Wolves - History



 March  2014

The federal government seeks comment on a draft recovery strategy for Southern Mountain caribou. AWA comments that recovery actions are too focused on killing predators, mainly wolves, and not focused enough on recovering caribou habitat.

 February 2014

A group of international scientists call on the Alberta government to eliminate its archaic wolf bounties. They describe Alberta wolf bounties, which are funded by private groups such as the Wyoming-based Wild Sheep Foundation and by local governments, as outdated and ineffective in managing wildlife. “The Canid Specialist Group of the IUCN respectfully encourages the Government of Alberta to show leadership to eliminate indiscriminate wolf bounties and modernize wolf management,” states Dr. Lu Carbyn, Canadian representative of the IUCN’s Canid Specialist Group. 

In an article in the Red Deer Advocate, Clearwater County becomes the first Alberta municipality to oppose wolf bounties and indiscriminate wolf killing as an effective way to deal with wolf predation issues (Conservationists reject wolf bounties, RDA February 2014). “You need to control the problem animals, and you need to coexist with the ones that aren't causing you problems,” says Clearwater’s Matt Martinson.

 May 2013

New mineral rights leasing are halted in the ranges of the Little Smoky and A la Peche caribou herds in west central Alberta until range plans are prepared. AWA is hopeful that this may be a sign that the government’s caribou recovery work will go beyond killing wolves, blamed as caribou predators.

 March 2013

AWA News Release reveals decisions on Alberta’s wolf population are being made by local authorities with public funds and hunting groups with funding from foreign special interest groups,  and the Alberta government seems unwilling, or unable, to do anything to intervene. Details revealed in a recent Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) application made by Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) point to outdated and inappropriate wildlife policy and legislation in Alberta.

AWA writes to Diana McQueen, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, to take back provincial control of wolf management. Wolves must be managed on behalf of all Albertans, not just special interest groups

 October 2012

Government of Canada releases the final boreal woodland caribou federal recovery strategy, five years past the ‘mandatory’ deadline for final recovery strategy under the federal Species at Risk Act. 

Strong public pressure appears to help improve the final strategy. The final strategy rejects the draft strategy’s unacceptable preference for wolf kills and clearly gives the most urgency to landscape level planning and to habitat protection and restoration. It includes much better goals of showing progress every 5 years towards a 65% undisturbed habitat target for even the most vulnerable herds. This is important for Alberta’s boreal caribou, whose undisturbed habitat as of 2010 ranged from only 43% (Caribou Mountains) to a mere 5% (Little Smoky). AWA calls for swift range plan development by Alberta and on-the-ground actions to meet the targets.

 February 2012

An extended public consultation period on the draft federal boreal woodland caribou recovery strategy ends February 22, 2012. The government receives 14,000 public comments, including objections to the government policy of killing wolves rather than protecting caribou habitat. Environment Minister Peter Kent suggests the government will delay releasing the final recovery strategy beyond the required 30 day window.

 October 2011

AWA receives documents about wolf bounties in Alberta, through an application through Freedom of Information (FOIP) legislation. Documents from Alberta Sustainable Resource Development reveal that a number of municipalities, including Clearhill County, MD of Big Lakes and the MD of Bonnyville, offer bounties to kill wolves. And local hunting groups in many areas also offer to pay bounties to kill wolves, using funding from the US organization, the Wild Sheep Foundation.
Fish and Wildlife staff do not support the bounties as they are clearly not an effective way to deal with wolf predation issues, but they refuse to become involved, simply claiming that the bounties are "not illegal." Many Albertans are offended that wildlife management decisions are not being made by trained wildlife staff but by foreign special interest groups.

August 2011 

Government of Canada releases a years-overdue proposed boreal woodland caribou recovery strategy. For herds at greatest risk of extinction because of habitat loss, including seven of Alberta's 12 herds, the strategy proposes that undisturbed critical habitat may decrease to a mere 5% as long as jurisdictions provide a plan to stabilize populations "through the use of mortality and habitat management tools." AWA immediately strongly criticizes this policy, stating "The war on wolves goes national."

