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Updates indicated by dates in section title links. Most recent edit: [17/12/12]


EXTREMELY URGENT: We have only weeks left!!


EXTREMELY URGENT: CARIBOU POSSIBLY SEX EXTIRPATED FROM SLATE ISLANDS PROVINCIAL PARK!!


CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM: Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry Announces Intention to Move Some Caribou.



This FAQ is split into several sections:

The Basics: If you read nothing else, please read these questions;

Further Reading: Details regarding the situation;

Bigger Questions: Information related to why we have taken our positions; and

Accountability: Questions related to what we have done so far to try to manifest change. Included here are Freedom of Information Request and Access to Information Request documents and releases, as well as details of any appeals.


The Basics:


What’s the issue? [17/12/05]


What’s being proposed to solve this issue? [17/12/05]


What can I do to help? [17/12/05]


Whom should I contact? What should I say? [17/12/05]


Who are you?


Are you advocating for the culling of wolves? [17/12/05]


What are your interests in the issue?


Do any First Nation communities support your initiatives? [17/12/09]


Have you received any media coverage? [17/12/12]



Further Reading:


What’s a caribou?


Where do caribou live? Did they always live where they live now?


Were caribou always resident on Lake Superior’s coasts and islands?


Does Ontario have a plan to manage Lake Superior’s caribou?


What is the status of the coastal population segment of the Lake Superior caribou at present?


What is a cratering mark?


What is the status of the Pic Island segment of the Lake Superior caribou population at present?


What is the significance of the Michipicoten Island and Slates Islands segment of the Lake Superior caribou population? [17/12/05]


What is the genetic relationship between the sub-populations of the caribou of Lake Superior?


Did caribou have a historical presence on Michipicoten Island?


How did the present caribou of Michipicoten Island get there? [17/12/05]


How did the caribou of Michipicoten Island fare until 2013?


Why was this population’s success scientifically significant?


In relation to caribou, what of significance happened on Michipicoten Island in the winter of 2013/2014?


What happened to the caribou of Michipicoten Island after wolf arrival?


What does science say about this situation? [17/12/05]


The Dr. Patterson Albequerque talk indicates that caribou extirpation will happen as soon as 2020. Are there other perspectives? [17/12/05]


Will the presence of beavers make this system an unknown and therefore worthy of study?


What could be some of the research motivations for the investigations the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry claims are happening in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park? [17/12/05]


Are there some investigations which might actually have been worthwhile?


What about the second part of Dr. Bergerud’s test?


Are the results of studies in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park and Slate Islands Provincial Park really as significant as some claim?


Could the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry know of, or be planning for, a pending extirpation of caribou from Michipicoten Island Provincial Park?


Have any First Nation communities been consulted about this research?


The wolves arrived in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park on their own, so isn’t the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry simply taking advantage of a fortuitous natural occurrence to conduct research? [17/12/05]


Who approved the conduction of this research from a scientific perspective?


Who approved the conduction of this research from an ethics and animal care perspective?


How do the moose or bears in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park and Slate Islands Provincial Park effect the outcome of what is transpiring?



Bigger Questions:


I support what you are proposing, but why should I, as a taxpayer, pay to implement your ideas?


Don’t wolves, as a species, need protection, too?


Will you pursue legal action to attempt to force implementation of your proposal?


Would you like a donation?


Doesn’t what you are proposing interfere with the balance of nature?


Shouldn’t we just let nature take its course in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park and Slate Islands Provincial Park?


What if your proposed solutions are enacted, caribou are saved, but then another ice bridge forms to Michipicoten Island Provincial Park or Slate Islands Provincial Park in the future and wolves return? [17/12/05]


Are you arguing for increased interventionism in wildlife and wildlands management?


Am I, the reader, an interventionist?


Fine, I’m an interventionist. Somehow, though, I’m still uncomfortable with intervening in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park and Slate Islands Provincial Park. Can you help me to understand my hesitation better?


Aren’t the Lake Superior caribou just hold-outs and/or the walking dead?


Should we really waste resources to save the Lake Superior caribou when those same resources might be better-spent on other caribou populations?


