Conservationists warn that private bounties are driving large wolf kills in Alberta


EDMONTON – Conservationists are warning that privately funded bounties for killing wolves are shifting control over Alberta’s wildlife management to special interest groups.

The Alberta Wilderness Association has compiled data showing that “harvest incentives” offered by northern municipal districts and hunting and trapping groups are encouraging an increasing and unregulated number of wolf kills.

The Alberta government says the province has plenty of wolves and doesn’t believe the private bounties are a concern. The Alberta Fish and Game Association says wolves are a growing threat to livestock and popular big-game animals.

Others say the bounties are leading to unselective killing because animals from moose to grizzly bears also are strangled in snares set for wolves.

Carolyn Campbell of the wilderness association says the bounties — which can be three times the value of a wolf pelt — are an ineffective response to the predators and represent an old-fashioned and unethical approach to wildlife.

“Albertans want a more responsible, modern relationship with wildlife that recognizes that wolves have a value and shouldn’t just be shot on sight,” she said Wednesday. “It’s just unethical, as well as it doesn’t address the problem of livestock predation.

“We should be managing wolves based on science and not for the pleasure of special interest groups.”

Starting in about 2010, several municipal districts in Alberta began offering bounties for wolf carcasses killed on private land. Those districts now include Big Lakes, Clear Hills, Bonnyville, St. Paul and Two Hills.

The bounties range between $15 and $300 per wolf. Figures compiled by the wilderness association suggest at least 524 wolves have been killed since 2010, although the group hasn’t been able to get numbers from all districts.

At least $166,000 has been paid in bounties.

In addition, two branches of the Alberta Fish and Game Association and some branches of the Alberta Trappers Association offer a $300 bounty.

“Wolf predation on farm animals and wild animals is increasing at a high rate,” said fish and game president Gordon Poirier.

The packs are doing well after several years of good deer numbers, he said.

“The wolves are smiling and happy and fat.”

But this year’s tough winter has them turning to other food sources, including popular big-game targets such as moose and elk, Poirier said. Fish and game members don’t like the competition.

“They want less wolves, more animals left on the ground — elk, primarily.”

Although she supports eliminating wolves that develop a taste for livestock, Campbell said there’s no scientific evidence that killing them reduces predation.

Provincial biologists back her.

“Public bounties’ effectiveness at reducing wolf populations is doubtful despite many thousands of wolves killed in North America in the 20th century,” Mark Heckbert, a fish and wildlife manager, wrote in a 2010 letter to the Municipal District of Big Lakes.

“Where large tracts of land function as reservoirs for wolf populations, bounties can be expected to be ineffective.”

Encouraging trappers to target wolves sometimes harms the very animals they are trying to protect, said Dwight Rodtka, a recently retired provincial wildlife official and member of the Rocky Mountain House Fish and Game Association.

He said that too often large piles of animal carcasses are heaped in the bush and surrounded by up to 100 snares. Everything that comes by gets snagged.

“They wind up catching all kinds of non-target animals — moose and deer and elk and wild horses and cougars,” he said.

“Eagles have been caught. It’s whatever animal wanders down the game trail.”

Alberta Environment doesn’t control wolf hunting and leaves it open to anyone with an in-season big-game tag. The department doesn’t keep records of wolves hunted or trapped on private land.

“We do not believe that localized private wolf harvest incentive or bounty programs pose a significant risk to the provincial wolf population, so long as wolves are removed according to existing regulations,” said spokeswoman Nikki Booth.

However, the fish and game association’s request for a provincewide wolf bounty is unlikely to be granted.

“There are no plans to develop a provincial wolf bounty program,” Booth said in an email.

Rodtka said wolves are paying the price for problems rooted elsewhere, especially in the shrinking habitat that industrial development leaves for game animals.

“They’re scapegoating wolves,” he said. “Wolves are easy to blame.”

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Conservationists warn that private bounties are driving large wolf kills in Alberta

  1. I’m disappointed in the Canadian policy makers for allowing this savagery to happen. This shows a total lack of conservation programs and environmental awareness.

  2. Dwight Rodtka is a trapper that has killed wolves and collected a bounty for them. What a hypocrite ! Ask him about catching eagles how does he know about that ? Is it when he set his snares to close to the bait that he accidentally caught a eagle ? Wolf Snares are 16 inches off of the ground in the thick timber, pretty hard to catch a horse of a moose if you do it right.

    I am a trapper and I am all for hunting and trapping wolves as long as it is legal. I am also a conservationist. Wolves die a cruel death when they over populate an area. I have seen these hairless, skinny, disillusioned wolves that are freezing to death. Crowded animals are more vulnerable to disease Its much better to keep the wolf numbers in check I think.

    A fact that I would like to correct in this article is that we don’t catch grizzly bears in snares we trap wolves in the winter after the bears have went to sleep and we pull the snares before the bears wake up.

    Last summer we packed the family into the Blackstone FLUZ zone with horses and stayed for 2 weeks We did not see a Elk of Moose where there should have been plenty of them. Nor did we see any sign of ungulate’s I think the wolfs have moved out of the back country and closer to populated areas because that’s where the food is.

    • Having listened to Dwight Rodtka on this issue, I can say he never made any secret of how he comes to know the subject so well. While I cannot say what is in his heart, he certainly would not be the first trapper or hunter to have a change of heart in facing crulity his actions bring upon wildlife. Often in effort to change their mark on the world they make most effective advocates.

  3. Now i ain’t no blouse wearing poodle walking kinda guy but yep I think I like my dogs company better than most people and the things i like best about my dog come from the wolf, and man it’s been treated bad. So i do get pis*** when the wannerbe -wolfers get going banging there drumabout how we got to kill them wolves – makin up bunch of wolf sightings like we in a Dr Seuss book, just so they get their kicks. I have got many hours logged in the bush and only once, when hunting i standing against a tree and a wolf passed three feet infront of me. (yeh, now see that story b/s just like 99% of them you hear).What was it that “outdoorsman” peice said – something like’ we gotta kill them wolves befor they kill another like the guy in northern sask mining town.’ Anyone who knows anything about wolves knows a normal wolves are petrified of us.More like the tourists feeding rice cakes to the wolves on HWY 93. those guys up north likely feeding em donuts then they not acting like a wolf.
    what gets me about all this “crying wolf” – is once the killing starts – theres no reigning it in. Theres some guys get darn right worked up in squirmy thinking on recipes for traps and methods of kill. (Hey, there trapper man who posted comment about Dwight. I don’t know for sure, but pretty darn sure you got the wrong man. I think you got Dwight confused with his bro – he is the trapper names Doug , Deetter something like that.) Anyway some of these wanner-be wolfers think they f****** Wyatt Erp but they creepy dudes, aint a hunter too me, and some of us aint happy about being made to look bad. Like the kind guy that squirrles would laugh at if he were’nt carrying a gun – and they know it! I am proud we still got our wolves when most of the planet don’t. AND man o man we can do better by the wolf than the Americans – killing their wolves, and then we let em come up here and kill our wolves. I shake my head. We never should have given any wolves when they don’t know how to care for em.Now that makes me wanna kick some ass! I say have some respect and just leave the wolves alone man.
    I aint no lily-liberal candy striper…but when you start cruel wolf talkin makes me want to go join those gals ‘marchin for wolf protection’. Some them girls are foxes too! but then I would have to drink herbal tea with em. No.- better stick with my dogs company.

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