Federal Environment Minister Kent is quoted in a Canadian Press article August 26, 2011 that the plan means killing wolves. "Predator control has been chosen," he said. "That bothers me a great deal. It certainly disturbs me that 100 wolves have to be killed to protect four caribou calves."

 June 2011

News article by author Ed Struzik states that over the last 5 years, the Alberta government has spent over $1 million poisoning wolves with strychnine and shooting them from the air. Over 500 wolves have been killed this way in Alberta's Little Smoky region to stabilize its caribou population. Scientists interviewed by Struzik say that wolf kills alone are no long-term solution for caribou, that wolf populations will immediately rebound, and that habitat protection and restoration is needed to save caribou.


 Another 120 wolves are killed in caribou range between April 2008 and March 2009.


Another 62 wolves are killed by government staff in the Little Smoky area. Ted Morton, Minister for Sustainable Resource Development temporarily suspends the use of strychnine to kill wolves in northern Alberta until SRD staff have produced a report detailing where and how strychnine is being used throughout the province.
A proposed University of Alberta "research project" which investigates killing and sterilizing wolves near Rocky Mountain House, receives unprecedented public opposition. All members of the packs other than the alpha pair are to be killed. The alpha pair will be sterilized and released in hopes that they will maintain their territory without repopulating it, thus keeping predation on ungulates low. The proposed research program is not intended to assist endangered species recovery, as with the culling of wolves in disturbed caribou habitat. Rather, its objective is increasing numbers of common ungulates, including elk and mule deer. Wildlife biologist Paul Paquet describes the proposals as “destructive and morally reprehensible.”
Alberta media also come out strongly against the proposals. "Manipulating one species for benefit of human sport directly contradicts the conservation principles of sustaining natural biodiversity and the naturally determined balance of species’ populations,” says the Edmonton Journal.  “Preservation of habitat, a much more difficult but important
task, is the key to maintaining healthy populations.” The proposals are eventually withdrawn.


 In two winters, 2005-06 and 2006-07, 155 wolves are killed by government staff in the Little Smoky Region. While this is nominally to protect endangered caribou herds, nothing is done in the meantime to protect caribou habitat, despite the fact that the provincial Caribou Recovery Plan states clearly “Predator control will not succeed as a sole, or predominant, tool for caribou recovery.”


Wolves are shot from helicopters in the west central foothills during the winter months as part of the Alberta Woodland Caribou Recovery Plan. Exact numbers on how many were culled have not yet been released by Alberta Sustainable Resource Development.


The Alberta government begins shooting wolves from helicopters as part of the caribou recovery plan. Eighty-nine wolves are killed during the winter.


A proposed project to study human/wolf conflicts near Canmore is officially not supported by Canmore Town Council.

The Central Rockies Wolf Project cancels its wolf sponsorship program after eight years. Officials state that lack of wolf protection outside of park boundaries renders the program ineffective due to 100% mortality of monitored wolves.


A report in the Calgary Herald (Feb. 1) claims that four wolves have been killed in the past two months, prompting calls for a management buffer zone around the national mountain parks that will protect wildlife. The Bow Valley wolf pack is reduced to two wolves. By December, biologists say the last wolf of the Bow Valley pack has been killed.

A German conservation organization threatens to launch an international boycott of Banff National Park unless an adequate buffer zone around the park is created.

Scientists debate a wolf culling program to help restore caribou populations.


Researchers contemplate supplemental feeding of wolves in Banff National Park to reduce emigration of the wolves out of the protective boundaries of the park.

Park’s Canada staff meet with provincial officials to work out a deal to help protect wolves outside of national park boundaries.

Park’s Canada staff struggle to keep ungulate populations in check by facilitating wolf movement in areas close to human activity.


Blue, a wolf suspected of killing a family dog in Banff, is being tracked for extermination by Parks Canada officials. A U.S. wildlife conservation group offers to take Blue, after zoos in Calgary, Edmonton, San Diego, and Seattle show no signs of interest in the wolf’s fate. The wolf is shot by wardens in Banff a week later.


Nakoda, an alpha female with the Peter Lougheed pack, is shot by a hunter. Nakoda was sponsored by over 450 people from around the world through the Central Rockies Wolf Project.

