Wolf bounties became something of a cause célèbre last year when it came out that, as Alaska governor, Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin had offered hunters $150 per kill. American actress Ashley Judd kept the issue alive into the new year, releasing a video calling upon Palin to “stop this senseless savagery.”
Judd’s pitch triggered what the press pounced on as a “cat fight,” the kind of celebrity row that can cloud an issue. In fact, wolves and people are increasingly encroaching upon each other’s territories, and the implications for both sides are serious. This winter, a pack in Bradore, Que., not far from Labrador, has residents cowering indoors, with one woman recently describing how wolves devoured one of her Siberian huskies.
Such close encounters elsewhere in Canada have made incentives like Palin’s attractive. “We never called it a bounty, it’s a bonus,” says Neal Hardy, the reeve of Hudson Bay, Sask., a farming community 380 km east of Saskatoon. Hardy has just renewed a year-old scheme giving hunters $100 per wolf carcass; the town has so far paid out on 100 animals. Local packs, Hardy says, have followed their prey—deer, elk and moose—into the farmlands, where they now dine on cattle and other tender morsels.
Other jurisdictions have sought similar measures. Alberta last year backed away from a plan to kill wolf pups and sterilize their parents. This month, Idaho Republican Senator Gary Schroeder slung a wolf pelt on the wall of a committee meeting, an indication of just how badly he wants wolves de-listed as an endangered species. But Saskatchewan wolf expert Paul Paquet is suspicious of whether bounties work. He’s suspicious of the tales of dog-marauding wolves too. “Many of them quote other people, then they get exaggerated. I’m sure that’s where the story about the little boy who cried wolf came from.”