As someone who loves wildlife and the outdoors, I have spoken with plenty of hunters, a fair number of trappers, and even a few people who believe that wolves are dangerous predators that should be controlled. But never in all my years have I encountered anyone who thought that slowly poisoning a wolf to death was a good idea!
In fact, most people are horrified to learn that the province of Alberta, Canada, continues the practice of slowly killing wolves with strychnine poison as part of their “caribou recovery strategy”. Despite the program’s existence since 2005, and its more recent media coverage, the Alberta wolf poison program remains a little-known policy that has always struck me as inconsistent with the attitudes and beliefs of the majority of Canadians. Other provinces like British Columbia continue wolf control programs as part of caribou recovery efforts, but the use of poison is prohibited.
In an attempt to understand what Albertans really think, IFAW contacted carnivore expert Alistair Bath, president of Bath and Associates and Professor at Memorial University, to conduct a study on the public acceptability of predator control in Alberta.
The results of the study confirm what we’ve long suspected: Albertans are overwhelmingly opposed to the use of strychnine poison to kill wolves, with only 4% accepting its use as a management technique.
Perhaps surprising to some, there was little evidence of a “rural / urban divide” in opinion on this matter. Both rural and urban respondents disapproved of the use of lethal management of wolves, with 75% agreeing that the use of strychnine, in particular, should be banned.
When it comes to the recovery of woodland caribou, most respondents do not see wolves or grizzly bears as important factors in the decline of caribou, and do not accept reducing predators in caribou habitat as acceptable approaches to caribou recovery. Predation by bears and wolves was viewed as the least important factor in caribou decline, with most respondents stating they believed that logging and recreational vehicles were more important.
There is no valid argument to justify the use of poison to kill wolves. The relatively low number of wolves killed by poison vs other means, and the fact that the government has, on occasion, halted the poison program, suggests that the use of strychnine could be discontinued with no discernible effect on caribou predation. Now, this new report suggests that such a move would be welcomed by the vast majority of Albertans.
We know that the use of strychnine as a method of wolf control is unacceptably inhumane, causing a slow, painful, and agonizing death for animals that consume it. Placing strychnine into the environment where it travels down the food chain and causes the unintended poisoning of non-target scavenger species is unethical. And now we know that the use of strychnine to kill wolves is not supported by the overwhelming majority of Albertans – both urban and rural.
Please help us stop the cruel poisoning of wolves and other wildlife. You can send a message to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Minister of Environment and Parks Jason Nixon, urging them to stop the use of strychnine poison to kill wolves and other wildlife in Alberta. Together we can stop this inhumane, outdated, and unnecessary practice.
-Sheryl Fink, Campaign Director – Canadian Wildlife