In June 2016, status assessments by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and by the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO) resulted in a reclassification of and name change for the eastern wolf. Ontario’s remnant eastern wolves are now called “Algonquin wolves.” Moreover, the wolves are now listed as “threatened” under the province’s Endangered Species Act (ESA), granting the species an extra degree of protection from its previous listing of “special concern” issued in 2008. Under the ESA, all threatened and endangered species and their habitat are automatically protected.
But on September 15, 2016, the very day Ontario’s hunting and trapping seasons open, the Ontario government announced that despite the its “threatened” status, the province is limiting protection of Algonquin wolves to three small, disconnected ‘islands’, keeping all others areas open to hunting and trapping. These islands constitute less than 10% of the wolves’ habitat in Ontario. Thus, threatened Algonquin wolves will remain unprotected from hunting and trapping in the majority of their range.
Beyond undermining the intent of the province’s ESA, Ontario’s decision to allow hunters and trappers to kill Algonquin wolves across the majority of their extent of occurrence sends a message to the American people and its own constituents that species-at-risk recovery is not a priority. As the global stronghold for a threatened wolf species that researchers now know roamed much of the eastern side of North America, Ontario should let science, not political pressure, steer conservation policy.