Researchers in Montana attempt to create an aversive response to cattle in wolves by fixing them with electrical collars. When the animal approaches cattle it is given a shock by the researcher.


Ten wolves are killed on the Trans-Canada Highway.


Two wolves are shot near Waterton Lakes National Park, one of which was a pregnant female. The incident sparks renewed protests from the conservation community to amend wolf hunting regulations in the province.


Alberta hunting regulations maintain a liberal attitude toward wolf management. In an article published by the Canadian Press (June 4), AWA states that recommendations for wolf management made by provincial wildlife officials were ignored by the government.

A Montana court sentences a man to six months in jail for killing a wolf near Yellowstone National Park. Wolves are protected in the United States by the Endangered Species Act.


A letter from the superintendent of Waterton Lakes National Park to the provincial wildlife director in Edmonton claims that 40 of the 65 wolves in and around the Waterton area have been killed.

In January, reports of wolf shootings and poisonings in southwestern Alberta trickle into newspapers.

Efforts to recover the wolf population of the western U.S. are met with resistance. Over a dozen wolves are shipped from Alberta to Yellowstone National Park. Wolves that leave the park are targeted by ranchers.


In a letter to the Globe and Mail (March 14), Dr. V. Thomas from the Department of Zoology at the University of Guelph states that cattle losses to shipping (i.e., dead on arrival at the abattoir) are 12 to 15 times higher than losses to wolves.

An October 25 article in the Calgary Herald describes the growing resentment of ranchers to provincial wildlife management strategies as ranches continue to suffer livestock predation in the southwestern foothills. Later, letters to the editor flood into the paper in support of wolf protection.


The Alberta government rescinds its provincial wolf compensation program, exacerbating wolf-livestock conflicts.


Alberta releases a Wolf Management Plan, which states (p. xi): “The wolf is recognized as a valued inhabitant of natural ecosystems and is often perceived as a symbol of the wilderness.” The report acknowledges that government efforts to increase fur harvest in wolves have been unsuccessful. Highlights of the report indicate Alberta’s willingness in assisting wolf recovery in the U.S. as well as looking at preventative measures to reduce wolf-livestock conflict through land management practices. The overall paradigm presented in the Plan is to allow a harvest of wolves as a sustainable resource, an improvement from previous decades when the animal was regarded as a pest, but still far from a view of wolves as a vital component of wilderness. For instance, there are no provisions to reintroduce or facilitate the reintroduction of wolves to their former ranges south of the Bow River.


An Edmonton Journal article (Jan. 19) reveals provincial plans to cull 1,200 of Alberta’s 5,000 wolves..

In a letter to the editor (Calgary Herald, Jan. 25), Minister of Forestry, Lands and Wildlife LeRoy Fjordbotten states that “No provincial wolf-kill program is being advocated by the Alberta government and I am personally averse to such a move.”

In a letter to the Edmonton Journal (Feb. 11), the Assistant Deputy Minister of Alberta Forestry, Fish and Wildlife outlines Alberta’s policy on wildlife management: “Proposals to eliminate wolves on a wide-scale basis, or to practice publicly unacceptable control methods, are not being, and will not be, considered.”

An article in the Western Sportsman (April/May) notes that there are as many as 30 wolves in 5 packs within Banff National Park.

Reports trickle into newspapers (e.g., Calgary Herald, Nov. 5) of wolf shootings, including the deaths of 60% of the radio-collared animals in a Parks Canada study.


An article in the Western Sportsman (May) claims that the Alberta Fish and Game Association is offering a wolf bounty.

Minister of Forestry, Lands and Wildlife LeRoy Fjordbotten states in a Calgary Herald interview about wolf management (Feb. 17): “If there is any hint of a whole bunch of bounty hunters out there, I’m not going to stand for it.”

The provincial government begins a program to subsidize wolf pelt profits for trappers. The non-resident hunting license is reinstated to allow hunting beyond the big game season.


The Alberta resident wolf-hunting license is cancelled, thereby allowing an unregulated harvest within the big game season.

Former provincial caribou coordinator Mike Bloomfield says: “The province cannot justify killing wolves to protect caribou herds near Grand Cache” (Edmonton Journal, April 4).

