The Advocate’s article on the Smokey River caribou fiasco recently was very timely. I commented in it and would like to expand upon it. The program has all the appearance of either science gone mad or being corrupted by industry and government.
The herd is in decline, there is no doubt about it and the question that must be asked is: why? Instead of actually investigating and identifying the problems, the government chose to use data from other herds in different areas and ecosystems and extrapolated it onto the tiny isolated herd at Smokey river.
This was a deadly mistake and has wasted nine years of recovery time for the caribou and inflicted needless death on countless animals and birds and produced a possible increase of one and a half calves per year. Blindly blaming wolves for the decline has allowed industry to continue clear-cutting and drilling and has pacified the public at a cost of well over $1 million. Now the caribou have no uncompromised habitat left.
During this nine years, they have shot and poisoned at least 1,000 wolves and countless non-targets, no one knows because all the victims are never found. Once strychnine is in an ecosystem, it is out of control and cannot be traced accurately. Both black and grizzly bears are rumoured to have died after snow melt, as I predicted would happen.
Does government know? They can’t even agree on a figure to publicize among themselves.
Many wolves can escape from helicopter gunning wounded and die later. Non-target birds and animals and wolves also escape immediate strychnine poisoning and are not found, but as an indicator, 91 poisoned ravens have been verified. Then there are the 200-plus moose and elk shot from a helicopter to use as bait. One set of figures indicated two moose were shot for every wolf poisoned … that’s efficiency.
Why are the caribou declining if wolves are not to blame? I would guess it’s caused by a combination of things but likely because they have no habitat left intact by industry and also there are other predators involved.
Bears are notorious for preying on ungulate calves. There shouldn’t be many wolves around during calving after being poisoned and shot all winter and the predation rate on adult females is about the same now as nine years ago.
Accurate numbers are hard to come up with because the sample size is so small, but one thing is certain: doing the same thing over and over for nine years and getting basically nothing for results tells me it’s not working. When you don’t even know the cause of death of a single calf in nine years, it’s no wonder your program is a total bust and you better get back to basics.
Not to worry though, we are now headed into another “save the caribou” merry-go-round with government and industry plotting on how to continue clear-cutting and drilling and at the same time save the caribou and pacify the public. Who will be the fall guy this time?
The frightening part is this nonsense may BS its way along supported by industry and government and set a precedence for other herds of caribou in Alberta and across Canada. We, the caribou and countless other species will all lose — big time — just as we are now.
Rocky Mountain House