You seem to find triage distasteful. Fine, but where would you draw a final “line in the sand” for caribou?



Accountability:


Have you filed a Request for Review to try to protect the Lake Superior caribou?


Did you file a Freedom of Information Request to obtain details with respect to how this Request for Review was handled?



What’s the issue?


Only one refugium, Michipicoten Island Provincial Park, remains for the caribou of Lake Superior. The species was extirpated over the past centuries from Isle Royale, the Apostle Islands and several of the larger island complexes on the Canadian shoreline. The cause of the past extirpations is a debate on ultimate and proximate factors, but the arrival of white-tailed deer, moose, and the wolf predators they bring with them is the reason to speak of today’s need for refugiums.


Michipicoten Island Provincial Park did not receive visits by wolves for the over thirty years that the present caribou population has existed there. Wolves arrived in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park in the winter of 2013/2014 and have severely reduced the caribou population. At this time, caribou, a species at risk, is threatened with extirpation from the Lake Superior watershed. The situation is exceedingly urgent; see our calculation.


Further, between 15 and 20 wolves will likely die of starvation when the caribou – their dominant prey in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park – are extirpated.


What’s being proposed to solve this issue?


We are calling for the immediate execution of a two-pronged approach to ensure the persistence of caribou in the Lake Superior watershed.


Prong “A” calls for the immediate movement of as many caribou as possible to Slate Islands Provincial Park, Montreal Island, and Leach Island. Caribou translocations to/from these locations have been successful in the past. These islands have a history of functioning as short- and long-term refugiums for caribou.


Prong “B” calls for some caribou and offspring retained at the relocation sites to be returned to Michipicoten Island Provincial Park after the wolves starve or are removed.



What can I do to help?


First and foremost, please read the entirety of this FAQ to familiarize yourself with the details of this complex issue. The issue should, among other things, cause you to reexamine what you know and believe about wildlife management, nature taking its course, and the balance of nature.


Emails, letters, and phone calls to a number of key people will pressure Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Canada’s federal government to act promptly to resolve this issue, thereby protecting biodiversity in the Great Lakes watershed.


Whom should I contact? What should I say?


Above all, tell everyone you can about what is happening. It’s coming into Christmas party season; this is a great conversation starter!


After this, contact those in the positions to change the situation. Tweet us when you do! When contacting politicians and bureaucrats, refer them to LakeSuperiorCaribou.ca and state that you support our two-pronged approach to addressing the pending extirpation of caribou from the Lake Superior watershed. If you do nothing else, send an email. Never underestimate the impact this simple step can have!


With respect to whom you should contact, we suggest starting high on the ladder:


The Premier*, Kathleen Wynne

The Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry*, Kathryn McGarry

The Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, Catherine McKenna


If you live in the provincial electoral district of Algoma-Manitoulin, Michael Mantha

Otherwise, find your MPP here.


If you live in the federal riding of Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing, Carol Hughes

Otherwise, find your MP here.

Thereafter, consider contacting:


The Director, Species Conservation Policy Branch, Chloe Stuart

Manager, Wildlife Research and Monitoring Section, Peter Carter

Zone Manager, Northwest Parks Zone, Kevin Leveque


*If you contact only two people, contact these two people.


Who are you?


We are a small group of concerned citizens which includes scientists, biologists, conservationists, and naturalists. Each opinion expressed on this website may be the opinion of one of us, of some of us, or of all of us. We are a part of no formal organizational structure with respect to this issue.


Are you advocating for the culling of wolves?


Absolutely not. Unfortunately, when the caribou are extirpated, there will be little else for the wolves to eat in the coming winter.


What are your interests in the issue?


None of us stands to benefit financially from the retention or the elimination of either wolves or caribou in the Lake Superior watershed or beyond. Our interests are personal – we believe in the value of keeping caribou around for the sake of it. None of us has any role in any concrete business or academic undertakings in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park or Slate Islands Provincial Park presently. We are interested simply because we care. We hope you will care enough to act, too.


Do any First Nation communities support your initiatives?


Yes. Chief Patricia Tangie of Michipicoten First Nation has been incredibly supportive of the initiatives which are being proposed. Michipicoten First Nation has been instrumental in drawing attention to this issue.


