Canadian Manufacturing

Environmental groups ask why strychnine still used to kill wolves

Between 2005 and 2018, strychnine killed 225 wolves and 239 other animals

March 12, 2020  The Canadian Press

Environmental groups are wondering why Ottawa wants to ban farmers from killing gophers with strychnine but plans to allow provincial governments to use it against wolves.

Last week, the Pest Management Review Agency ruled that using strychnine against Richardson’s ground squirrels, a control method on farms, would no longer be allowed. The agency, a department of Health Canada, said the deadly poison poses too much risk to non-target animals – some of them endangered species such as the swift fox or burrowing owl.

The decision doesn’t affect the Alberta government, one of strychnine’s largest users. The province targets wolves by placing about 200 strychnine tablets every year in caribou habitat to protect herds threatened by the forestry and energy industries.

Using strychnine against wolves creates the same problems as using it against gophers, Sadie Parr of Wolf Awareness said in a personal statement.

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“We really question why (the review agency) has not come to similar conclusions about strychnine for carnivores, when the Alberta data show many non-targets succumbing to this poison,” said Parr.

Marie-Pier Burelle, a Health Canada spokeswoman said strychnine is used differently against gophers.

“During a ground squirrel outbreak, the number of burrows treated is in the thousands, therefore creating many sites where non-target species could be poisoned. The wolf use is a much more limited pattern,” Burelle said in an email to the Canadian Press.

An analysis of animals killed by strychnine in just one of the Alberta caribou ranges where it is used shows it killed other animals more than it did wolves.

Between 2005 and 2018, strychnine killed 225 wolves and 239 other animals, including foxes, coyotes, lynx, eagles and a grizzly bear.

Strychnine kills by causing muscle cramps that eventually strangle the animal.