Environment Canada issues a press release claiming that after a 25-year absence, a pack of wolves has become year-round residents of Banff National Park.

The Central Rockies Wolf Project is established as a non-profit agency dedicated to field research projects on wolf population recovery near Banff National Park and environs.

1986 - 1990

Letters to the editor in the Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal pour in to support wolf protection, to oppose a wolf cull, to limit wolf hunting, and to advocate habitat protection as the key to woodland caribou recovery.


An article in the Edmonton Journal (Nov. 6) says that government plans to cull 70% of the wolves near Willmore Wilderness are meeting with stiff opposition by AWA, celebrities (e.g., Robert Bateman), and other environmental groups. The cull is planned to assist in woodland caribou recovery. However, caribou recovery plans state that wolf culling must be considered only alongside changes to land-use practices in caribou ranges. Industrial activity continues unabated in caribou habitat. One provincial caribou biologist is quoted in the Edmonton Journal (Nov. 3): “The wolf is being made to pay the price for what is really the consequence of human activity.”

An article in the Edmonton Journal (November) reports that the provincial Wildlife Advisory Council is undecided on the wolf cull issue: 13 of 26 members support the cull, while 4 members oppose, 5 are undecided, and 2 will abstain

The Federation of Alberta Naturalists withdraws its support for the provincial Caribou Restoration Plan over the wolf-culling issue (Edmonton Journal, Dec. 7).


A provincial report on big game management and wolves concludes that “the importance of factors other than wolf predation to big game abundance must be recognized.”

The non-resident wolf hunting license is dropped.

An aerial cull of wolves in northern B.C. brings international attention to wolf management. Friends of the Wolf members rent aircraft to disturb helicopter-borne wolf snipers.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature Red Book names the Canadian wolf the second most threatened species in the country, with the Vancouver Island marmot faring worse.


An article in the Calgary Herald cites a Fish and Wildlife official claiming that poison will be used on a limited basis as well as snares or traps. The official says that 30%, or about 1,500 wolves, are targeted for extermination each year.

Herman Schwenk, a member of an Alberta agriculture lobby group, is appointed to chair a government committee that will review the provincial Wildlife Act, which he hopes will relax restrictions on strychnine poisoning. Currently only Fish and Wildlife officers can use strychnine to poison wolves when it is clear that cattle have been killed by wolves.

Alberta Fish and Wildlife officials have distributed over 2,500 wolf snares to rural communities to help with wolf-control programs.


The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources convenes a workshop in Edmonton to discuss wolf management and conservation.

An article in the Calgary Herald quotes the Canadian Council on Animal Care: “Strychnine should not be used.… [T]he animal may be conscious and thus subjected to excruciating pain until hypoxia of the brain supervenes.” The provincial government continues its program of strychnine baiting to kill wolves.


A government report concludes that wolf predation on livestock is not a “serious negative factor.” The report recommends that land managers should minimize granting grazing permits in forested areas in order to reduce wolf-livestock conflicts.


A Fish and Wildlife report illustrates the official strategy for wolf management: “Beginning in 1972, the Fish and Wildlife Division initiated a wolf-control program in which every wolf complaint was investigated as soon as possible upon receipt and strychnine baits placed by Division personnel in cases of confirmed … wolf predation.”

Only Fish and Wildlife officers are permitted to poison wolves, but any resident may shoot a wolf on private land and may hunt wolves during big game season on public lands.

1977 - 1978

Illegal poisoning campaigns are started in several areas to control what the Alberta Fish and Game Association calls “an apparent wolf population explosion” in 1974. No charges are laid in connection with these poisonings. Although strychnine poisoning of wolves is illegal, baits intended for use on coyotes are still available from Agriculture offices.


The Calgary Herald cites a report by local hunters that at least five wolves were poisoned illegally in the Livingston Range, north of the Crowsnest Pass. The report states that a number of other animals were found dead at the bait station, including golden eagles.

1975 - 1976

Official records from the provincial wolf extermination program show a decade peak harvest of 144 wolves.

