Conservationists fear coyote-wolf trapping ban may creep to Island, endangering deer

TORONTO—The province is seeking input on expanding a proposed ban on the hunting and trapping of coyotes and wolves to several units surrounding Killarney Park in order to help protect the threatened Algonquin wolf population. The proposals have sounded an alarm for the hunting and fishing organizations across the province and raised serious concerns among local trappers as well, but wolf protection groups are applauding the move and would like to see the ban on trapping and hunting extended even further.

“If the province implements a total ban on trapping in those townships surrounding Killarney Park it will have a huge impact on the trappers in those areas,” noted local trapper Ian Anderson of Kagawong. One of the few remaining bright lights in the depressed fur industry are the prices for coyote and wolf pelts, he noted, but aside from that “it is going to be an uphill battle for the deer and moose populations.”

Mr. Anderson pointed out that the most effective method of control on predator populations are the licenced trappers. “Hunters take a few,” he said, “but even the most experienced coyote and wolf hunters have low success rates.” Allowing the predator populations to rise unfettered and without any form of effective control will inevitably “impact resident wildlife,” he said. “That is going to lead to long term impacts.”

“A large coalition of organizations has gathered together to call for full protection of Algonquin wolves across their entire range,” notes a release from Earthroots. “Algonquin wolves are sparsely distributed across Central Ontario. The groups are urging the public to comment on two government proposals (EBR #012-8104 and EBR #012-8105) before Monday, August 22, 2016 to ensure the ESA is used to recover the Algonquin wolf population as intended.”

The MNRF calls for comment are to move the Algonquin wolf from “of concern” to “threatened” and to ban hunting and trapping of wolves and coyotes in a range of townships surrounding a number of parks. The hunting and trapping of wolves and coyotes is currently prohibited in a number of other provincial parks, including Kawartha Highlands, Killarney, Killarney Lakelands and Headwaters, French River and Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands.

“The coalition stresses the need to extend protection to eastern coyotes and their hybrids,” notes the Earthroots release, “neither of which can be differentiated from Algonquin wolves without a genetic test.”

To help support the protection and recovery of the Algonquin wolf, it is proposed that hunting and trapping of wolf and coyote be prohibited in three additional core areas where Algonquin wolf is known to occur. This proposal addresses wolf and coyote collectively within these core occurrence areas because they are difficult to visually distinguish from other canids (gray wolf, Great Lakes-boreal wolf, eastern coyotes, hybrids) due to their similar appearance (colouration, markings and overlap in size). As such, the following regulatory changes are being proposed under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act to ban trapping and hunting of wolves and coyotes in the area of Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park, which includes the geographic townships of: Anstruther, Burleigh, Cardiff, Cavendish, Chandos, Harvey, and Monmouth; and in the area of Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park, which includes the geographic townships of: Anson, Dalton, Digby, Longford, Lutterworth, Minden, and Ryde; as well as in the area of Killarney Provincial Park, which includes the geographic townships of: Allen, Attlee, Bevin, Burwash, Caen, Carlyle, Cox, Curtin, Dieppe, Eden, Foster, Goschen, Halifax, Hansen, Humboldt, Killarney, Kilpatrick, Laura, Roosevelt, Sale, Secord, Servos, Struthers, Tilton, Truman and Waldie.

But anecdotal observations clearly indicate that the populations of coyote, at least, on nearby Manitoulin are very healthy indeed.

“My parents and I have been regularly sitting at the kitchen table at my parents’ farm (where they raise a large herd of goats) and we can hardly talk over the sound of the coyotes,” said Kyla Jansen of Honora Bay. “We find ourselves racing out to bring the dogs in because they will want to protect our property.”

Ms. Jansen, who operates the Honora Bay Riding Stable, stresses that she does not have any kind of hate on for wolves or coyotes. “I was raised in the wild. I sleep outside in the woods and I love the sounds of the wild,” she said, “but we have never seen (or heard) anything like this in 40 years.”

Ms. Jansen recalled a recent morning ride where she spotted what she thought was a herd of deer in one of her hay fields. “I thought to myself ‘oh look at the deer’ then I realized that it wasn’t deer I was looking at,” she said. “This was around 9:30 in the morning, they were not concerned about us at all.” Unlike wolves, coyotes tend to be less skittish around humans.

Ms. Jansen has serious concerns about the proximity of coyotes to her barns. “I am up about four or five times a night because they are so close to the barns,” she said. “My old mare Angel is 32-years-old, living with a little miniature horse in one of the far pastures. They would not be able to defend themselves against these packs that I have never experienced difficulties with before.”

Finding the balance between control of predators like the coyote and endangered species like the Algonquin wolf pose challenges, particularly when concerns about moose and deer populations are thrown into the mix.