Saskatoon

Sask. rancher takes issue with provincial wolf cull

A Saskatchewan rancher has concerns about the province's plan to cull wolves in two wildlife management zones.

Gord Vaadeland says the province should target only those affecting livestock

The provincial government's wolf cull is stirring controversy.

A Saskatchewan rancher has concerns about the province's plan to cull wolves in two wildlife management zones. 

On Tuesday, the province began the cull in the Hudson Bay and Weekes zone (WMZ 49) as well as the Big River and Shellbrook zone (WMZ53). It will last until the end of March. 

According to a release issued by the environment ministry in early December, the goal is to "push the wolves back into the forest, into their natural habitat, and away from farms and ranches."

Gord Vaadeland ranches in Big River and is also the executive director of the Saskatchewan chapter of Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. He said he has researched the issue.

Vaadeland is concerned this type of wolf hunt could backfire, especially if any alpha wolves are killed which he said, "causes a change in dynamic in the pack. And at that point it's unpredictable."

The theory, from what he has studied, is that when the pack loses an alpha, the remaining wolves start producing many pups as the animals compete to be the next alpha wolf. As the pack grows, it becomes hard to sustain itself which can create satellite packs. 

I understand the problem's real, and this isn't necessarily about wolf hugging.- Gord Vaadeland, rancher

"Some wolves will be kicked out of the pack and you might have lone wolves then that are in smaller groups of two or three that have to pick on something easier. And then the pack itself as it establishes a new alpha may change its habits and no longer prey on wildlife but move to livestock."

He is advocating a more targeted cull that picks off only wolves known to prey on livestock.

Vaadeland said he has raised the issued with his MLA.

"There is a reason the wolves are taking the livestock, but just randomly going out and indiscriminately killing this wolf or that wolf doesn't actually help."

Vaadeland said one spring he lost six calves to wolves. 

"I understand the problem's real, and this isn't necessarily about wolf hugging."

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