Private Bounties Driving Large Wolf Kills in Alberta: Environmentalists

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Private bounties driving wolf kills: critics

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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. …