Open Letter to Alberta's Premier and Minister of Environment

Kyle Fawcett, Minister of the Environment (ESRD.Minister@gov.ab.ca)
Premier Jim Prentice (Premier@gov.ab.ca)
January 6, 2015
Hello Honourable decision makers. I am writing to inquire as to why the Government of Alberta would allow a coyote killing contest to take place within the province? I am deeply disturbed by learning this news, and very saddened by the unethical implications. I have been alerted to a coyote killing contest that is planned to take place January 10th in Sangudo, Alberta, see the contest at: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1501710023424372&set=gm.380096692143149&type=1

I urge you to stop this.

I am astounded that this practice still goes on and that it is legal. There have been several studies in North America showing that indiscriminately killing coyotes (or wolves) can lead to increased conflicts with humans and domestic animals the following year.
There are several levels of plain “wrongness” occurring with this contest, (and any others that may be occurring in AB) including; ethical, ecological, economical, scientific and the sentiment of the majority. I will briefly outline my concerns with each and look forward to a response from both of you about why this contest is permitted in light of the following:
1. Ethics: Coyotes are intelligent and social animals which have evolved to fill a niche within the web of life. The intrinsic value of each species merits respect in itself. Many other parts of the world are accepting this and striving to improve treatment of individuals and populations, embracing the human responsibility to first, do no harm. Other countries and jurisdictions around the world are banning trophy hunting for its unethical implications, including California, Kenya, Botswana and Costa Rica.
See: Wolf Hunting and the Ethics of Predator Control By John Vucetich and Michael P. Nelson, The Oxford Handbook of Animal Studies (Forthcoming)
2. Ecology: Coyote bounties in the past have lead to rodent problems. Look to Saskatchewan for an example of this, where rodent diversity was significantly decreased following a coyote cull within the past decade, and the rodent population increased so substantially that it caused greater concern for producers than coyotes ever had.

Sports hunting has a negative selective impact on species as hunters select for the largest, healthiest animals in their prime, breeding peek reproductive years thus weakening the species entire gene pool, and preventing very evolutionary beneficial genes from passing on to their offspring. See study summary online from the University of Alberta concluding Trophy hunters are driving down the horn size of bighorn sheep, the evolutionary response to killing the largest, healthiest rams.

See: Scientific references below
3. Economics: UN World Tourism Organization stats: ” Non-consumptive (non-hunting) nature tourism is the fastest growth sector within global tourism, within this category wildlife viewing is the fastest growth sector including of birds and large mammals”. Canada can still boast about the iconic wildlife species, diversity, and intact natural predator-prey systems that remain, but our image will be tarnished if killing contests are condoned. Furthermore, coyote killing programs have occurred for decades in the US where they have seen no decrease in the populations but rather an increase in numbers and conflicts in following years. This is a cyclical phenomenon that costs money and does not address or solve and issues, yet supports the barbaric ongoing killing of animals when science has shown that an increase in populations results due to the built-in reproductive drive when coyotes (or wolves) are hunted.
Treves (2009) states that “even if the culprits are targeted selectively, property damage may increase if hunting disrupts carnivore social organization and promotes new individuals or new denser populations of different species of carnivores that, in turn, may have greater impacts on property”.

People, carnivores, property, and wild resources all influence depredations, and this complexity makes it extremely difficult and unlikely that targeted individuals will be selectively removed even by experts. -> age-sex class of carnivores causing property damage usually differed significantly from those of hunted animals (Treves 2009).

4. Scientific: Recent research by Dr. H. Bryan and others at the University of Calgary revealed that hunted wolf populations have higher levels of stress and reproductive hormones, which is most likely true for coyotes as well, as they are genetically very similar. The research indicates this leads to or is a result of increased reproduction rates for hunted populations of wild canids. Another study newly released reviewed 25 years of records and confirmed that livestock depredation events increased the year after wild canids were indiscriminately hunted. This is the longest and most comprehensive study of its kind, although several other studies have revealed the same thing.

See:

i. Effects of Wolf Mortality on Livestock DepredationsRobert B. Wielgus, Kaylie A. Peebles
 Published: December 03, 2014, http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0113505

ii. Bryan, H.M., Smits, J.E.G., Koren, L., Paquet, P.C., Wynne-Edwards, K. E., and Musiani, M. 2014. Heavily hunted wolves have higher stress and reproductive hormones than wolves with lower hunting pressure. Functional Ecology.

iii. Adrian Treves. (2009). Hunting for large carnivore conservation. Journal of Applied Ecology 46, 1350-1356. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2009.01729.x iv. Harper E., P. J. William, L.D. Mech, S. Weisberg (2008). Effectiveness of Lethal, Directed Wolf-Depredation Control in Minnesota. The Journal of Wildlife Management 72 (3): 778-783.

v. Musiani M., T Muhly, C. Cormack Gates, C. Callaghan, M. Smith, E. Tosoni (2005). Seasonality and re-occurrence of depredation and wolf control in western North America. Wildlife Society Bulletin 2005, 33 (3): 876-887.

5. Public sentiment: Over the past decade there have been several public surveys put forward by NGO’s to ascertain the sentiment of the masses. The results reveal that public attitudes have shifted to appreciate and respect sentient beings and that the majority of the public (and voters) do not support trophy hunting. It is time to reflect this majority sentiment in policy.

See: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/trophy-hunting-supported-by-only-10-in-b-c-poll-suggests-1.2441620

I urge you to put an end to killing contests of this type NOW and forever more. I am committed to continue to share this information with others and work towards a sustainable environment where coexistence with fellow species is possible.

I am requesting a reply to this email, and I ask that you both let me know if and why this contest is allowed to occur. I encourage you both to learn more about scientifically founded methods for coexistence.

I have several resources that I am more than willing to share with you.
Most Sincerely, Sadie Parr – Executive director of Wolf Awareness Inc.

www.WolfAwarenessInc.org