Have you received any media coverage?


We have received media coverage. In this section, media coverage is sorted into coverage before and coverage after the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s announcements of 17/12/07.


Media Coverage Before 17/12/07: CBC News website (17/09/01, 17/12/05); CBC Radio (17/09/01, 17/12/05); InfoSuperior (17/11/30); the Sault Star (17/11/03, 17/11/14, 17/11/28, 17/11/28); the Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal (17/05/06); and the Toronto Star (17/11/02, 17/11/02).


Media Coverage Including and After 17/12/07: Calgary Herald (17/12/08); CBC News website (17/12/07, 17/12/12); CBC Radio (17/12/12); The Chronicle Herald (17/12/08); CityNews (17/12/08); CTV News (17/12/08); Duluth News Tribune (17/12/10); Edmonton Journal (17/12/08); Global News (17/12/08); Grand Forks Herald (17/12/10); The Hamilton Spectator (17/12/08); Humboldt Journal (17/12/08); Inforum (17/12/10); Metronews.ca (17/12/08); Minnesota Public Radio (17/12/11); MSN (17/12/08); myAlgoma.ca (17/12/08); National Post (17/12/08); Northhumberland News (17/12/08); The Ottawa Citizen (17/12/08); Pine and Lakes Echo Journal (17/12/10); The Province (17/12/08); Radio-Canada (17/12/08); Sault Star (17/12/12); Sudbury.com (17/12/11); Times Colonist (17/12/08); Wawa News (17/12/11); Waterloo Region Record (17/12/08); Windsor Star (17/12/08); Winnipeg Free Press (17/12/08); and Yahoo! News (17/12/08);


Our heartfelt gratitude is extended to all the journalism professionals who have helped to raise awareness of the plight of the caribou in the Lake Superior watershed.




What’s a caribou?


Rangifer tarandus is a circumpolar animal. There exist several subspecies of Rangifer tarandus. In Canada, Rangifer tarandus caribou – colloquially called the boreal woodland caribou, the woodland caribou, or the forest-dwelling caribouis found in most provinces and territories. In other parts of the world, Rangifer tarandus may be called a reindeer. Wikipedia is a good place to learn more about this animal.


Where do caribou live? Did they always live where they live now?


Maps showing the historical and the present range of caribou reveal that the animal has lost nearly 50% of its historical North American range over the past approximately 200 years. In the Great Lakes watershed, this animal could once be found south of Sudbury, Ontario, and in the upper Lakes states. Today the animal is found in far northern Ontario and, with one very small and shrinking exception, it is not generally found in the lower 48 US states.


Were caribou always resident on Lake Superior’s coasts and islands?


Yes, at least since the retreat of the last ice age. The southernmost naturally occurring mainland caribou population in the world at this time is found on Lake Superior’s coasts and islands. Maps showing the historical and the present range of caribou indicate that the animal was present around the entirety of Lake Superior’s coast. Lake Superior’s Isle Royale, Michipicoten Island, and Slate Islands have present and/or historical records indicating caribou presence. In recent history, caribou were found in Lake Superior Provincial Park, Pukaskwa National Park, and Neys Provincial Park, though they are now extirpated from the former two. Based on maps, the Lake Superior watershed is in the heart of the animal’s historical range, so the caribou’s presence there is in no way anomalous.


The Province of Ontario refers to the Lake Superior caribou population’s range as the Lake Superior Coast Range. Canada’s federal government refers to the range as ON6. This document may refer to Lake Superior’s caribou as the Lake Superior Coast Range caribou; or as the ON6 caribou; or as the Lake Superior caribou.


Does Ontario have a plan to manage Lake Superior’s caribou?


Ontario’s Endangered Species Act demands recovery strategies be generated for species at risk. This requirement saw Ontario generate its Woodland Caribou Conservation Plan in 2009. Within this plan are a number of important statements which are directly pertinent to Lake Superior’s caribou. These include:


4.1.4 The Lake Superior coastal population will be managed for population security and persistence. The focus will be to protect and manage habitat and encourage connectivity to caribou populations to the north.”


