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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Is Alberta Suspending the Poisoning Wolves Just Because it Looks Bad?


The Canwest story is not all good news. It says” “Provincial officials argue that wolves are the biggest threat to caribou populations and will continue to shoot the predators from helicopters in the Little Smokey caribou range, about 40 kilometres north of Hinton. But, they say, the three-year practice of laying bait laced with strychnine to kill wolves has been put on hold. Killing wolves is part of the province's plan to help the caribou population rebound.” (Emphasis added)

Suspending poisoning wolves is a step in the right direction but the disturbing context around why this “issue” is being handled the way it is seems very short-sighted, shallow and narrow. It seems top me the justification for the suspension is based on issue management more than concerns for species at risk.

The Canwest new story says “…a spokesman for the Sustainable Resource Development, said Minister Ted Morton wants more extensive research done to address ‘public concerns and misconceptions.’ ‘Our objective here is to make sure the minister has all the information he needs and to feel comfortable in dealing with any of the public's concerns about how we manage wildlife….’"

Is our government therefore suspending wolf poisoning mostly because it looks bad? Maybe I am just suffering from misconception. Perhaps I need to be better educated about why we must correct our first mistake of not preserving caribou habitat by making more mistakes. We presume we can control nature by imposing ourselves even more on nature’s balance. That way poisoning wolves is now a justifiable remediation for our first folly. Is that the misconception I am suffering from?

Speaking of “misconceptions,” wolves are a natural predator for caribou populations and therefore a “threat” by definition? They are hardly the “biggest threat” to caribou populations rebounding, as is claimed in the news story. Man deserves that credit don’t you think? Especially given the way we have fragmented the forest and intruded on wildlife habitat in our ever accelerating single-minded quest in pursuit of GDP measured “growth and progress.”

It seems to be we may do less harm by doing fewer and more intelligent habitat interventions in the first place. We should spend more time and resources fixing up the messes we have already made by actively reclaiming old seismic lines, and unnecessary old road to help restore wildlife habitat. Maybe we should also spend more time up front on being more enlightened and sensitive to the impact we have on other species when we tear up their terrain in the name of progress.

Or should we just continue to say “screw it” – and justify killing the bad wolves that we deem are the real culprits endangering the caribou. To every complex and intricate problem there is always a simple answer that is WRONG.

This all reminds me of the children’s song about the old lady who swallowed a fly and then swallowed a spider to catch the fly, then a frog to catch the spider. Do you remember it? It ends with “I guess she’ll die.” When will we ever learn?