Letter to the Editor of Jasper Fitzhugh
Jasper losing predators to Alberta trappers
Trappers along Jasper National Park’s eastern border may be having an adverse effect on the park’s ecosystem.
Wildlife knows no borders and Jasper’s large predators frequently range onto provincial lands—where baited traps and neck snares are waiting.
Alberta’s Trapping Zone #5 is a long thin strip from 20-50 km wide that runs the length of the park’s eastern boundary. Over five years, from 2010-2014, an average of 74 wolves were trapped there annually, according to Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP).
In February more than half the wolf pack that frequented the Rocky River/Jacques Lake/Lower Maligne Valley areas was reported snared just outside the park. The rest of the seven-member pack has not been located since.
There is no legal trapping of cougars but one of Jasper’s young cougars was killed in a snare intended for wolves. We only know of these mortalities because the cougar and one of the wolves had been collared by Parks Canada and the collars were returned to the agency.
Alberta’s trapping list also includes that legendary enigma, the wolverine. An average of five are taken annually in that same trapping zone, according to AEP.
Trapping ‘regulations’ are politically driven in Alberta. Bounties on wolves ended over 40 years ago in Canada, but were reintroduced in this province in 2007. Trappers are paid by some municipalities, hunting groups and farming organizations. There is no limit to the number of wolves that can be killed and Alberta’s Fish and Wildlife branch says it has little confidence in trappers’ records. Because fur prices are low, trapping is now carried out primarily for bounty payments of anywhere from $250-$350 per wolf and is often referred to as “recreational trapping”.
The popular trapping method is the use of so-called “killing” wire snares placed around a bait-pile of road kill and offal. Scientific studies using state-of-the-art equipment have clearly shown that the use of snares is inadequate to consistently and quickly kill wolves. Furthermore wolves and some untargeted species can break the holding wire and escape, only to die a slow death from the strangulating snare.
These predators are the top of the food chain and critical to maintaining healthy prey populations in the park by keeping them within the carrying capacity of their habitat. The remains of their kills benefit hundreds of smaller species. Their presence is also a powerful tourism attraction.
Instead of a trapping zone along Jasper’s eastern border, this World Heritage Site is badly in need of a buffer zone.
Jasper Environmental Association