5.3 Ontario will review the feasibility of caribou translocations (i.e. the trapping and transferring of animals within Ontario) as a caribou recovery tool for very specific situations, including an assessment of risks and the development of criteria and guidelines, if appropriate. This review will examine lessons learned from past experience in Ontario and elsewhere as well as disease transmission and regulatory considerations. Translocations have been shown to be successful at establishing caribou populations in very specific situations, such as predator-free islands.”


5.5 Within the geographic distribution of caribou, populations of predators will be managed primarily by managing habitat and the associated roads to reflect natural forest conditions. This will include the management of land and resource uses to maintain naturally-occurring low densities of prey (e.g. Moose, White-tailed Deer) and predators. Ontario will assess the feasibility and effectiveness of directly and indirectly influencing predator densities in very specific situations, and develop criteria and guidelines for managing the prey-predator balance[*] as required.” * See our discussion on the balance of nature below.


These are promising statements, and they indicate that the two-pronged approach to persistence which is being proposed in the present exigent circumstance is in compliance with Ontario’s framework.


Literature released subsequent to the Woodland Caribou Conservation Plan tells a somewhat more concerning story. In its Range Management Policy in Support of Woodland Caribou Conservation and Recovery of 2014, Ontario states of Lake Superior’s caribou:


This policy applies to the area of continuous distribution of Woodland Caribou (Forest-dwelling boreal population) (Rangifer tarandus caribou), in Ontario (Figure 1), excluding the Lake Superior Coast Range.”


This is the only time this caribou population is mentioned, and it’s mentioned as representing an exception to plans; no justification as to why this exception is made is given.


Also in 2014, Ontario’s State of the Woodland Caribou Resource Report mentions the Lake Superior caribou several times. Most often, its mention occurs with some form of the word “exception”.


It seems that Ontario is adrift in its own paperwork and lack of direction, positioning the people of Lake Superior to lose their caribou population. The two-pronged approach to ensuring persistence presented above is an excellent Woodland Caribou Conservation Plan-compliant plan to undertake immediately since ignoring this caribou population has left it in a position to disappear from the land. In the end, plans amount to nothing without associated actions.


What is the status of the coastal population segment of the Lake Superior caribou at present?


For all intents and purposes, the coastal population no longer exists. A recent federal Access to Information Request has resulted in the public release of a report written as the result of a 2015/2016 aerial survey performed by Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Parks Canada. This aerial survey – extending from 20 km east of Nipigon to approximately half-way through Lake Superior Provincial Parkrecorded not one caribou sighting. Only four groups of “caribou sign” were reported, all recorded west of Neys Provincial Park. With the exception of cratering marks, it is difficult to discriminate such signs so as to conclusively assert that they arise from caribou versus from another source. The report also indicated that “budget constraints” limited the length of flights undertaken to investigate the origin of caribou sign – to find the animals that made the signs – to 10 minutes. If it indeed was caribou which generated the signs which were attributed to caribou in the survey report, the animals responsible may have migrated off the Slate Islands, rather than being animals which were a part of a stable north shore population base.


Even after seeing no caribou, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Parks Canada reported that there were 55 (95% CI, 13, 227) caribou on the north shore of Lake Superior. The confidence interval comprises a hundreds-of-percent uncertainty interval.


What is a cratering mark?


Caribou “cratering” is the behavior of pawing in snow to access the vegetation beneath. This leaves a dug-out area, or a “crater”. Cratering is a behavior which is unique to caribou.


What is the status of the Pic Island segment of the Lake Superior caribou population at present?


There may be a small caribou population on Pic Island at present, but this is unlikely to be a stable, self-sustaining population. These animals may have arrived as a result of migration from the Slate Islands. Alternatively, these may be the last caribou to occupy any mainland areas near Lake Superior. They could be what is left after a long and ceaseless decline.


What is the significance of the Michipicoten Island and Slates Islands segment of the Lake Superior caribou population?


From the executive summary of the 2015/2016 aerial survey: “If caribou living on the coastal mainland and nearshore islands are treated as being somewhat independent from the high density caribou populations on Slate Islands P.P. and Michipicoten Island P.P., they would be considered very small and consequently, vulnerable to quasi-extinction due to stochastic risk factors alone (Environment Canada 2008).”


