominating the landscape as if it were ours alone. We have done this with many species, but few more so than Canis Lupus, the grey wolf, an original inhabitant of North America.
Wolves simply attempt to eke out a living on the land, a challenging feat within itself with extreme weather conditions, starvation, disease and a main food source that is challenging and dangerous to hunt.
Adding to those severe challenges wolves routinely face, we complicate their survival by degrading or destroying their habitat while exhibiting a lust to kill this animal in a variety of vicious ways.
To be sure, it is not only the vast number of wolves that are killed each year across the country that should make us stop and think, it is also the inhumane methods we have continued to use with no regard.
Sadly, many provincial governments fail to comply with Canada's voluntary animal care standards. Methods such as neck snares, poison and aerial shooting do not deliver a swift death, but leave animals agonizing for hours prior to succumbing. We would not tolerate this type of abuse for other animals as sentient as wolves (e.g. dolphins, apes, elephants), so why is it still acceptable to treat this specific species with such disregard?
Government-funded aerial shooting programs target wolves in Alberta and British Columbia each winter under the guise of caribou recovery, chasing animals to exhaustion before firing multiple wounding shots as attempts are made to gun down entire families while they flee.
Alberta has quietly killed more than 1,000 wolves since 2005 in a single area known as the Little Smoky caribou range, a habitat that has been heavily scarred due to resource extraction and commercial recreation. Although this program continues each year, the dwindling caribou herd in question is not increasing. Conservationists have begun to refer to the main product from this area — oil and gas — as "blood oil," where the economy trumps ecology and ethics.
British Columbia began its own wolf-kill program Jan. 15, 2015 in a futile attempt to save dwindling caribou herds that rely on the arboreal lichen of old growth forests. Independent scientists are appalled by these actions, urging a holistic approach to preserving functioning ecosystems as the liquidation logging of old growth continues within critical caribou habitats.
Public tax dollars are funding an inhumane farce that promotes killing as conservation, in which more than 400 wolves have been slain over the past three winters, while caribou habitats continue to be impoverished through human uses.
Alberta and Saskatchewan are still using extremely dangerous poisons for predator control (a.k.a. killing) purposes; specifically strychnine and compound 1080 (sodium fluoroacetate). Beyond our borders, many other countries have banned these harmful substances, which are referred to as "food chain killers" because the carcasses of victims, now toxic themselves, are often scavenged by other animals. Poisons do not discriminate and many others suffer excruciating symptoms prior to death, including endangered species, pets and, yes, even people.
An ingrained prejudice remains against wild canids and we conveniently kill rather than attempt to co-exist. Unknown to most, M-44 cyanide devices are still set out like land mines in Alberta to target wolves and their close cousin, coyotes, despite the dangers to all that walk the landscape.
People do not eat wolves, yet thousands are killed in Canada each year for "recreation." Many provinces do not even require a specific licence to kill wolves. Neck snares have erupted across the country, causing hours of prolonged suffering as both official and vigilante wolf control actions have become more prevalent.
We have systematically legitimized the killing of this apex predator, despite a contemporary understanding of the irreplaceable ecological services and processes that wolves facilitate through their mere presence on a landscape, all of which serve to maintain biodiversity and balance in an ecosystem. Ironically, as other countries attempt to reintroduce and protect wolves, the violence towards this species goes unchecked in Canada. Remarkably, we are still hunting and trapping Algonquin wolves, exclusive to eastern Canada and listed in our Species At Risk Actas a federally threatened species.
Canada can do much better when it comes to conserving and managing wolves. The question remains, do Canadians care about these iconic carnivores, which make Canada unique and significantly contribute to our identity as a country? Are wolves the litmus test for our relationship with Nature? Do we have the will and character to put our natural legacy back on track and choose to co-flourish with all species with whom we share this country's landscape?
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