By Margaret Hedderman
In 1935, Australia’s Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations released over 100 fat and knobbly cane toads into Northern Queensland as a cure-all solution to the cane beetle infestation that was decimating sugar crops. Today, the large, South American toad has a population over 200 million and is a leading factor in the depletion of many of Australia’s native species – including monitor lizards and the Northern Quoll (it hasn’t touched the cane beetle, by the way.) Today, Canada is displaying similar brilliance. To combat the rapidly declining Alberta caribou population due to Tar Sands development, Canada proposes to shoot and poison thousands of wolves.
Wow, talk about problem solving.
Canada is home the world’s largest reserve of tar or oil sands – a reserve that, until recently, was largely useless. But with increasing demands for oil and new technologies available, oil companies can now extract petroleum from the naturally occurring fields.
Tar Sand development, logging, and oil production are the largest causes of the caribou population decline. According to the CBC, the Canadian government has yet to implement a comprehensive caribou management plan – despite the species being listed as threatened. Some scientists have estimated total eradication of the Alberta population in 30 years.
The proposed culling of wolves will involve aerial shooting and strychnine laced bait. Strychnine is well known to cause extremely painful deaths. Lasting several hours, the poison causes muscle spasms, convulsions, and eventually suffocation. Canada’s Pembina Institute estimates 6,000 wolves will die in the next 5 years.
A recent study by Dr. Samuel Wasser of the University of Washington shows the wolves primary diet isn’t caribou, but deer. Mass “population control” of wolves could lead to an increased deer population which would infringe on the caribou’s already declining habitat.
All the same, Canada’s Minister of Environment, Peter Kent was quoted saying, “I’ve got to admit, it troubles me that that’s what is necessary to protect this (caribou) species.”
Apparently it is more troubling to Mr. Kent to protect and restore the caribou’s habitat by regulating Tar Sand development than to perform genocide on wolves.
Refining tar sand petroleum (bitumen) generates nearly four times as many greenhouse gases as traditional refining. Several studies have shown deformities in fish embryos exposed to tar sand production and evidence of carcinogens in local rivers. Fort Chipewyan residents have higher than normal rates of cancer and moose populations have 17 – 33 times the acceptable level of arsenic in their blood streams.
According to the National Wildlife Federation:
Operations in Alberta have already created 65 square miles of toxic holding ponds, which could kill scores of migrating birds and pollute downstream watersheds if they fail.
12% of Alberta’s GDP is derived from oil production.
Think problems over the border are none of our business? If the Keystone XL Pipeline cuts across America, we will be indirectly responsible for the detrimental environmental effects of Tar Sands, failing caribou populations, and the culling of Alberta’s wolves.
What do you do? Actively oppose Tar Sands. Actively oppose the Keystone XL Pipeline. And support Canadian environmentalists in their efforts to oppose wolf culling.