"The Demise of the Elk Island Wolf Pack
In 2014, Dan Brown, president of Blackfoot Grazing Association started contacting media and the government claiming 29 animals had been killed or (get this) had gone missing from a pasture in the Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Grazing, Wildlife and Provincial Recreation Area. He believes wolves are largely to blame.
If this first paragraph makes you feel weird, that's because it is. The classic wolf scapegoat language is already being used here.
Alarmingly no one even knew how many wolves there were.. Parks Canada thought maybe 12-15. Brown exaggerated the number to over 25, but Parks Canada new that was not true and told media that there was no way that number was correct. Hence, they knew that they were now dealing with a liar that was embellishing the "wolf problem" and instead of being critical, they announced that they would allow a wolf cull.
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) had celebrated the presence of wolves in and around Elk Island National Park as an indicator of the health and success of protected natural areas in the region, and in response to the news of the culling insisted that efforts should be made to seek a solution that does not involve the elimination of these animals.
Instead, in an attempt to minimize the impact on subsidized livestock being grazed on public land, the Alberta government approved the culling of six wolves by the grazing association themselves, inside the provincial recreation area.
Why were the ranchers allowed to cull these wolves?
And what exactly is a provincial recreation area?
Is this part of the Elk Island National Park?
What are the agreements to use the provincial land for grazing?
What measures are in place to protect the cattle from predators?
I have sent emails to Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) and Environment Sustainable Resources Department (ESRD) asking for more information...
Regardless, the ranchers were given an Alberta Environment and Parks damage control licence... Which leads me to more questions..
What were the specific conditions on this license and how are these conditions held accountable?
How exactly were these wolves killed?
What was the process?
Who oversaw the kill?
How can we be sure that only six wolves were killed?
And of course... Why was the public only notified after the decision had been made?
ESRD of Alberta said they were going to establish a working group.. But that was a lie. CPAWs confirmed that they only spoke to these ranchers. They only catered to this grazing association.
Paul Frame, a carnivore specialist with Alberta Environment admitted: “What happens when the greater Edmonton public hears that we’re killing wolves in a provincial park because of livestock grazing?"
Well, nothing happened and this is why the future of the entire pack was now in deep jeopardy.
Paul Frame then said the words that have haunted me for two years... He told the Edmonton Journal: “We have no idea what killing six wolves is going to do.”
Nonetheless, Dan Brown was still not happy and made it very clear he wanted to kill more.
The Edmonton Journal reported that the first suspected wolf kill occurred at the end of May, but then reported that the cull was not officially approved by the AEP until the beginning of October, which infuriated the ranchers claiming that it took too long to decide what to do and that they couldn't afford to “hum and haw” again.
But wait... What does this mean?
Does this mean that there was an non-approved wolf cull on Provincial land? Wouldn't that be poaching?
And the quote that they "can't afford to hum and haw again", what does this mean?
That the association will not wait for approval to cull wolves in the future?
After this initial information and the allowance of the cull, there was almost no information. It wasn't until I picked up the Fall/Winter 2015 Conservation magazine that I found a sentence stating Delaney Anderson, a Biologist of the AEP, observed late in 2014 that some of the remaining wolves looked sick. Often sick wolves may have mange, which is easily curable, and if the health and numbers of the pack had disintegrated that much since the cull, why was there nothing done to ensure that the last of the pack were protected?
Also how many remained at this point?
Had the cull taken more than six?
Was the alpha wolf killed?
I was shocked when Conservation magazine reported that the AEP could only confirm two wolves still in the area as of March, 2015.
That was a year ago. I approached Alison Ronson of CPAWS after a talk she was doing at the UofA last February. She broke the news to me that the wolves were gone completely.
And for that I wept.
Because I cared about the Elk Island wolf pack.
And killing them, and leaving a remaining disorganized family to die is just not good enough.
- Jordan Wilkie