Updated-Are wolves the new bears? Trappers group says wolf hunting ban repeats mistakes of spring bear hunt scrapping

Erik White
journalist
Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury, Ont. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca
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A proposed ban on hunting and trapping wolves and coyotes is being compared to the controversial cancelling of the spring bear hunt.
The provincial government is considering creating a protected zone for the predators over 39,000 square kilometres in central and eastern Ontario, including the area between Algonquin and Killarney Provincial Parks, where there is already a ban in place.
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The goal is to protect the threatened Algonquin wolf, but the ban would also include grey wolves and coyotes, whose numbers are healthy.
But Robin Horwath, general manager of the Ontario Fur Managers Federation says like the cancelling of the spring bear hunt in 1999, this is a political issue, being pushed by southern Ontario environmentalists and is based on shaky science.
“We want to make sure we get some true evidence,” he told the CBC from his home in Blind River.
‘A wolf is a wolf, a dog is a dog’
Horwath says the eastern wolf was renamed the Algonquin wolf two years ago, which “leads us to believe that we’re looking for an iconic, symbolic wolf for Ontario.”
But he says some studies show that Algonquin wolves are really just a hybrid of the coyotes and grey wolves they share Ontario forests with.
“A wolf is a wolf, a dog is a dog,” Horwath says.

Many in northern Ontario have blamed the higher number of bears in cities and towns on the scrapping of the spring bear hunt, but there has never been conclusive evidence of that. (The Associated Press)

Horwath warns that the hundreds of wolves trapped and hunted in these areas will be eating more deer and moose and household pets.
“They’re having issues with wolves and coyotes and pets. They showed a number of wolves on Ramsey Lake on the 6:00 news. And pet owners that had pets killed, missing or injured,” he says.
“When we protect things, it doesn’t always have a positive effect,”
MNRF mishandled wolf hunt proposal, retired ministry biologist says
Animal rights groups protest Ontario’s proposed wolf hunting rule changes

Hannah Barron of Earthroots, says an expanded protection zone for wolves will strengthen the population. (Twitter- @earthroots)
Protection for wolves needed to withstand climate change
But Hannah Baron, the conversation campaign director of the group Earthroots, disagrees.
“Everyone quotes the spring bear hunt, the return of it, as being important for dealing with these nuisance bears, but we never saw that evidence,” she says.
Baron argues this protected zone is needed to make the wolf population strong enough to withstand future challenges that might come with climate change.
“Without it, we don’t have a good chance of the animal recovering and taking over more of its historical range,”
The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources says is received 2,500 comments on this subject and needs to make a decision before Jun. 15.

Column: On wolves, northeast trappers spread fear
BySpecial to The Star The Sudbury Star

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018 2:52:18 EST AM

Not too sure what this gal is smoking, one thing for sure she has little to know hands-on knowledge/experience about this file. The big problem here is the fear mongering by Animal Rights organizations such as Earth Roots and others living in their ivory towers; using half truths and misinformation to further their self-serving fundraising campaigns. Not one thin dime goes toward effective wildlife management and conservation. Trappers are the OMNRF eyes and ears on the land and it is high time OMNRF started to listen to them when the alarm bells are sounded!

Shamefully, OMNRF has absolutely know idea how many wolves/coyotes we have in Ontario ,,, yet they simply keep on protecting them? Arguably You don’t have to be a scientist to realize the Natural & Cultural carrying capacities of the remote, rural & urban land are currently grossly exceeded!

Trappers know first hand: Nothing dies of old age in nature, the natural cycles of starvation, predation and disease control the numbers and when the ‘cultural carrying capacity’ of the land is exceeded, historically Ontario’s wildlife will suffer big time! Elimination of bears from southern Ontario in the 1700’s is a prime example!

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Since the draft Recovery Strategy was posted for Ontario’s threatened Algonquin wolves, there has been a flurry of articles and letters written in opposition to its science-based recommendations to expand hunting and trapping prohibitions for wolves, as well as look-alike eastern coyotes, in order to eliminate the primary threat to this at-risk species.

The basis for much of the concern, particularly from trappers, is that such prohibitions will result in a major ‘disturbance of our ecosystem balance’.

