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Slaughtering Wolves in Canada: A New Essay Shows Just How Unscientific, Unethical, and Inhumane These Studies Are

02/18/2015 05:30 pm ET | Updated Apr 20, 2015

Many people, including myself, have written about the egregious killing of 890 wolves by the Canadian government "in the name of science" to attempt to recover threatened woodland caribou (please see "Researchers Kill 890 Wolves to Learn About Them: There's Something Very Wrong" and "On Killing Wolves and Other Animals: Should Only Trained Ethicists Weigh In?"). The heinous killing didn't work. And, there is on reason why one should have expected it to work (please see "Human-Driven Extraction Has Doomed Caribou. So Why Are Wolves Paying Deadly Price?" by Andrea Germanos).

As I wrote previously, the original "research" was published in the Canadian Journal of Zoology (CJZ) by Dave Hervieux, Mark Hebblewhite, Dave Stepnisky, Michelle Bacon and Stan Boutin in an essay titled "Managing wolves (Canis lupus) to recover threatened woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Alberta" that "presented the outcome of an 'experiment' in mass killing in which 890 Canadian wolves suffered and died using aerial gunning, trapping and poisoning with strychnine. The strychnine also killed other animals who were not part of the study. Minimum 'collateral damage' that was deemed acceptable by the researchers and the CJZ included the following animals presumed to be killed by the strychnine: 91 ravens, 36 coyotes, 31 foxes, 4 marten, 3 lynx, 2 weasels and 2 fishers. (For more on how wolves are highly stressed when hunted, please see 'Wolves: Hunting Affects Stress, Reproduction and Sociality.')"

Numerous people worldwide were appalled by this experiment that didn't work, and now a team of highly respected scientists has formally responded to this gruesome killing spree. In a paper just published today (Feb. 11, 2015) called "Maintaining Ethical Standards during Conservation Crises," by Ryan K. Brook, Marc Cattet, Chris T. Darimont, Paul C. Paquet, and Gilbert Proulx in the journal Canadian Wildlife Biology & Management, these scientists write:

"Hervieux et al. (2014a) employed lethal methods that included shooting a firearm from a helicopter and the use of strychnine baits. Both of these methods raise critical questions with regard to animal welfare. When it is necessary to kill an animal, reliable humane procedures must be used to avoid pain or distress, and produce rapid loss of consciousness until death occurs. Also relevant are formal approvals by government and institutional animal ethics committees that adhere to Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) guidelines. Shooting a moving animal from a helicopter is prone to error and not conducive to shots that quickly render animals insensitive to pain or produce a consistently quick kill. Strychnine does not meet the CCAC's criteria for an acceptable killing method, and is specifically prohibited as an injectable option for euthanizing animals. Its use under uncontrolled conditions at bait sites is likely even less suitable."

In addition to these and other reasons why the "research" should never have been done, because CCAC guidelines were not followed, these scientists also question why the original essay was published in the first place.

The entire response by Dr. Brook and his colleagues is online and highly recommended. Let's hope that the killing of more wolves is not forthcoming. It is disheartening that there already are plans to kill more wolves supposedly to try to save caribou, and many are deeply concerned and working to stop this unnecessary slaughter (please see "Wolf Slaughter Canadian Style Continues as if It's Conservation: Let's Stop It Now" and links therein).