A non-resident wolf hunting license is created, costing $75 for Canadians and $150 for non-Canadians.


A rancher compensation program is implemented to help recover some costs associated with wolf depredation of livestock (Livestock Predator Compensation Program).


The wolf-hunting season is extended by two months.


The Alberta Fish and Game Association submits a resolution calling for a wolf extermination program in response to increasing wolf sightings in the Nordegg area. The resolution is defeated, as members object to poisoning techniques.


Wolf pelt prices are steady and the 610 average harvest is worth about $47,000 per year. The province initiates a series of studies focusing on wolf-livestock interaction. The persecution of wolves begins to subside as government switches from a broad program of wolf eradication to the targeted elimination of “problem” animals responsible for livestock destruction.


Alberta’s wolf population is estimated at approximately 3,500 individuals. Provincial biologists argue that wolf numbers are increasing but are not affecting big game populations.


A wolf-trapping season is regulated for the first time.


A government report (1984) cites 1966 as the last year of predator control for big game in Alberta.


Wolves are classified as fur-bearing carnivores, meaning wolf-hunting regulations allows unlicensed hunting on private land and a seasonal hunting restriction on public land.


The provincial wolf population is estimated at just over 1,200.


Wolf-control programs in Alberta’s national parks are cancelled.


Provincial wolf bounties are cancelled.


Wolf poisoning is banned in Jasper National Park, but hunting and trapping continue.

By the end of the anti-rabies campaign, the provincial wolf population is thought to be about 500 to 1,000 individuals.


A local outfitter describes wolves as “over-running” the country near Jasper.

1952 - 1953

A Fish and Wildlife officer kills 67 wolves in a poisoning campaign near Rocky Mountain House.

1952 - 1956

An anti-rabies campaign destroys 5,461 wolves, 90% of which are from northern Alberta. An 8,000-km long, double trapline is established on forest edges near settled areas and is manned by over 170 trappers. Sixty-four wolves are killed in the first winter of this program and 5,461 wolves are recorded as exterminated by the end of the program in 1956.

1951 - 1952

Wolf-control operations continue in Wood Buffalo and other national parks. The Dickson club of the Alberta Fish and Game Association poisons at least 17 wolves on a single bait, although, according to one government report, “the total kill was likely higher.”


Some estimates put the provincial wolf population at 5,000.


The wolf population in Banff has increased from two in 1944 to 38 in 1950.


Bounties for 1,286 wolves are paid by the province.


With society focused on the war effort and a concomitant growing ungulate population due to reduced hunting pressure, wolf numbers rebound. Approximately 60 wolves are reported in the entire Rocky Mountains national parks.


A total of 732 wolf pelts are taken in Alberta.


Wolves are seen in increasing numbers in the Waterton Lakes area.


Wolves are becoming common again south of the Athabasca River.


Wolves begin to reappear in traps near Valleyview and Grand Prairie.


Wolf bounties are reinstated.


A hundred wolf pelts are taken throughout the province.


After “many years of absence,” one pair of wolves is observed in Banff National Park. Provincial wolf bounty payments are cancelled.


Wolf populations expand in Wood Buffalo National Park.


Wolves are exterminated from the Waterton Lakes National Park and surrounding area.


Wolves are described as “rare” south of the Athabasca River.


The Chief Game Guardian of Alberta advises the public on a wolf management strategy in a provincial report: “It is up to everyone to try to protect himself by destroying [wolves].” 

The provincial government assumes bounty payments for wolf extermination.


The Western Stock Growers Association pays bounties for nearly 3,000 dead wolves by 1907.

1875 - 1915

Prey loss (e.g., bison, elk, deer) and active persecution by newly settled ranchers take their toll on wolf populations in Alberta. Wolves are extirpated from the prairie.

1850 - 1875

Reports from early European-driven expeditions indicate that wolves are plentiful. Kootenai Brown reports that in one week, 120 wolves were killed within 200 yards of a poisoned cattle carcass in southern Alberta. 

Poisoning carcasses and active hunting and trapping of wolves is common in this period, but there are no reports of population declines.


Wolves are common throughout Western Canada, feeding on roaming bison herds throughout the prairies and forests of Alberta.