Firstly, it’s important to remember that the concept of balance is a gross oversimplification of complex ecosystems. Both predator and prey populations fluctuate, but these animals evolved on a shared landscape and have coexisted for thousands of years.

Secondly, even if it were achievable or desirable, there is no reason to believe that hunting and trapping would contribute to such a balance.

In the Algonquin Park area, where wolves have been protected since the 1950s inside the park, and since 2001 outside the park (coyotes received this same protection in 2004), the density of large canids – coyotes and wolves – didn’t increase following protection.

Instead, wolf density stabilized rapidly, hybridization with coyotes decreased, and wolf packs returned to a natural family-based structure.

The stable, kin-based canine pack probably has more evolutionarily advantages than we can ever measure, but stable packs likely pass down critical hunting skills to offspring. This probably helps explain why research indicates that fragmenting packs by hunting and trapping can make livestock losses worse, or can shift the problem to a nearby farm.

Livestock is generally easier to find and kill than a typical deer or moose, and splintered packs without sufficient experience seem more likely to choose livestock over wild prey.

Ontario’s annual bill for compensating farmers for livestock killed by predators, around $1 million-1.5 million, has not decreased despite widespread killing of wolves and coyotes.

After almost 180 years, Ontario cancelled the provincial wolf/coyote bounty in 1972 because it provided no measurable benefit to livestock producers or game populations. In fact, hunting and trapping can create problems for producers when non-livestock depredating wolves and coyotes are killed and later replaced by animals with a greater inclination toward preying on livestock.

If the Ontario government is truly serious about helping farmers, then they should be funding the testing and implementation of non-lethal depredation prevention tools, training and infrastructure upgrades to prevent losses in the first place and reduce non-lethal stress on livestock by keeping wolves and coyotes away.

Algonquin wolf recovery probably necessitates the natural displacement of coyotes on the landscape. Algonquin wolves and eastern coyotes are different animals despite often looking alike. Sometimes a mix of animals will live in the same pack, particularly in unprotected areas where roaming wolves have to mate with coyotes because they can’t find other wolves. However, most often wolf packs and coyote packs hold territories away from each other. In other words, where wolves have territory, coyotes do not.

Coyotes are more adaptable, survive on small prey like rodents and rabbits, and seem to be better at navigating people. Wolves require larger prey and larger territories because they are bigger, but their larger size is also what allows them to push out coyotes from suitable wolf habitat. The recovery strategy has tried to identify that habitat. Coyotes live at higher densities than wolves, so a landscape occupied by wolves rather than coyotes will have fewer canids overall.

There are simple solutions for conflicts with canids in town. Even if wolves and coyotes are killed off, if the root cause of conflict is not dealt with, then it is virtually certain that more wolves and coyotes will arrive and the same problems will happen again. We should never feed wildlife, intentionally or not. Coyotes do sometimes eat small pets, and can consider larger dogs as competition, but we can easily prevent this by caring for and supervising our pets, even in the backyard.

Beyond the backyard, keeping dogs leashed is important for their safety to prevent them from coming into conflict with any wildlife, and from being hit on the road. It also helps keep us safe; human-carnivore conflicts are strongly correlated with dogs being off leash as they can lead startled or upset carnivores back to their owner.

Fear mongering has a long history of inflicting unfounded and unnecessary damage to wildlife across the world, and time and time again it has failed to benefit us in the process. It’s time to use evidence-based, effective, ethical wildlife coexistence strategies in our communities so we can share the land with the abundant wildlife that makes so many of us proud to call Ontario home.

Those interested can comment on the draft Recovery Strategy for Algonquin wolf until Feb. 14.

— Hannah Barron, Toronto/Algonquin Highlands, is a wildlife biologist who conducts non-invasive Algonquin wolf monitoring research throughout Ontario, directs wildlife conservation campaigns at Earthroots, a conservation organization, and manages citizen science and outreach for the Trent University-based Eastern Wolf Survey.

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Brace yourselves. Remember the problem with bears, now the coyotes and wolves are in the pack?

