Rare Algonquin wolf's status deteriorates
On June 15, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) announced that Canada's rarest wolf faces a higher risk of extinction than previously thought. Now named 'Algonquin Wolves', after their stronghold population in Algonquin Provincial Park, the wolves were upgraded from Special Concern to Threatened status in Ontario.
In a press released issued by the organization Earthroots, it says that under Ontario's Endangered Species Act, Threatened status affords the wolves and their habitat immediate and automatic protection from harvest. However, the release warns, under existing regulations, the wolves will continue to be killed in unknown numbers in legal wolf/coyote open seasons.
"Outside of Algonquin Park, Algonquin wolves are largely unable to find a mate of their own kind, and more commonly mate with eastern coyotes. This interbreeding makes it impossible to tell the difference between the two animals without a genetic test," said Lesley Sampson of Coyote Watch Canada. "MNRF does not require these tests, and therefore has no idea how many Algonquin wolves are being killed each year. Algonquin wolf recovery requires a government commitment to protect the eastern coyotes they live alongside and are often confused for."
As the last representatives of the once wide ranging Eastern Wolf species, Algonquin wolves have been found infrequently across central Ontario and western Quebec, numbering somewhere between 250 and 1,000 animals. Naïve to the risks associated with humans - hunting, trapping and vehicle collisions - the animals' survival is low outside of protected areas. MNRF's own research shows that without more protection in Ontario, where most of the wolves are found, recovery is virtually impossible.
"Ontario set a terrific conservation precedent when wolf and coyote killing was permanently banned in a buffer zone made up of all townships adjacent to Algonquin Park in 2004," says Hannah Barron of Earthroots. "To recover this rare wolf, hunting and trapping wolves and coyotes must be immediately prohibited beyond the buffer zone, across the full range of Algonquin wolves. They also require a recovery strategy now that their at-risk status has deteriorated."
She notes that the buffer zone had the added benefit of maintaining the genetic integrity of Algonquin wolves, which is diluted when the wolves interbreed with eastern coyotes.
"Collectively, we urge the Honourable Kathryn McGarry, newly appointed Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, to capitalize on the proven success of Algonquin Park's buffer zone," said Sadie Parr of Wolf Awareness. "Expanding the ban on wolf and coyote killing is necessary to safeguard an at-risk keystone species that benefits all Canadians. Wolves increase biodiversity and have many other effects that trickle down through the ecosystem."