Date: Tue, 17 Mar 98 22:13:30 CST
Hunting controversy prompts more study of Canadian wolves
By Allan Dowd, Reuters, 16 March 1998
VANCOUVER (March 16, 1998 6:42 p.m. EST http://www.nando.net) - Canada's Northwest Territories, under fire for a huge wolf-kill by snowmobile-riding hunters this winter, has agreed to step up research on the wolf population, officials said on Monday.
The agreement with the World Wildlife Fund Canada is aimed at ensuring the long term conservation of the three types of wolves found in northern Canada, said Stephen Kakfwi, NWT's Minister of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development.
In a statement announcing the effort, Kakfwi stressed the importance of hunting to people in a region where jobs are scarce, but said he was open to discussing hunting practices with the territory's Native communities.
"The Government of the NWT is committed to the humane treatment of wildlife and has worked hard to ensure that methods for harvesting fur bearers meet human standards," Kakfwi said from from the northern town of Yellowknife.
Many details about the effort still have to be worked out, and much of it may involve Arctic wolves which have not been the primary target on hunters but may be having other environment problems.
Environmentalists and wildlife officials have expressed alarm about the size of this year's wolf-kill -- which is expected to be between 1,500 and 2,000 animals. The annual average has been 915 pelts.
This year's kill-rate has been spurred both by high international demand for wolf fur and hunters' use of snowmobiles to drive wolves into the open where they are sometimes run to exhaustion, according to wildlife experts.
The NWT is the only area of Canada where hunting by snowmobile is allowed, and where there are no limits on how many wolves most hunters can kill. The territory is believed to have between 5,000 and 10,000 wolves.
Federal Environment Minister Christine Stewart has warned territorial officials that news reports about the hunt could hurt Canada's image internationally, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported on Monday.
The media reports prompted the World Wildlife Fund Canada offer to help pay for increased research.
Fund president Monte Hummel said on Monday the group was interested in how the wolves were managed, but recognized the right of the NWT's Native peoples to "earn a living from the land."
The research projects are expected to focus on the genetics and population ecology of Timber, Tundra and Arctic. Territory officials have maintained the Timber and Tundra wolf populations are healthy even with the hunting.
A territory official said they are concerned about the health of the Arctic wolf population, because of a decline in recent years in the numbers of Peary caribou, the Arctic wolf's major prey.
Copyright © 1998 Reuters News Service