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry posted the recovery strategy for the Algonquin wolf (EBR 013-1813) on Jan. 15, giving 30 days for additional public input. It is important that trappers, hunters, livestock producers, pet owners and anyone who cares for our wildlife respond to this posting before Feb. 14.

In June 2016, the Eastern wolf was renamed Algonquin Wolf. Its status is threatened.

On Sept. 15, 2016, the Ontario government, to better protect the Algonquin wolf, extended the no-hunting and no-trapping zone to 39 new townships, including Killarney and Burwash.

According to the ministry, this ban is extended to coyotes because the two animals can be easily mistaken for one another.

Now the recovery strategy for the Algonquin wolf is out, which suggests extending the protected areas. This takes in a major part of Ontario. Imagine a straight line from Sault Ste Marie through North Bay to Pembroke down to Bancroft, Peterborough and Barrie.

Using these cities as boundaries, what you see in the middle is the suggested protected area banning hunting and trapping of wolves and coyotes.

Compensation to Ontario livestock producers exceeded $1.5 million in 2015, the cause was predators such as coyotes and wolves. We are now looking at a much higher amount in the years to come.

The moose, deer, elk and beaver populations will diminish drastically due to an increase of predators. It is estimated a wolf eats 22.6 to 33.5 ungulates (referring to any animal with hooves) per year to meet dietary needs.

With this decision of no hunting or trapping of coyotes and wolves, we will be faced with a surplus of apex predators. This will be responsible for a major disturbance in our ecosystem balance.

Up to now, the hunters and trappers controlled the population of canine. Without this control of population, diseases such as mange, which is already a major concern with coyotes, will produce an unhealthy animal.

Weakened by the disease, it might provoke dangerous encounters with humans. Disease control attempts also will cost communities large amounts of money.

If you think this will not affect you, think again. Coyotes love eating cats and dogs.

Pet owners should visit Coyote Watch Ontario on Facebook to see what coyotes are doing to family pets in their own yards or even just taking a walk with their owner.

The 1999 spring bear hunt cancellation is the perfect example of what a regulation change can do. Another example of not managing the wildlife population of a species is the present 388 cases of rabies in raccoons in the south of the province.

Enough is enough. It is time to voice our concerns by email to MNRF EBR 013-1813 site, by fax 705 755 2901 or by mail: Species at Risk Recovery Section, Species Conservation Policy Branch, MNRF, 300 Water St., 5N, Peterborough, Ont. K9J 8M5

Carmen Cotnoir is a trapper in Spanish and northeast vice-president of the Ontario Fur Managers Federation.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • paul February 1, 2018, 3:22 pm

    Another wolf story

    Less than 100 yards from the shore of Trout Lake, a bloody trail leads to a deer attacked and partially eaten by wolves.

    What was once an unusual sight has become a common occurrence, warns Jaden Mills, a trapper who is concerned wolves are taking down deer close to residential areas.

    “It just goes to show you that the wolf population is too high and the deer population is too low in the outer regions of the area,” he says.

    “They’re coming in closer to people’s houses to find food. And because people are feeding the deer, they’re also bringing the wolves in.”

    Mills found the kill while walking on Trout Lake Friday.

    “What’s also concerning is there are many skating rinks on the lake where kids play hockey in the day and at night,” he says.

    “I will be thinking twice about letting my dogs outside by themselves at night.”

    Mills says he’s been a trapper for six or seven years and has never seen so many kills so close to a residential area.

    “You might see a leg or a head, but you would never see the whole deer,” he says.

    “The deer that I saw Friday, the wolves only ate the hind quarter and a little of the throat. If the wolves were starving, they would have eaten the entire thing.”

    Mills believes it would have taken three to five full-grown wolves and maybe a few pups to take down the 250-pound deer.

    Also of concern is the health of the wolves moving into residential areas.

    “We caught one wolf and its stomach and back were all manged. You could tell it had been suffering,” he says, adding that mange disease is passed from one wolf to another when populations are too high.

    “Wolves suffering from the mange disease has skyrocketed in the last two years,” he says.

    Deer hunters south of Lake Nipissing, through to Powassan, Corbeil and Chisholm have expressed concern their quarry is thinning at the same time the wolf population is growing.

    Some say there is more urgency now to track a wounded deer and get it out of the bush quickly as they hear the howling closing in.

