Health Canada launching review over using strychnine to kill wolves

Alberta Trappers Association president Bill Abercrombie says poison is a horrendous way to kill an animal. 

Alberta Trappers say they are the best solution to control wolves preying on endangered caribou herds

The Alberta Trappers Association says responsible trapping is the humane and practical way to control the wolf population, which is a threat to dwindling caribou herds. (The Canadian Press)

Health Canada is launching a review this spring on whether strychnine should be used to kill wolves.  

The Government of Alberta uses the poison to keep dwindling caribou herds alive.     

Alberta Trappers Association president Bill Abercrombie says strychnine is a horrendous way to kill an animal. 

"Strychnine initiates convulsions and the animal basically goes into convulsions until it asphyxiates itself," Abercrombie told the Calgary Eyeopener.

Abercrombie said Alberta Trappers are the best solution to control wolves preying on endangered caribou herds.

He said his organization has never supported using poison to manage wildlife — particularly strychnine.

"Strychnine is not a humane way to manage wildlife because it causes a lot of suffering before death, but also strychnine is very, very hard to control in the ecosystem," he said. "Any animal that comes in contact with it … it expires. It in itself will become another poison bait, and on and on and on."

Abercrombie said he is sympathetic to the provinces' situation when trying to protect caribou from wolves. However, he said it is too hard to control which other animals are killed when poison is used.

Abercrombie said trappers believe in sustainable use.

"We live on the land with the animals, and we believe that wildlife should be treated with dignity and respect. And in all cases, if you're going to harvest an animal, it should be done humanely," he said. 

"Trappers, when they kill something, they use the fur, sometimes the bones, the meat, everything. We're about sustainable use and fully utilizing the animal that's harvested."

Bill Abercrombie, president of the Alberta Trappers Association, shown in this file photo, says trappers are the best solution to control wolves preying on endangered caribou herds. (submitted by Bill Abercrombie)

Abercrombie said the issue of controlling the poison is also a huge factor.

"The half-life of the strychnine moves through the ecosystem, killing non-target animals as well as the target animal like wolves or other predators that are needing to be managed," he said.

Last year, the Pest Management Review Agency ruled that using strychnine against Richardson's ground squirrels, a control method on farms, would no longer be allowed for this reason.

The agency, a department of Health Canada, said the deadly poison poses too much risk to non-target animals — some of them are endangered species such as the swift fox and burrowing owl.

For Abercrombie, responsible trapping is the humane and more practical way to control wolf numbers. He said it's a natural fit.

"All Crown land in Alberta is made up of registered traplines. Trappers do their best to manage the wolf numbers at sustainable levels, and I know that they're looking at trying to reduce wolf numbers to the point where caribou can actually facilitate recovery," he said. 

"But we also don't think you can put it all on the wolves, you know, there has to be some consideration given to sustainable habitat for caribou as well … certainly reducing lone wolf numbers will buy time for herds to recover. But if there's no sustainable habitat for them to live in, it's not going to be successful in the long run anyway."


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener



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