The 1992 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, the document that guides the Yukon government’s wildlife management decisions affecting Yukon wolves, is undergoing review.
An important role of the review committee is to gather input from the public. As members of the public, it is an important role for us to be up to date and well informed on this issue before providing our input.
The current plan recognizes the inherent value of wolves and recognizes them and their prey as integral parts of Yukon’s ecosystems. The plan also identifies the cultural and traditional significance of wolves in the Yukon and states the importance of continuing the ongoing research and monitoring of wolves, their prey and other elements of the ecosystem. The plan, at the time of its creation, attempted to reflect the consensus of all parties involved. It was groundbreaking for its time in that it recognized wolves as integral parts of the ecosystem, and not solely as predators.
Although it was a plan reached by consensus, it was not without contention. The plan states that under certain conditions we will actively control wolf populations to reduce their impact as predators on ungulates such as moose and caribou. During the drafting of the plan, wolf control was a viable option for wildlife management in the Yukon. However, the criteria that had to be met in order for wolf control to be considered were only for using wolf control as a last resort.
Based on the current plan, for wolf-control programs to be considered, an ungulate population must be threatened with local extinction, and declining ungulate populations must lead to the application of conservation measures such as total allowable harvest.
Furthermore, if a wolf reduction program is being considered, biological information about the abundance and status of wolves, ungulates and bears; potential impact of bears as predators; the number of ungulates, wolves and bears killed by people; and the status of ungulate habitat in the area must be collected over a period spanning two hunting seasons with a hunting closure issued in the area.
Over the course of the last 30 years, there have been six wolf-control programs implemented in the Yukon for the recovery of populations of moose and caribou: the Finlayson, Southwest Yukon, Aishihik, Southern Lakes, Fortymile, and Chisana projects.
Several of the programs involved aerial shooting of wolves. While results have varied, in many cases when lethal means have been used, there has been an increase in ungulate survival during the years in which wolf control programs were in effect. However, after wolf control programs ended, wolf populations often rebounded to higher numbers than those pre-control programs.
Other nonlethal methods have been used such as sterilization, predator exclusion as well as enhanced trapping and hunter education. These alternative methods have also produced varying results and have their own ethical and scientific implications involved but they have had some success and may be better methods for long-term management of wolves and their prey.
This is a difficult issue that requires careful contemplation from ethical, cultural, and scientific as well as management perspectives. The goal with this letter is not to sway readers from one side or the other but to encourage readers to become as informed as possible on the subject and to take the time to read through the available material on the subject in depth before formulating an opinion. The issue is very complex and it is important to consider all factors.
The May 6 deadline for comments is quickly approaching. I urge everyone to take a look at the background information on the issue that can be found at www.yfwcm.ca/YukonWolfPlanReview/. The plan and a summary of the plan are available on the website as well as other information that is useful for the review, including information on the past wolf control programs in the Yukon and neighboring regions. Also included are the summaries of Yukon meetings to date.
Yukon Conservation Society