A wolf researcher and conservationist is calling on the Alberta government to change the regulations around how wolf populations are managed in the province.

Alberta has a healthy wolf population at present, and enough natural prey animals to sustain that population — yet they are treated like vermin, said Kevin Van Tighem, who retired in 2011 as the superintendent of Banff National Park.

Under current rules, people are allowed to hunt wolves without a licence or quota on public land between October and June. Hunting on private land is allowed throughout the year."You or I could go out and kill as many wolves as we want tomorrow and that would all be legal," Van Tighem told Edmonton AM host Trisha Estabrooks Monday.

Kevin Van Tighem

Kevin Van Tighem, who retired in 2011 as the superintendent of Banff National Park, says wolf-culling policies need to be changed. (Kevin Van Tighem/Facebook)

Most hunters will use some form of bait station, Van Tighem said, and will lie in wait until the wolves come close. Trappers will often surround the bait site with wire snares to help entangle the animals, he said.
In cases where wolves are perceived to be causing problems for local livestock, provincial wildlife officers may put out poison, Van Tighem said.
"Basically, our regulations allow for a variety of ways of killing wolves, and some of those ways are exceptionally cruel — and would never be allowed for other animals."

The root of the problem, said Van Tighem, is the "long and complicated relationship between humans and wolves."

Historically, conflicts between livestock and wolves were a valid concern. But improved technology now exists to keep the animals apart, Van Tighem said. Long-held prejudicial attitudes against wolves remain in place, particularly when it comes to the province's culling policy."People just aren't rational when it comes to wolves. Either they love them too much or they hate them too much," Van Tighem said.

He said current regulations, which allow generalized culling, are largely rooted in the latter perspective, something Van Tighem would like to see changed.