Wolf culls do noth­ing to save en­dan­gered cari­bou, study finds

Toronto Star - - WORLD - HINA ALAM

A gov­ern­ment-spon­sored wolf kill in West­ern Canada has had “no de­tectable ef­fect” on re­vers­ing the de­cline of en­dan­gered cari­bou pop­u­la­tions, a study says.

Sci­en­tists from Rain­coast Con­ser­va­tion Foun­da­tion and the uni­ver­si­ties of Al­berta, Bri­tish Columbia and Vic­to­ria found sta­tis­ti­cal flaws in an in­flu­en­tial 2019 re­port sup­port­ing a wolf cull.

The new re­search pub­lished in the in­ter­na­tional jour­nal Bio­di­ver­sity and Con­ser­va­tion found that ad­dress­ing po­ten­tial threats from wolves did not slow the loss of moun­tain cari­bou in B.C. and Al­berta. In­stead, it says fac­tors af­fect­ing pop­u­la­tion de­cline in­clude loss of habi­tat to log­ging, snow­pack vari­a­tion and snow­mo­bil­ing.

Wolves and cari­bou have co­ex­isted, in­ter­act­ing as preda­tors and prey, for mil­len­nia in west­ern North Amer­ica, said Chris Da­ri­mont, co-au­thor on the study.

But this bal­ance be­gan to tip around the mid­dle of the 20th cen­tury when in­dus­trial clear-cut log­ging and oil and gas de­vel­op­ment took off, said Da­ri­mont, who is also a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Vic­to­ria and sci­ence di­rec­tor for Rain­coast Con­ser­va­tion Foun­da­tion. The cleared land and roads made wolves more ef­fi­cient preda­tors where they trav­elled large dis­tances to search for vul­ner­a­ble prey, he said.

“De­spite not pre­fer­ring cari­bou, many on av­er­age killed more cari­bou sim­ply be­cause there are more wolves,” he said.

Another fac­tor af­fect­ing cari­bou pop­u­la­tion is the avail­abil­ity of lichen in old growth forests, which were cut for tim­ber, Da­ri­mont said.

The logic be­hind wolf culls has been “some­what se­duc­tive and com­pelling,” Da­ri­mont said. If you take away most or all of the wolves, the cari­bou should do bet­ter, but data does not sup­port that logic, he added. The re­searchers found that culling wolves or putting preg­nant cari­bou be­hind pens was no more ef­fec­tive than do­ing noth­ing, he said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.