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November 16, 2011

HSI Canada Condemns Proposed Massive Cull of Wolves in Alberta’s Oil Sands Area

Humane Society International/Canada

  • A massive cull of wolves could be tragic to Alberta's ecosystem. HSI

MONTREAL — Humane Society International/Canada condemns Environment Minister Peter Kent’s cynical proposal of a massive cull of wolves in northern Alberta, in response to the decline of perilous herds of woodland caribou in the oil sands area.

“The decline of woodland caribou is largely attributed to the destruction of their natural habitat because of the expansion of the oil sands and other industrial development,” said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International/Canada. “Instead of taking the steps needed to reduce the impacts of human development on caribou populations, the Minister is calling for a pointless cull of thousands of wolves. Such a cull would distract public attention from the real causes of caribou decline and may well impact the area’s ecosystem in unpredictable and undesirable ways.”

HSI Canada calls on Environment Canada to develop a comprehensive proposal to sustain caribou populations in northern Alberta that includes appropriate investment by oil companies and government in non-lethal methods to mitigate the negative impacts of industrial development on caribou.


  • Over the past five years, the Alberta government has spent more than $1 million to kill (with strychnine poisoning or by shooting from the air) more than 500 wolves in the Little Smoky Region of northwest Alberta in a misguided attempt to save woodland caribou.[1]
  • According to the Alberta Caribou Committee, there are three of Alberta’s 18 herds that face immediate risk of disappearing due loss of habitat. Six are in decline, three are stable, and not enough is known for the remaining six, but scientists believe they are also in decline.[2]
  • Interaction with humans and exposure to large-scale industry, rather than wolf predation, is the main factor causing elevated stress levels and poor nutrition in caribou.[3]
  • While wolves consume a combination of deer, moose and caribou, they show a clear preference for deer and, as a result, spend more time in deer habitat than in that favoured by caribou. Moreover, wolves favour moose over caribou by a more than two-to-one margin, with caribou coming in a distant third.[4]
  • Reducing wolf populations could lead to an increase in deer populations, posing more ecological problems in the region.[5]
  • Despite the decline of woodland caribou in northwest Alberta, the Canadian government has failed to provide them with adequate protection by listing their habitat as critical.

 1. Struizik, Ed. (Oct 27, 2011). Killing Wolves: A Product of Alberta’s Big Oil and Gas Boom. Yale Environment 360. http://e360.yale.edu/feature/alberta_canada_energy_boom_places_wolves_in_the_crosshairs/2459/
 2. Alberta Caribou Committee. 2008. Annual Population Data of Woodland Caribou Herds/Range of Herds: 2007-2008. http://www.albertacariboucommittee.ca/cariboudata/2007-2008.pdf

 3. Samuel K Wasser, Jonah L Keim, Mark L Taper, and Subhash R Lele. 2011. The influences of wolf predation, habitat loss, and human activity on caribou and moose in the Alberta oil sands. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (e-View) doi:10.1890/100071
 4. ibid
 5, ibid


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Humane Society International/Canada is a leading force for animal protection, representing tens of thousands of members and constituents across the country. HSI Canada has active programs in companion animals, wildlife and habitat protection, marine mammal preservation and farm animal welfare. HSI Canada is proud to be a part of Humane Society International, one of the largest animal protection organizations in the world, with more than 11 million members and constituents globally. On the Web at hsicanada.ca.

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