Tracking the Issues

By: Dr. Gilbert Proulx

People become wildlife biologists because they love nature.  Many of them love fishing, hunting and trapping.  And most wildlife biologists are curious about natural phenomena.  For wildlife biologists, Canada still is one of the best places to live and enjoy the outdoors.  Wildlife biologist have a pretty good life.  However, in order to protect biodiversity and maintain wilderness areas, wildlife biologists must get involved in socio-economic issues, and some of them are not really pleasant.  This inevitably forces them to deal with controversial issues, notably human-wildlife conflicts. However, wildlife biologists who are dedicated to their profession do not sell out; they do not provide a smoke screen to irresponsible industrial activities, and they rate nature conservation higher than politicians’ agendas.  Wildlife biologists do their best to maintain biodiversity while maintaining a balance between conservation and human activities.

wolf photoWolf – Photo © Gilbert Proulx

The last decade has been tough on wildlife biologists.  We have seen valuable scientific programs cancelled by the past Canadian government under Steven Harper’s “leadership”.  At the provincial level, many fish and wildlife agencies have become public relation offices with politically expedient solutions.  In Alberta, nearly 1,000 wolves have been poisoned, snared and shot over the last 10 years in a “research study” pretending to save woodland caribou.  This is an example of an ill-conceived research study that went against national and international ethics and animal welfare standards (see  In this study, strychnine was used to poison wolves, although this poison cause long painful deaths and is indiscriminate (see ).  Wolves were also killed in neck snares, which are known to be inhumane and non-selective (see

woodland caribouWoodland caribou – Photo © Gilbert Proulx

In Western Canada, killing wolves and coyotes has become the new trend of provincial fish and wildlife agencies.  Furthermore, some municipal governments have brought back predator bounties where people are being paid to kill wolves and coyotes. Even though these bounties are ineffective in resolving livestock depredation problems, they are maintained and cost thousands of dollars to taxpayers.  And these bounties cause unnecessary pain and sufferance to wolves and coyotes, and have the potential to jeopardize conservation programs aimed at maintaining biodiversity and protecting endangered species (see

I hope that 2016 will be a better year for wildlife conservation in Canada.  Hopefully, habitat conservation measures based on field datasets will be implemented to ensure the recovery and persistence of woodland caribou populations (for example –  The same is true for other species at risk, many of which have been ignored in the past.  An elementary principle of animal conservation has always been the retention, protection, and restoration of large connected habitat patches.  If habitat is properly managed, wildlife populations will persist in spite of human activities.  If people are willing to sit down and honestly discuss an issue, win-win solutions will be found to maintain wildlife and its habitats, and improve the welfare of animals.

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