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Of wolves, caribou and national parks

Editor: I haven’t read the newspaper for a while and maybe it would have been better if I hadn’t this morning (Jan. 28) either.


I haven’t read the newspaper for a while and maybe it would have been better if I hadn’t this morning (Jan. 28) either.

A dashing bold title jumps into my eyes from the front cover of a local newspaper: “Caribou to vanish without the helping hand”.

The helping hand for caribou shall come in the form of a sleek strategy for poor old caribou created by men, so it states. Superintendents, biologists and conservationists all blast their comments into the capable writing hands of a local news reporter, who puts it on paper – black and white.

Parks Canada and their bosses, yet once again, have it their way. Fooling the people of Canada in making them believe that they actually have a say when it comes to influencing their policies. The deadline for public input on Parks Canada’s strategy, so it is says, closed Tuesday, Jan. 31. No time for good in depth reporting, education or debates.

And so it happens that the statements of wildlife manipulators are simply echoed throughout the country: Caribou may not survive the modern world primarily because of… wolves. Of course.

The only way out of this terrifying situation for the caribou seems to be provided in this case by Parks Canada. Together with their employers – the politicos from Ottawa – they have it all figured out and hand in hand they never get tired of proclaiming to the world their leading role in good environmental stewardship.

World leading all right. Canada still has set aside only about three per cent of its total land mass as a national park. Compare this to other countries such as Costa Rica with 12 per cent, or Namibia with a whooping 40 per cent of their land protected in one way or the other.

In the meantime, westerners, Canadians among them, get all upset if a country such as Tanzania proposes the idea of an industrial transportation route through the famed Serengeti. Immense opposition is – rightfully so – created and the Tanzanian government, so it seems, backs up.

Who has the right to point the fingers at Tanzania? Certainly we Canadians should be the last ones to do it. Isn’t it true that we Canadians have allowed to build just such an industrial transportation route through not only one, but a few of our finest parks and in the process of it killed – and still kill – hundreds of animals each year?

Isn’t it true that we not only build an industrial infrastructure on so-called protected land, but also allow and promote industrial tourism in the form of massive tourist roads, golf courses, commercial ski hills, and even booming towns?

If we want to point fingers, then it should stay within our boundaries and we should point them firmly towards Ottawa. If we are not even willing to let nature run its course as it has since the dawn of time – as Parks Canada itself used to glorify their mission online – in a so called ‘protected area’, then tell me where else?

It is more than evident that the wolves are not to blame, but the guardians of the sheep themselves. Wolves, after all, evolved with the caribou. They not only evolved with the caribou and many other ungulate species, but also helped create an incredibly vibrant, diverse, strong and resistant web of life. Only when economical and political driven human ideologies and actions wiped out entire species, and only then, did the world’s biodiversity start to suffer as it has done only a handful of times in Earth’s history.

It seems to me to be the right time, where we, as responsible Canadian citizens, should start to demand that this place -– the Canadian Rocky Mountain UNESCO world heritage site – truly become a stronghold for nature and nothing else, period.

Ban the commercial ski hills from these sacred mountains, discontinue the golf courses, rip up many of the roads and stop manipulating wildlife populations, and in doing so create an enormously brave statement the world cannot ignore. However, until such a glorious day comes – if ever – the debates over ski hill expansions, glacier discovery walks and many other human-created playground ideas within protected areas will continue to dominate the landscape and nothing will change, whether for the caribou, wolves or for the grizzlies, and we all know it.

Oh, and before I forget… it is worth noting that, according to large carnivore authority Paul Paquet, no wolf predation of caribou has ever been recorded within the boundaries of Banff National Park. And yet, Banff’s last caribou herd went extinct when some of the last remaining animals got caught in an avalanche north of Lake Louise in 2009.

In earlier times still, the caribou herds of the mountain parks of Banff and Jasper started to decline in the 1950s, at a time when humans’ helping hand had nearly eliminated all wolves from the parks.

The wolves? Of course, Parks Canada, of course.

Peter A. Dettling,


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