Culling Wolves Will Not Save Caribou


Caribou herds in Alberta and parts of British Columbia are nearing extinction. Environment Canada has unveiled a new plan to rebuild the dwindling herds in Alberta’s tar sands region. The primary suggestion is to cull their predators, the wolves.

Environment Minister Peter Kent’s remarks have been widely quoted: “Culling is an accepted if regrettable scientific practice and means of controlling populations and attempting to balance what civilization has developed. I’ve got to admit, it troubles me that that’s what is necessary to protect this species.”

As part of its attempt to rebuild the caribou population, Environment Canada will also allow more hunting of the deer and moose that share the habitat. But it is the proposed wolf cull that is causing the most controversy. Reporting in The Canadian Press, Heather Scoffield wrote:  ”Environment Canada’s research shows that 100 wolves would need to die for every four caribou calves saved.”

This comes on the heels of news that British Columbia is allowing ranchers and First Nations communities in the province’s Cariboo region to kill wolves that might attack livestock. Once again, wolves will pay the price for problems caused by humans.

Wolf Kills Instead of Environmental Stewardship

The tar sands are the most recent, and most visible, cause of the habitat destruction that has led to loss of caribou. The area has been logged, mined, scraped and fracked into an environmental disaster that can no longer support the wildlife populations that once thrived there. The Raincoast Conservation Foundation’s Paul Paquet writes in The Guardian:

“Egged on by a rapacious oil industry, the federal government has chosen to scapegoat wolves for the decline of boreal caribou in a morally and scientifically bankrupt attempt to protect Canada’s industrial sacred cow: the tar sands. Yet, the ultimate reason why the caribou are on the way out is because multiple human disturbances – most pressingly, the tar sands development – have altered their habitat into a landscape that can no longer provide the food, cover and security they need.”

Here we go again. Instead of addressing our endless destruction of the environment, the Canadian government proposes killing wolves. They will likely do so willy-nilly, shooting and poisoning thousands in a vain attempt to slow caribou losses. Paquet points out,

“Lethal control has a well documented failed record of success as a means of depressing numbers of wolves over time. Killing wolves indiscriminately at levels sufficient to suppress populations disrupts pack social structure and upsets the stability of established territories, allowing more wolves to breed while promoting the immigration of wolves from nearby populations.”

Killing Predators Won’t Restore Caribou Habitat

The Canadian Wolf Coalition points out that “Caribou depend on old-growth forests for food (lichen) as well as to avoid predators. One predator avoidance strategy used by caribou requires living in the deep interior of the forest. In winter months the snow is often too deep for predators, especially at higher elevations, but caribou use their large hooves to travel. Caribou also live spread out over large areas to avoid encounters with predators.”

Killing wolves will not bring back the habitat destroyed by two-legged predators. The Canadian Wolf Coalition also says, “Logging destroys caribou habitat directly. New roads, pipelines, snowmobiling and backcountry skiing are larger problems than they appear to be, as they create snow-packed pathways that lead predators into caribou habitat in territory predators could not have accessed in the past.”

Human activity in Alberta and northern B.C. has disrupted everything nature teaches caribou about finding food, breeding and hiding from predators. Environment Canada’s plan proposes the sacrifice of wolves, moose and deer in a vain attempt to stop the loss of caribou. What they should be doing is proposing an environmental strategy to stop the destruction of this corner of the planet.

Related Care2 Stories

British Columbia Joins War on Wolves

Loss of Top Predators Is “Humankind’s Most Pervasive Influence on Nature”

Canadian Government Says Emissions from Tar Sands Could Double

Wolf Photo from US Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species via Flickr Creative Commons; Moose photograph by Robin Jarman, used with permission; Caribou photograph by Cathryn Wellner

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Duane B.
.2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Vanessa Wolfe
Vanessa Wolfe2 years ago

Rosemary L. Thank you for the links I will be following through on all.

Vanessa Wolfe
Vanessa Wolfe2 years ago

How do these idiots get into Office in the first place? This is insanity.

Rosemary Lowe

Once again, the real problem (for those of us who want to save native wildlife populations), is The Livestock Industry, whether it be in Canada or the western U.S.
People who care about remaining wildlife populations need to understand that the Livestock Industry and the Hunting Industry are usually working together: that ranchers are very often hunters and vice versa. No wild animals will be safe until we bring the Livestock Industry to its knees.
Here are some things to do: go to Care 2 and search "public lands ranching" and sign the petition (and please get this out on your networks, facebook, etc. Please spread the word--there are some dedicated groups out there who need your help, to stop the environmentally destructive Livestock Industry assault on native wildlife and their habitat.

Also: go to;; &, for some good information on predator control, livestock grazing issues, and the environmental impacts of both.

Finally, a plant-based diet will certainly help decrease the power of this terrible industry.

Antje F.
a f.3 years ago

Killing wolves because 'THEY MIGHT" kill livestock ? If you don't graze livestock in caribou or elk areas, then livestock will not be at risk. Did you ever think that grazing livestock in those areas is what IS REDUCING THE CARIBOU, ELK, or MOOSE ? And since WHEN is killing 100 wolves to save 4 caribou calves justified ? Legislators don't have a CLUE to the understanding of wildlife MANAGEMENT except for the MONEY from HUNTERS and CATTLEMEN. CULL wolves now, then you complain that the "too many" deer are eating up the countryside ! Listen to the specialists who have the scientific knowledge to manage wildlife the right way.

Antje F.
a f.3 years ago

And how many people even know that grizzlies ALSO kill caribou calves for food ? Bears do eat meat you know.

Antje F.
a f.3 years ago

And how many people even know that grizzlies ALSO kill caribou calves for food ? Bears do eat meat you know.

Antje F.
a f.3 years ago

The overgrazing of certain areas , lack of habitat/range in large tracts, and human encroachment has ALL contributed to reduced herds of caribou and elk. THERE ARE NOT TOO MANY WOLVES !!! There ARE too many PEOPLE !!! Maybe we should cull them instead, then the herds of caribou, deer and elk can get back to normal !

Kimberly McMahen
Kimberly McMahen3 years ago

“Life is as dear to the mute creature as it is to a man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not to die, so do other creatures.”
~ His Holiness The Dalai Lama

federico bortoletto

Grazie delle notizie.