27 OCT 2011: REPORT
The development of the tar sands and other oil and gas fields in Alberta has carved up the Canadian province's boreal forest, threatening herds of woodland caribou. But rather than protect caribou habitat, officials have taken a controversial step: the large-scale killing of the wolves that prey on the caribou.
In the spring of 1995, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service captured several wolves from west central Alberta and set them loose the next year in Yellowstone National Park, hoping they would fill in the missing link in the park’s complex system of predator-prey relationships.
Wolves hadn’t been seen in Yellowstone in 70 years. Beyond anyone’s wildest expectations, and despite fierce opposition of some local ranchers and hunters, these and other wolves brought in from Alberta and British Columbia adjusted extremely well. Today, 11 packs, with nearly 100 wolves, are thriving in Yellowstone.
The fortunes of wolves in west central Alberta, however, have moved in a completely different direction. Over the past five years, the government of Alberta has spent more than $1 million poisoning wolves with strychnine and shooting them from the air. In all, more than 500 wolves in the Little Smoky River region have been destroyed in a controversial effort to save woodland caribou, whose numbers have plummeted as the oil, gas, and logging industries have increasingly carved up Alberta’s boreal forest in recent decades.
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