Ontario’s eastern wolves are a species of Special Concern. Scientists estimate that there are fewer than 500 individuals left, so why are they not better protected?
Eastern wolves residing in Algonquin Provincial Park and its adjacent townships have year-round protection from hunting and trapping. But wolves outside of those areas are not so lucky. With the exception of Algonquin Park, trappers are permitted to harvest eastern wolves in all provincial parks and conservation reserves.
Hybridization with coyotes also threatens the wolves. And since eastern wolves can only be distinguished from eastern coyotes through genetic analysis, hunters targeting coyotes can unwittingly kill wolves instead.
Credit: Mary Theberge
Given the threats this species at risk faces, why does the killing continue?
This year, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) recommended that the Minister of Environment up list eastern wolves to Threatened. Under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), this change in their legal status would require the release of a ‘recovery strategy’ within 2 years.
In response to the growing backlog of species waiting to be listed by the Minister, Environment Canada published a realistic timeline for the release of overdue management and recovery strategies. Unless the incoming Minister of Environment is better able to address the at-risk dilemma, we should not expect the release of the mandated ‘management plan’ until 2017 – a staggering 9 years late. If the management plan is 9 years late, how late will a recovery plan be?
The silver lining on this cloud is that the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO) will assess the eastern wolf during their winter meeting on December 9, 2015. Hopefully, COSSARO’s assessment will lead to protective measures.
In the meantime, what fate awaits other species whose listing status changes during the time it takes for the Canadian government to address the growing number of species at risk?
When it comes to wildlife at risk, we do not have the luxury of time to waste.