On March 11th, well before the recent Alberta election, C. McDonald of the Foothills Alliance sent an important and shocking letter to Premier Redford and her minister of Sustainable Resource Development, Frank Oberle, and copied 22 persons and organizations, including Liberal leader Raj Sherman and Wildrose leader Danielle Smith.
Basically, the letter asked if its main recipients were aware “that hundreds of wolves are being shot from helicopters and are being wasted, that your staff are chartering helicopters and are flying around placing strychnine poison baits to kill what wolves they can’t shoot? . . . Are you aware that grizzlies, cougars, wolverines, lynx, coyotes, foxes, eagles and ravens are dying from this poison and are being fed on by other animals, so that the poisoning continues on through the food chain?”
What is more, the letter states that moose are being killed by SRD staff to be wasted as poison baits in what was once one of Alberta’s better moose areas (WMU 353), before fish and wildlife turned it into a wasteland by allowing over hunting of cow moose.
“The bottom line,” the letter says, ”is that wolves are the scapegoat in a toxic game of greed and incompetence. I challenge you to come and see the kill zones for yourselves. They are a beehive of activity as companies extract resources in the core range of the caribou that this charade is all about. Caribou are doomed regardless, so why the continued assault on wolves?”
It is Alberta’s total failure to protect caribou habitat from destruction and fragmentation by non-renewable resource extraction and not wolves that has doomed Alberta’s caribou. The woodland caribou is the second Alberta species to be wiped out in this way.
Ironically, in an attempt to re-establish the first, we have just spent hundreds of thousand of dollars to bring 10 sage grouse to Alberta. Much more than that has been spent on the destruction of — maybe — 500 wolves in West Central Alberta.
Alberta is officially waging an unholy war on wildlife, a holocaust, actually, in the sense of a senseless, shameful, murderous crusade to exterminate a scapegoat. The Foothills Alliance hoped to make this an election issue, but, typically with holocausts, nobody noticed, nobody knew, nobody cared, not even enough to deny it was taking place.
But, five days after the election, on April 28th, one of North America’s largest and most respected conservation organizations, the National Wildlife Federation, godfather to the Canadian Wildlife Federation, blew the whistle and broke the story. It started by telling the part of it that has so often been related to me, of a West Central Alberta trapper who had three of his dogs poisoned by strychnine-laced wolf baits.
“Oil and gas development in Alberta,” the NFA says, has transformed portions of a lush landscape into an industrial wasteland. The resulting habitat loss is pushing several woodland caribou herds to the brink of extinction. . . . To mitigate the caribou loss, wildlife officials have been slaughtering the wolves that prey on caribou, instead of protecting caribou habitat.”
The NFA cites the poison baits, and the helicopter barrages and the collateral poisoning loss of domestic dogs and a wide spectrum of wildlife, then alleges, “what’s worse, to accommodate the further development of Alberta’s tar sands, Alberta officials plan to expand their poisoning and aerial shooting program!”
“Sadly,” the Federation says, our addiction to oil here in the United States makes us complicit in this tragedy, and vows to use it in its opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline which “would carry dirty and dangerous tar sands oil across our nation’s heartland, would further destroy caribou habitat in Alberta, and would put wildlife along the pipeline route in serious jeopardy.”
Are you noticing your unholy war on wildlife, your holocaust, yet, Premier Redford?
You better be, because, this one is going to go “viral” and totally affect and infect your avowed intentions to market our “dirty” oil by pipeline to and through the US.
Only one response makes any sense: immediately ending this senseless, dirty war on wolves and the horrendous holocaust, the collateral kill of even more innocent wildlife. After all, this war just another stupidity of the Stelmach science-ignoring regime.
Much harder, and in the long term, the government must end its own negligence in its duty to protect from the ravages it now permits the resource extraction industry to wreak upon the habitats of the sage grouse and woodland caribou, yes, but also on the habitat, heritage, and environment of all Albertans.
Bob Scammell is an award-winning outdoors writer living in Red Deer.