It’s called the Algonquin wolf but it ranges as far as Algoma

It’s called the Algonquin wolf but it ranges as far as Algoma.

According to a report from the province’s environmental commissioner released Tuesday, these mid-size, threatened wolves extend from “from Peterborough to North Bay, and from Pembroke to Sault Ste. Marie.”

Sudbury lies within that swathe, and DNA sampling done in Killarney Provincial Park in recent years has confirmed the species’ presence there.

It’s even possible the wolf spied this summer on the side of Highway 637 by many Killarney visitors was of the Algonquin variety. That was the theory of at least one wildlife specialist.

But between their small population — there could be as few as 154 adult Algonquin wolves in all of Ontario — and lax rules around their harvest, it’s conceivable they could entirely disappear from the landscape.

“These wolves are precious and endangered,” said Dianne Saxe. “And we shouldn’t be allowing things that kill them.”

The environmental commissioner examined eight subjects in her annual report, titled Good Choices, Bad Choices.

Saxe would certainly include management decisions around the Algonquin wolf in the latter category.

“The very basic principle of the Endangered Species Act is that it’s illegal to kill or harm or harass or destroy the habitat of a threatened or endangered species,” she said. “And that is the Algonquin wolf — but the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has stripped them of protection in much of the area where they live.”

The animal was initially classified as a species of special concern, but last year was upgraded to threatened — just below endangered.

“The best estimates we’ve seen is there are perhaps 250 mature wolves alive in the entire world, and two-thirds of those are in Ontario,” said Saxe.

Yet just a few months after the Algonquin wolf gained more protections under the Endangered Species Act — as well as a new official name; it was previously called the eastern wolf — the province effectively exempted the animal from ESA safeguards, Saxe argues.

“They have provided some protection, in and very close to a few parks (including Killarney),” she said. “But how is the wolf supposed to know that?”

Adult wolves will teach their pups to hunt, and eventually those youngsters will leave the pack to establish their own territories and families. “So they will inevitably stray outside the small protected area, and then they can be killed,” said Saxe. “And a large number of them are being killed.”

An Algonquin wolf is easily confused with a coyote or smaller timber wolf by sight, and a trap “definitely doesn’t know the difference,” noted Saxe.

In Northern Ontario, hunters can bag two wolves per year, while trappers are allowed to catch as many wolves as they want.

Trappers in this area were upset to learn last year that a ban on wolf harvesting was being extended from Killarney Park to a buffer area equally big in size, encompassing Burwash.

A wolf pelt, however, doesn’t fetch much money — the average price for a coyote pelt last year was $49.91, while a wolf hide was $83.50, according to the ECO report — so Saxe contends the overall financial benefit of trapping is minimal.

“The best estimate we had is that, in the entire province, people are making maybe $70,000 in a year,” she said. “A few hundred dollars for a hunter or a trapper in a year, at most.”

Coyotes have become a concern in communities on the edge of Sudbury — Coniston, for instance, has seen plenty in recent years — and farmers worry about them making off with chickens and lambs.

But if Algonquin and timber wolves are also inadvertently killed as part of an effort to reduce coyote pressure — or targeted, for that matter, because they’re just another wolf — this will only exacerbate the problem, according to the commissioner.

“Coyotes have moved in because the wolves have been killed,” said Saxe. “They take advantage of the vacant niche, so killing wolves just means you have more coyotes, and it’s not better for the livestock.”

Levels of livestock predation are relatively low in the area where Algonquin wolves are found, according to her report, and farmers can be compensated for any losses they do experience through a provincial program.

A wolf attack on a person is almost unheard of — former Science North staffer Trisha Wyman was killed by wolves in 1996, but these were captive animals at a Haliburton reserve — and the species plays a key role in maintaining ecosystem equilibrium, the ECO report notes.

Rather than risk losing more Algonquin wolves over a questionable need for wolf harvesting in general, they should be spared from hunting and trapping across the extent of their range, says Saxe, even if that means their non-threatened cousins are also off-limits in the places where they overlap.

“In the area where they predominantly live, they should be protected from harvest,” she said. “This is the only threatened species in Ontario that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry deliberately allows people to kill.”

