By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson
The killing last week of Takaya, the lone wolf of Canada’s Discovery Island whose story of survival and resilience captivated people around the globe, is a grim reminder of the uphill battle wolves face in the modern world.
This was a legendary young wolf, with a grit and instinct for survival that riveted conservationists. The unique life he carved for himself made him the subject of numerous documentaries and television shows, winning him fans the world over. He certainly did not deserve to die for the sake of some trophy hunter’s cheap thrill.
It is believed that Takaya ventured off on his own and away from his pack more than six years ago. While wolves rarely move out of their packs, we can only assume that the wolf–beset by the pressures that so many of his kind face today, including trophy hunting, government culls and habitat destruction—left to start a family of his own.
Takaya was first spotted travelling alone by members of the Songhees First Nation whose territory includes Discovery Island in British Columbia. He lived solo for many years, earning the sobriquet of the “lone wolf.” Earlier this year he ventured out once again, possibly on a search for food or a mate. He completed a dangerous swim across coastal waters to Victoria where he was eventually tranquilized by conservation officers, tagged and relocated to a remote area near Port Renfrew. It is there that the trophy hunter shot him.
The British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource and Rural Development, which relocated him, had a heightened responsibility to ensure his safety, especially from trophy hunters, but unfortunately it failed to do so.
Takaya’s senseless death is echoing around the world, but the sad truth is that thousands of wolves meet similar fates in Canada. In addition to the threats of trophy hunts and aerial shooting, wolves are targeted by trappers in several provinces, and continue to be poisoned in Alberta (which still allows the use of extremely dangerous and inhumane poisons, such as strychnine and compound 1080).
There is a vast disconnect between public attitudes towards trophy hunting and the actions of provincial governments in managing wildlife populations. Nowhere is this discrepancy more clear than in British Columbia, where polls show more than 90% opposition to trophy hunting, and yet the government continues to authorize trophy hunts, and even permits the promotion of wildlife killing contests, similar to those we are fighting here in the United States.
HSI/Canada has, for many years, made it a top priority to protect wolves from trophy hunting and culls. We led a coalition of groups in successfully shutting down Ontario’s plan to expand wolf and coyote hunting in 2016, and in British Columbia, HSI is working to end the province’s archaic and scientifically unsound wolf culling program as well as killing contests that promote recreational trophy hunting.
The situation stateside is not much different for wolves. Here, too, they face multiple threats from climate change, habitat destruction and trophy hunters.
Last year, the Trump administration proposed and is now considering a rule that would end federal Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the lower 48 states, leaving them to the mercy and inconsistency of state law. Not long ago, we wrote about the challenges wolves who leave the safety of Yellowstone National Park face because of rampant trophy hunting, trapping and predator control in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. And last year, Oregon opened the door to future trophy hunting of its small population of wolves.
We are keeping up the pressure on the U.S. government and states to stop persecuting wolves. Wolves in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota and other midwestern states are still federally protected from trophy hunting because of litigation brought by the HSUS. And in the wake of Takaya’s death, HSI/Canada is calling on the British Columbia government to prohibit the trophy hunting of wolves throughout the province.
An op-ed last week in the Globe and Mail likened the killing of Takaya to that of Cecil the lion, who was killed by an American trophy hunter in 2015. The deaths of both these animals, so beloved by so many animal lovers worldwide, are indeed stark reminders of the heavy price the world’s wildlife pays when our lawmakers pander to trophy hunters. It is high time we stop this injustice. U.S. and Canadian laws should reflect the wishes of the vast majority of citizens who love animals and would rather see them survive in the wild, not those of a handful of trophy hunters who kill for fun.
Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.