In February 2016, a radio-collared wolf was killed at a bait site in the lower Athabasca valley just outside the unfenced boundary of Jasper National Park in Canada.
The use of bait sites is a common practice of trappers operating in the Alberta foothill forests. The baits are maintained year-round with traffic-killed animals and other carrion, so that wolves get used to a free meal. When the fur season opens, the trapper sets any number of steel snares across all access trails through the bushes leading to the bait. In this way, entire packs of wolves can be caught, as well as a range of non-target animals. Photographic evidence has revealed that some snared animals suffer horribly for days or even weeks.
Besides the collared park wolf, rumour has it that five other wolves were caught at this bait site, which means that an entire pack of park wolves may have been wiped out.
From the perspective of the Alberta Fish & Wildlife authorities, the provincial harvest of furbearers is a traditional industrial activity. The average number of wolves trapped annually right along the eastern boundaries of the national parks of Banff and Jasper was 74 over the past five years.
The paradox of trappers is that they kill what they love. Their usual hard-nosed defence is that predators need to be thinned out, otherwise they would die of starvation anyhow. But the matter assumes quite a different perspective when snares are set on the boundary of national parks, which are the time-honoured sanctuaries inviolate to commercial hunting and trapping.
Picture shows a wolf with a limb caught in a snare.
The notion of establishing a protective buffer zone around Jasper National Park is not new, but today’s need is all the more urgent because several rural Alberta counties, livestock groups, and hunting clubs are paying a bounty of $100-400 on dead wolves. .
A buffer zone between provincial lands and the national parks may not be practical in view of the rugged topography and opposition from Alberta hunters. But a protective zone of several kilometres around Jasper Park at strategic spots, such as the end of the park’s main Athabasca River valley, seems to be an idea for which the time has come.
Video of a wolf caught in a snare [caution graphic]