Photo: Ontario -- one foot forward into the future, one foot back to settler days

(Credit: USFWS via Flickr)

By Rachel Plotkin, Ontario Science Projects Manager

The world's current contradictions are at once exhilarating and heartbreaking. I'm gladdened by the Paris climate conference outcomes, but deeply concerned as, globally, species at risk continue to drastically decline. I'm proud of Canada's warm welcome of Syrian refugees, but horrified by populist racist politics unspooling in the United States. I'm thrilled that MacDonald's is moving away from factory farm chicken eggs, but sad about the unchallenged institution of factory farm pigs.

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Ontario is a microcosm of my heart's conundrums — I'm delighted by its leadership in addressing climate change and outraged by its exemption of almost every major industry from prohibitions under the Endangered Species Act. Last year, the province took great steps towards protecting native pollinators by reducing the use of harmful neonicotinoid pesticides, but is now threatening a step backwards by announcing an intended war on predators such as coyotes and wolves in northern Ontario in response to moose population declines.

Predators and prey like coyotes, wolves, moose and deer have been part of an intricate food web for thousands of years. If something is out of whack with a prey population, it can likely be traced to humans and not to a sudden decision by coyotes and wolves to supersize their meals.

When humans enter the web of life as predators of predators, we unfailingly disturb the balance. A recent study by the Raincoast Conservation Foundation reports that as "super predators, human hunters and fishers operate beyond the limits of natural systems," arguing that "to restore balance, managers can use exploitation rates by natural predators — true models of sustainability — as guidance." Ontario, on the other hand, is proposing a free-for-all on coyotes; residents with small game licences will be allowed to kill as many coyotes as they want and two wolves. Reporting/monitoring requirements are significantly reduced.

Predator control is a band-aid solution that simply doesn't work for long-term conservation. As the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry concedes, "Only the removal of an entire pack can substantially reduce predation but this practice may not be ecologically or socially desirable. Changing hunting and trapping regulations to allow more wolves to be harvested is unlikely to remove an entire pack." While highly social family packs won't be entirely wiped out, they will be splintered and diminished. This sometimes decreases pack ability to co-ordinate catching wild prey and increases livestock killing.

The science is clear: Each wildlife species has a niche in a healthy, functioning ecosystem. Ontario's war on predators is a throwback to a "wildlife as enemy" mentality, best dealt with by the gun. (Check out Lobo — the King of Currumpaw, a haunting story of wolf kills in the 1800s, written by Ernest Thompson Seton in 1898.)

Ontario needs to turn back around and work towards maintaining healthy ecosystems instead of damaging them further.

The government accepted comments on their proposed changes to hunting requirements for a month. See the results of our campaign here.

January 12, 2016
http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/panther-lounge/2016/01/ontario----one-foot-forward-into-the-future-one-foot-back-to-settler-days/

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3 Comments

Jan 14, 2016
3:54 PM

Why are we forgetting that we once managed moose, bear and wolves successfully. We decided to change the management techniques of wolves and bears, forced a licence for wolves, and cancelled the spring hunt. Moose populations have declined steadily since. This is not a coincidence. One to 4 wolves will not successfully take down a healthy moose. But a pack of 7 wolves can. By lowering pack numbers, you do help the moose but you don’t endanger the survival of wolves. A hunter will get an opportunity to harvest more than one wolf out of a pack if he’s baited and understands the habits of the pack he or her is hunting correctly, A spring bear bait can feed up to 6 bears, when we took that away, we took away an important food source and they had to work a lil harder for their meal, moose calves have become that food source. Ministry of natural resources is under funded and they have no one in the bush, now they react instead of being proactive. What did you expect. Wolves are the best hunters and they are the hardest of species to harvest. Ontario is simply to vast to over hunt the wolf. Don’t be afraid of a management practice that worked for decades before it was discarded for no reason, but has seen had an undeniable impact on the moose population. I get we all care for the outdoors, but the fact of the matter is no one cares more than the people who live in northern Ontario, make no mistake, it’s the reason we live here and trust me when I say we’re the only stewards of the land. Queen street can say what they want, but the people who travel the gravel roads to their bush camps and cottages in northern Ontario are the ones see and experience what is happening on a day to day or week to week basis.

Jan 14, 2016
3:42 PM

Mr. Suzuki why do you make mountains out of ant hills. It has to be for self-gain obviously. All the Ministry is doing is lifting the tag system witch they introduced a few years ago. Why?? because it was of no use. Lets give the wolves some credit. If their pack gets splintered they will survive.

Jan 13, 2016
8:26 AM

Many of us here in Northern Ontario appreciated the well written article Rachel Plotkin, Ontario Science Projects Manager on the “Ontario — one foot forward into the future, one foot back to settler days”.

We are finding out that this senseless legislation, snuck through at Christmas time shows us Wynneland is Harperland. Surrounded by a incompetent Northern Ministers — they can’t even dream up intelligent responses. Their dullest light is the Minster of No Remorse, Bill Mauro. His only response to the mismanagement of forests and the increased clearcutting is to blame it on the animals — therefore killmore. It’s a great distraction from incompetence.

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