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Killing Canadian Wolves Violated Accepted Welfare Guidelines

Scientists show why killing Canadian wolves should never have been allowed.

Many people, including myself, have written about the egregious murder of 890 wolves by the Canadian government "in the name of science" to attempt to recover threatened woodland caribou (please see "Killing 890 Wolves to Learn About Them: Something's Wrong" and "On Killing Wolves: Should Only Trained Ethicists Weigh In?"). The heinous killing didn't work. And, there is no reason why one should have expected it to work (please see "Human-Driven Extraction Has Doomed Caribou. So Why Are Wolves Paying Deadly Price? by Andrea Germanos).

The original "research" was published in the Canadian Journal of Zoology (CJZ) by Dave Hervieux, Mark Hebblewhite, Dave Stepnisky, Michelle Bacon, and Stan Boutin in an essay titled "Managing wolves (Canis lupus) to recover threatened woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Alberta" that presented the outcome of an "experiment" in mass killing in which 890 Canadian wolves suffered and died using aerial gunning, trapping, and poisoning with strychnine. The strychnine also killed other animals who were not part of the study. Minimum "collateral damage" that was deemed acceptable by the researchers and the CJZ included the following animals presumed to be killed by the strychnine: 91 ravens, 36 coyotes, 31 foxes, four marten, three lynx, two weasels, and two fishera. (For more on how wolves are highly stressed when hunted please see "Wolves: Hunting Affects Stress, Reproduction and Sociality.")

Numerous people worldwide were appalled by this experiment that didn't work, and now a team of highly respected scientists has formally responded to this gruesome killing spree. In a paper just published today called "Maintaining Ethical Standards during Conservation Crises," by Ryan K. Brook, Marc Cattet, Chris T. Darimont, Paul C. Paquet, and Gilbert Proulx in the journal Canadian Wildlife Biology & Management, these scientists write, "Hervieux et al. (2014a) employed lethal methods that included shooting a firearm from a helicopter and the use of strychnine baits. Both of these methods raise critical questions with regard to animal welfare. When it is necessary to kill an animal, reliable humane procedures must be used to avoid pain or distress, and produce rapid loss of consciousness until death occurs. Also relevant are formal approvals by government and institutional animal ethics committees that adhere to Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) guidelines. Shooting a moving animal from a helicopter is prone to error and not conducive to shots that quickly render animals insensitive to pain or produce a consistently quick kill. Strychnine does not meet the CCAC’s criteria for an acceptable killing method, and is specifically prohibited as an injectable option for euthanizing animals. Its use under uncontrolled conditions at bait sites is likely even less suitable."

In addition to these and other reasons why the "research" should never have been done, because CCAC guidelines were not followed, these scientists also question why the original essay was published in the first place.

The entire response by Dr. Brook and his colleagues is online and highly recommended. Let's hope that the reprehensible slaughter of more wolves is not forthcoming. It is disheartening that there already are plans to kill more wolves supposedly to try to save caribou, and many are deeply concerned and working to stop this unnecessary slaughter (please see "Wolf Murder Canadian Style Continues as if It's Conservation" and links therein).

The teaser image can be seen here.

Marc Bekoff's latest books are Jasper's story: Saving moon bears (with Jill Robinson), Ignoring nature no more: The case for compassionate conservation, Why dogs hump and bees get depressed, and Rewilding our hearts: Building pathways of compassion and coexistence. The Jane effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall (edited with Dale Peterson) has recently been published. (; @MarcBekoff)