    In a letter this week, Carmen Cotnoir, northeast vice-president of the Ontario Fur Managers Federation, warns the Algonquin wolf, previously the eastern wolf, poses a greater threat than bears.

    Cotnoir is urging trappers, hunters, livestock producers and pet owners to voice their concerns to the province’s plan to extend the no-hunting and no-trapping zone for the Algonquin wolf to an area from Sault Ste. Marie to Pembroke and south to Bancroft and Barrie.

    The ban also includes coyotes, because the two animals “can be easily mistaken for one another.”

    The deadline for comments is Feb. 14.

    In his letter, Cotnoir warns that moose, deer, elk, and beaver populations will diminish drastically due to an increase of predators. As well, he predicts mange will spread.

    “If you think this will not affect you, think again. Coyotes love eating cats and dogs, he warns, urging pet owners to visit the Coyote Watch Ontario Facebook page.

    Cotnoir urges people who share his concern to contact the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry by email to MNRF EBR 013-1813 site, by fax 705 755 2901 or by mail: Species at Risk Recovery Section, Species Conservation Policy Branch, MNRF, 300 Water St., 5N, Peterborough, Ont. K9J 8M5.

  • Bob Andrews April 10, 2018, 4:33 pm

    To whom it may concern:

    Again. When it comes to concerns over the controversy with regards to protecting or not protecting the Algonquin Wolf, people need to base their opinions on fact, not greed. Hunters and trappers will be ‘against’ the protection due to their self indulged sense of ‘entitlement’ and wolf lovers and activists will be ‘for it’ due to their beliefs that we all have a duty to protect our environment and all the natural resources within it. I’m not quite sure what side is right or wrong (or if there even is a right or wrong), but based on fact, the decision is simple.
    The fact is, there have been extensive and numerous genetic studies to support the scientific validity that an Algonquin wolf is a distinct species. The ‘wolf’ is probably the most study animal in North America to date. We can questioned the genetic validity of any fauna or flora if we trace its genetic ancestry back far enough. Even people.
    Funny how all the negative, tainted and misleading information is publicised by hunters, trappers and associated organizations though. They support the ‘Hollywood’ portrayal of the wolf being a ‘vicious, blood thirsty monster’ that should be annihilated from existence (or at least until the price of its pelt drops?). And, this makes me wonder wonder? If the price for a wolf, a wolverine or a bear pelt were equivalent to that of beaver and/or muskrat (see Harvesters Auction March and January 2018), would these people feel the same way about this issue? And, as far as ‘the big bad wolf’ eating our big game ungulates, household pets and children goes? The fact is: ‘more aggressive encounters occurred with the family pets and domestic animals (dogs, cats and other miscellaneous critters) each year than there have been attacks on humans from wolves, in last hundred years!’. Also, there is no evidence to support or prove that predation from wolves has caused severe depletion in the ungulate populations under normal and natural circumstances. Isle Royal is an example of the complete opposite taking place.
    Furthermore, ‘more depredation is committed by the coyote as opposed to wolves’. The wolf just gets the blame. Wolves would rather avoid people. The coyote on the other hand, thrives next to or within human populated areas.
    Also to be noted, ‘the coyote got a stronghold on this part of North America because the hunters and trappers killed off all the damn wolves’! Unwarranted fear, human greed and ignorance was the cause of the ‘tainting of the gene-pool’ in wolves in the first place. … So. Maybe we owe them a break or two.
    Personally, as a former hunter/trapper, I try to remain impartial in such political matters. However, when I read and hear all the BS ‘scare tactics’ used to control and pursued a decision that will affect the wolf, our province and the entire world, I cannot feel anything else but compelled to comment. I believe if the bottom dropped out of the price of wolf pelts tomorrow, one would not hear half of what we hear today from the hunters or trappers with regards to wolf protection. They’d be too busy skinning out ‘whatever animal was top dollar that year’ in the fur trade business to even worry about protesting this recovery proposal.
    Perhaps, we should look at the ‘big picture’ and examine all the repercussions that will come with any decision made and maybe the final decision should be based on what is best for the whole, not just the select few.

    Bob Andrews

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