To read the chapter on Algonquin wolves in the environmental commissioner’s report, visit tinyurl.com/y7cobtsx.

jmoodie@postmedia.com

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • michael boudreau November 28, 2017, 3:44 pm

    Read Mark Downies article on brush wolves or coyotes and this may negate the protection given to these wild dogs. Mark is the general manager of Fur Harvesters in North Bay and is an expert in the field of wolf species.

    • don November 28, 2017, 6:01 pm

      please post Mark’s article so we can read it,Mike

  • don November 28, 2017, 6:02 pm

    please post it here so we can read it , Mike

  • michael boudreau November 29, 2017, 10:42 am

    to Don,Go to newsletter and scroll down to Mark Downey’s comments.

  • Paul November 29, 2017, 7:59 pm

    by Mark Downey, North Bay
    Chief Executive Officer, Fur Harvesters Auction Inc.
    I have been deeply concerned about the direction this ministry has been travelling for some years now as laws are now being based on emotion and driven by special interest and protectionist lobby groups. Ontario’s 2017 Hunting Regulations and our Moose, Deer, Wolves, Bears and the scary direction it’s ALL heading.
    I am a native Canadian being born and raised in Ontario and having made my entire living from this Province’s rich and at one-time well-managed resources.
    In my younger years growing up in Sundridge, the moose season fell on every even year and lasted a week. You bought your moose license and shot a MOOSE. There were plenty of moose and trappers harvested wolves, hunters harvested spring bears and laws were based on science and time-proven management practices. During this time the powers that be were the Ontario Lands and Forests, later changed to Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). Recently renamed Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
    Much has changed over the past two decades within what I once considered Ontario’s flagship ministry, for without our rich resources what does Ontario have to offer?
    I guess I took notice with the cancellation of our spring bear hunt a couple of decades ago. One Robert Shad and his protectionist group lobbied so hard against the Mike Harris government that it caved in and cancelled the hunt. The fallout was unspeakable and those of us that spoke out were quoted as saying “you protect a predator long enough it will lose its fear of humans and become much more than a nuisance”… The biggest predator on calf moose at the time of birth and months after is ADULT MALE BLACK BEARS. This was the only population being hunted in the spring by LAW. Well now the spring bear hunt is back and for the reasons we warned of so many years ago.
    Soon after the cancellation of Ontario’s spring bear hunt 40 Townships abutting Algonquin Park in the 1990`s put a 100% moratorium on WOLF AND COYOTE harvesting. This was to be a trial pilot project and it remains in effect to this day. At the time I had a registered trapline in Boulter Township which was one of the 40 townships commandeered by the MNR and the new regulation driven by emotion and one lone private researcher saying the wolves of Algonquin Park were a separate species. To those of us like-minded outdoorsmen that make our living from the bush and feed our families, we laughed at such a notion. The DINGOS of Australia are a separate species because they live and evolved on an island as do the KIWI of New Zealand. Algonquin Park is NOT an Island and animals are free to go in and out of its fenceless boundary so, therefore, it is IMPOSSIBLE a unique species of anything lives within it.
    Well I gave up my trapline in Boulter Township the moment this moratorium was put in effect mid 90’s as I knew I had lost my ability to LEGALLY manage my trapline and these HYBRID wolves being now protected would wipe out my beaver population before moving on.
    Now just last year this same ministry put moratoriums protecting this HYBRID and coyotes (try to tell the difference) in Killarney and Kawartha Highlands regions shutting down all harvesting of this coyote-wolf HYBRID. The most outrageous regulation was posted just a few months ago by our Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is this Hybrid is now in fact legally named “The Algonquin Wolf”
    The DNA of this predator which has existed and evolved for thousands of years is a coyote-wolf hybrid and often called coy-wolf, Brush wolf, Eastern wolf. The hybrid’s scientific name was until MNR gave it a new one remains Canis Lycaon. It is larger than “Pure” Western Coyotes. It has longer legs, a larger jaw, smaller ears and a bushier tail and red on the back of its ears. Still, the taxonomy is not simple as many biologists are debating this all over North America, as there are DOG genes also involved in various hybrids from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, our MNR biologist leading the charge on protecting this Hybrid is supported and funded by Earth Rangers (Bring back the wild), World Wildlife Fund, The Friends of Algonquin Park, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, W. Garfield Weston Society Canada.
