The VOICE of Anglers and Hunters since 1928

Province Ignores Science on Algonquin Wolf Protection

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MAY 31, 2004

Province Ignores Science on Algonquin Wolf Protection

The recent announcement by the Honourable David Ramsay, Minister of Natural Resources, to permanently ban the hunting and trapping of wolves in Algonquin Park and surrounding townships, flies in the face of established science on wolves, and is based on unsubstantiated fears, bad science and baseless emotions.

“Instead of using the large body of science that exists around the wolves of Algonquin Park, the Minister has given in to emotional rhetoric and has tried to rationalize the declining wolf population by blaming hunters and trappers outside the park, whose impact on the wolf population is negligible, instead of acknowledging that changes in habitat and prey availability are the real reasons the population is affected,” said Dr. Terry Quinney, Provincial Manager of Fish and Wildlife Services for the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (O.F.A.H.). “The Minister’s decision perpetuates a myth that directs public attention away from the real issues at play. The deer population in Algonquin is a tenth of what it used to be. If the Ministry really wants to be proactive on this issue, they should revisit the entire Park management plan, including forest management and fire suppression, which does not provide for the recovery of species that the wolves need to survive.”

The wolf population of Algonquin Park thrived when its predominant prey, deer and beaver, were abundant. As the population of these species declined, so too did the population of wolves. This decline in food sources predictably resulted in fewer wolves, with larger territories and smaller pack sizes, which also led to increased hybridization with coyotes. Wolf populations’ ebb and flow according to habitat quality and the availability of prey. A population decline is natural, and does not mean that wolves are in any way threatened.

The Ministry’s ‘recovery plan’ fails to recognize these factors, and ignores the fact that outside of the Park, wolf populations are thriving in many areas, as was the Algonquin wolf population when deer and beaver were abundant in the first half of the 20th century. In an attempt to apparently pacify animal rights activists and the antihunting group mentioned in the Ministry’s release, the provincial government has responded with a flawed political response that has little basis or credibility in science, and has little to do with conservation. This announcement ignores the impact that a permanent ban may have on local agriculturists, ignores the fact that the Eastern Wolf is not indigenous to the Park, and makes a mockery of the findings by the government appointed Algonquin Wolf Advisory Committee. “The Ministry should have waited for results of their own habitat and prey availability study, instead of acting before all of the facts are known,” said Dr. Quinney.

Contact:
Dr. Terry Quinney
O.F.A.H. Provincial Manager
Fish & Wildlife Services
(705) 748-6324
Ed Reid
Wildlife Biologist
(705) 748-6324



Facts on the Wolves of Algonquin Park

FACT:

The Algonquin wolf is NOT a ‘species at risk’ in Ontario.

The Eastern Wolf populations have been healthy and reasonably stable in Ontario. This was confirmed most recently by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, (COSEWIC), which determined in 2002 that these wolves are not endangered, but worthy of monitoring. No concern was expressed by COSEWIC about the over harvest of these wolves.

 

FACT:

The Eastern Wolf is not unique to Algonquin Park.

This wolf exists as a large contiguous population of Eastern Wolves that is found throughout south central Ontario, southern Quebec and in parts of Manitoba through to New Brunswick. Eastern Wolves are a small-bodied animal that followed deer into the Park when it was logged and burned in the late 19th and early 20th century. The wolves that should be found in Algonquin are the larger Grey wolves. Under the current Park management strategy, as the Park offers more moose than deer habitat, the so-called Eastern Wolf will predictably continue to decline.

 

FACT:

Wolves in Ontario are not threatened by hunting and trapping.

Hunters and trappers throughout their range, outside of ‘so-called’ protected areas like Algonquin Park, sustainably harvest these wolves.

Throughout their ranges, wolves and coyotes live in dynamic balance with their prey, and are in no way threatened or negatively affected by the current levels of hunting and trapping, with annual harvests estimated at no more than 5-10% of the population. Basic wolf biology suggests that wolf populations can sustain harvests of 30-40% without negative impact. Wolf researcher Douglas Pimlott demonstrated this decades ago when ‘wolf control’ was found to be ineffective in the Park – the annual cull of 55 to 60 wolves by Rangers in Algonquin Park in the 1950’s did nothing to reduce the population.

 

FACT:

Hunting and trapping outside of Algonquin Park is NOT causing a decline of wolves in Algonquin.

In 2000/2001, the Algonquin Wolf Advisory Group (A.W.A.G.) consulted with the best wolf scientists and determined that wolf conservation could be achieved through a combination of forest habitat enhancement, protection of wolves from disturbance and hunting and trapping seasons. The A.W.A.G. did not recommend closing hunting and trapping seasons.

 

FACT:

The province has acted prematurely and made an announcement without the results of the habitat and prey availability study that is currently underway.

No decision should have been made, or should be made, until the results of this study are available.