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 with Rob Miskosky

Rebuffing the Buffer Zone

The “Hunting notices and updates” section of Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) website has, at the top of its list, a headline that has many in Ontario up in arms. The headline states, “New wolf and coyote closed seasons” and then goes on to say, “September 15, 2016: New hunting and trapping season closures for wolf and coyote are now in place in three additional core areas where Algonquin Wolf is known to occur.” The notice then goes on to list 40 townships where the closure is in effect.

The eastern wolf, listed as special concern in 2008, was renamed the Algonquin Wolf and re-classified as threatened on June 15, 2016 by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The Algonquin wolf renaming was simply due to its main population existing within Algonquin Provincial Park.

But just what is an Algonquin wolf?

Unlike the several thousand gray wolves that roam Alberta’s countryside, the Algonquin wolf is nearly as much coyote as it is wolf.

Surely the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, spanning 10,878 km2, doesn’t need to be any larger. - Royalbroil photo
A recent scientific paper—“Whole-genome sequence analysis shows that two endemic species of North American wolf are admixtures of the coyote and gray wolf”—suggests, “Algonquin wolves have about 32% coyote ancestry, and Quebec wolves more than 50%.” The paper concluded that neither the red wolf nor the eastern wolf is a species; rather, they suggest that both are hybrid populations. In fact, the DNA study confirmed that the red wolf was 75% coyote.

In 2004, a buffer zone was implemented around Algonquin Provincial Park that banned the killing of eastern wolves and coyotes in 39 townships. Apparently, it’s difficult to tell the difference between an Algonquin wolf and a coyote. According to the MNRF (2016), “It’s difficult to distinguish the Algonquin Wolf from other species. Because of this, we are prohibiting hunting and trapping of wolves and coyotes in the core Algonquin Wolf occurrence areas.” (Another 40 townships.)

I guess the Algonquin wolf is little more than a big coyote.

According to our “save the wolf” friends, Wolf Awareness Inc., “Thanks to scientific research and public pressure, the ban was imposed and has proven to be a model for protected areas in North America, with biologists from Yellowstone as well as the Canadian Mountain National Parks recognizing the need to follow suit.”

In April of this year, the Edmonton Journal published an article titled, “Protecting Jasper’s wolves demands no-trapping buffer zone along national park’s boundary.” The article went on to say, “The notion of establishing a protective buffer zone around Jasper National Park is not new, but today’s need is all the more urgent because several rural counties, livestock groups and hunting clubs are paying a bounty of $100 to $500 on dead wolves.”

The author, independent wildlife ecologist Dick Dekker also suggests, “... a protective zone of several kilometres wide at strategic spots, such as the end of the Athabasca River valley, seems to be an idea for which the time has come.”

The argument is that Jasper National Park (JNP) isn’t big enough to protect the wolves living there and because of this, the park should be expanded. My question is then; do not wolves living outside of JNP enter that park’s boundaries? If wolves that reside inside national parks don’t recognize park boundaries, the same should hold true for those outside of the parks. Which should make for a never-ending cascade of wolves in JNP.

Unless, of course, the assumption is that there are no wolves near park boundaries because hunters and trappers have killed them all?

If that is indeed the assumption, well...

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