The Impact of Wolf Predation on Western Canada Boreal Woodland Caribou Populations: A Critical Review of the Evidence

Posted on Dec 5, 2017


by Gilbert PROULX

Correspondence: G. Proulx, Alpha Wildlife Research & Management Ltd., 229 Lilac Terrace, Sherwood Park, Alberta, T8H 1W3, Canada.



The boreal woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus), which is listed as threatened by COSEWIC since 2002, is found across Canada but its status is deteriorating due to habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation, predation, weather, starvation, diseases and parasites, accidents, and human hunting, poaching and recreational activities. Nonetheless, in the last 2 decades, predation by wolves (Canis lupus) has been identified as the proximal factor causing the decline of caribou populations in western Canada. However, some selected scientific references that were used to justify wolf culling programs reported that predation by wolves represented <15% of boreal caribou mortalities. In my preliminary study of wolf food habits in January-February 2012 in northwestern Saskatchewan, the relative percentage occurrence of caribou in wolf scats was 5.8%. My findings were in agreement with previous studies that found that the boreal woodland caribou was not an important food item for wolf. In Alberta, government biologists and some academics have argued that reducing wolf populations would save the boreal woodland caribou. My review of the evidence here shows that the impact of wolf predation on the sustainability of boreal woodland caribou populations has been overstated. Instead of scapegoating wolves for the demise of boreal woodland caribou populations, wildlife managers should implement a comprehensive caribou recovery program aimed at conserving, restoring, expanding and connecting critical habitats across landscapes.

Key Words: Habitat Conservation, Predation, Wolf, Woodland Caribou.



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