    Princeton University in New Jersey has conducted research that has contradictory findings to the MNRF research. In fact, Princeton states that the Ontario Researchers biased their own findings by not looking at the whole DNA Genome which includes DOG DNA. MNRF never mentions this and takes the road of junk science to forward their agenda.
    Biologists in Manitoba, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and our neighboring states are all calling foul on this matter as the science is questionable at best.
    I am the Chief Executive Officer at Fur Harvesters Auction and have worked here since the early 80`s and I can state with confidence this newly invented HYBRID SPECIES our government has now named is not special nor is it in any danger of going the way of the dodo bird. As it is harvested in the thousands and increasing numbers from all over our region as well as Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Maine, New York State, both of these states have NO WOLVES and yet the same animal is granted export permits and shipped here by US Federal Fish and Wild Life Service for sale ever since 1947 when this auction house was built.
    Keeping in mind wolves and coyotes main prey species during the winter months is moose and deer. In Oct 2009 a19-year-oldd Toronto folk singer was killed by two such animals while hiking in Cape Breton.
    Well since 1991 I have had a Registered Trapline on Nipissing`s West Arm and for years had an MNR assigned beaver quota of 225. By law, I must harvest 75% of this MNR assigned quota or run the risk of being charged and losing my line. I harvest a few wolves and coyotes each year off my line as do all professional trappers in order to properly manage our traplines. My trapline is registered to me by MNR which is located in WMU#42.
    Now to my west is Killarney region and its new wolf moratorium and to the east the Algonquin moratorium and I fear our government`s future plan is to connect them putting myself and a great many others in a position of being unable to manage our traplines. During the past 25 years I have seen the moose tags in WMU#42 go from a very STRONG number to looking at the 2017 Ontario Hunting Regulations today shows WMU#42 being issued two ADULT BULL Tags and ZERO cows. The WMU#47 to the south east has 1 Bull tag and Zero Cow tags for the entire vast region.
    Ontario`s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has been on a crusade to find out what the hell is happening to our once strong provincial wide moose population. Well we are the only jurisdiction in the world as far as I know who promotes a CALF MOOSE HARVEST and have done so for decades now. So this plays a big role in hampering recruitment. We had a 20 plus year ban on spring bear hunting which takes place while all our province`s moose are calving and the ministry’s own biologists attest to this. For 20 plus years the big male Black Bear population was free to grow in great numbers all the while pounding down yearly calf moose recruitment. Ontario went from having one staff predator control officer hired to control wolves in MNR managed deer yards all across Ontario to no deer yard management at all and implementing wolf trapping moratoriums and now taking it upon themselves to make up a new species.
    What really shocks me is our government’s position on ungulate predation as it flies in the face of provinces and territories such as Alberta and NWT who are dealing with shrinking moose and caribou populations by implementing predator culling incentives.
    Ontario`s resources are being managed by emotion and poor science and this ministry’s track record the past 20 years is a direct result of where our moose herd is today. I hate to think about what is ahead of us the next 20 years. Ontario residents pay $55.70 for a calf moose license only then apply to the lottery adult moose draw. All this revenue goes back to the resource and as always it is those depending on the resource and utilizing the resource that are the true conservationists.
    Rather than make thousands of moose hunters pay $55.70 and apply for an outrageous chance at drawing one available adult moose tag for vast WMU`s like 41, 42, 47, and so on, CLOSE THE ENTIRE SEASON AND SHUT DOWN THE MOOSE HARVEST FOR EVERYONE … EVERYONE!!!! Allotting one or two or three tags for WMU`s is a joke and an embarrassment to those of us who care. Let this province`s trappers harvest wolves, hybrids, coyotes and let hunters continue to take a spring bear if they wish. In a few years, our MNR could pound their chest as the crusade is over and our moose herds are back. “As goes the prey goes the predator, as goes the predator goes the prey” OUR MNR HAS LOST ITS BALANCE. Ontario`s rich resources must be managed free of emotion and sketchy science studies funded by special interest groups in order to achieve the balance needed to sustain Ontario`s great diverse resources.
    Mark Downey, North Bay

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