The Yukon government has extended public consultation for its revamped wolf management plan.
Residents now have until September 30 to provide feedback. The original deadline passed on Wednesday.
The Yukon Conservation Society had urged the government to give more time, noting that many residents are away during the summer months.
Conservationists worry that beneath the plan’s “touchy feely” descriptions of the importance of wolves, there’s ambiguity that “would be open to abuse,” said Karen Baltgailis, the conservation society’s executive director.
The new plan condemns aerial hunting of wolves as pricey and ineffective. But it actually makes it easier for the government to use this method of wolf control, by allowing the Environment minister to authorize the shooting of wolves from helicopters “in cases of an emergency.”
By comparison, the existing plan, prepared in 1992, requires the territory to spend two years collecting information on the state of wolves and large mammals before authorizing an aerial hunt.
And, while the old plan allowed wolf culls when moose and sheep populations appeared precariously low, the new plan authorizes such measures simply to ensure hunting opportunities. Baltgailis fears this is a “fundamentally different” approach.
“Are we willing to have wolf control programs in order to increase the amount of human hunting available? Or are we willing to live within the biological limits of Yukon ecosystems?” asked Baltgailis.
Rather than blame wolves for slumping numbers of big game, Yukoners should look at the encroachment of roads, development and hunters into the wilderness, she said.
Baltgailis proposes that hunting in some areas should be restricted to local residents, and off-limits to Whitehorse hunters, whom she calls “another major predator.”
There are approximately 4,500 wolves in the Yukon, spread across two-thirds of the territory’s landmass. Their population is considered to be healthy and stable by government biologists.
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