Alberta proves deadly for wolves

  • Canada wolves

    Monty Sloan, National Park Service
  Though the wolf population in northern Canada is strong, southwestern Alberta - with ranch land bordering on wilderness - is becoming a killing ground for wolves. Biologists on both sides of the border fear that if the open shooting season there continues, the 100 or so wolves that have migrated on their own into western Montana could eventually be cut off from Canadian populations. That could drive the wolves in the United States into biological isolation.

Alberta hunters don't need a license to shoot as many wolves as they want for nine months out of the year, and landowners can kill wolves within five miles of their property year-round.

Kevin Van Tighem, a biologist for Waterton National Park just north of the U.S. border, says that over the last 12 months biologists recorded 44 wolves killed by humans in southwestern Alberta - almost the entire estimated population for the region. Provincial wildlife manager Richard Quinlan says the government wants to maintain 50 wolves in the area, but he acknowledges that is impossible without placing limits on hunting.

"We're either going to have to change our management or change our goal," says Quinlan. However, the province has yet to propose a hunting season or limit.

The result, says Van Tighem, is clear: "Wolves try and try to establish themselves but just keep getting knocked back." - Ben Long

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