Put another way, as of the time of writing of the above document, the caribou populations of Michipicoten Island Provincial Park and Slate Islands Provincial Park were critical to the persistence of woodland caribou in the Lake Superior watershed. As of now, evidence indicates the caribou of the Slate Islands are sex-extirpated since apparently only between two and four bulls remain. This means the last critical population is found on Michipicoten Island Provincial Park.


The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Canada’s federal government are aware of the importance of Michipicoten Island Provincial Park in harbouring caribou. In its 2012 Species At Risk Act documentation, the federal government classified the caribou of the ON6 range – one range of 51 nationally – as one of only 14 “self-sustaining” populations. It is generally accepted that the decision to classify the ON6 population as self-sustaining was based largely on the securities of the caribou populations in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park and Slate Islands Provincial Park. Take that security away; take those populations away; and ON6 becomes “not self-sustaining”.


Based on expert opinion, the maps which delimited the ON6 range in the 2012 federal government literature greatly over-exaggerated the range of caribou on the Lake Superior coast. In other words, the maps were already out-of-date at the time of publication.


If the caribou of Michipicoten Island Provincial Park are lost, the caribou of Lake Superior are lost.


What is the genetic relationship between the sub-populations of the caribou of Lake Superior?


Attempts to obtain answers to this interesting and important question have been made by Parks Canada. It seems that, at least according to limited studies, the caribou of Michipicoten Island Provincial Park, Slate Islands Provincial Park, and Pukaskwa National Park are all related. This means that moving caribou between these three locations, or reintroducing them to one location from another, does not represent moving or reintroducing “non-native” animals.


Did caribou have a historical presence on Michipicoten Island?


Yes. Indigenous caribou were present on Michipicoten Island until about the 1880s, at which time the residents, mostly miners, extirpated them. It has been speculated that in ancient times caribou may have periodically arrived on Michipicoten Island; grown to substantial populations; been joined by wolves due to ice bridge formation to the mainland; and then had their population severely reduced or eliminated by wolf predation. After this, the wolf population would have been reduced or eliminated through starvation or migration off the island, thus completing the cycle. It is unlikely that this cycle would be reengaged today considering that caribou are no longer present along the north shore of Lake Superior near Michipicoten Island. Until recently, the nearest stable population of caribou was on the Slate Islands, about 125 km distant over open water/ice.


How did the present caribou of Michipicoten Island get there?


In the early 1980s a male caribou was spotted on Michipicoten Island. How he arrived there is unknown, but given that caribou are excellent swimmers, he may have swam to the island from the mainland. He may also have walked over ice. Thereafter, the Ministry of Natural Resources translocated several other animals from the Slate Islands in the hope of reestablishing the herd.


How did the caribou of Michipicoten Island fare until 2013?


The success of caribou on Michipicoten Island was an uncertainty immediately after translocation. However, as summarized in the thesis of Benjamin Kuchta, by 2011 the animals had achieved a population of about 680 (95% CI, 328, 875) animals. Population surveys conducted between introduction and 2011 indicated a steady exponential growth of the population. Considering the Slate Islands – about a third the size of Michipicoten Island and supporting a less productive forest – experienced nearly this many animals in the past, the Michipicoten Island caribou population was likely far from exhausting its food supply. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to suspect that the population grew to exceed 700 animals by 2013. There is no evidence that the Michipicoten Island Provincial Park caribou population ever experienced a population crash due to food availability limitations.


Why was this population’s success scientifically significant?


In 1974, the world’s foremost caribou biologist, Dr. Arthur Tom Bergerud, proposed a very straightforward two-part test in an attempt to conclusively verify his suspicions that the success of a caribou population was limited not by lichen availability, but by predation and hunting. Dr. Bergerud proposed that his test be run on “an island lacking predators and lichens but having deciduous growth, sedges, and evergreen shrubs.” Michipicoten Island, being of a substantially Great Lakes/St. Lawrence forest character, provided very little lichen which was readily available to caribou; it was also devoid of predators larger than foxes. Michipicoten Island thus fit the test criteria perfectly. A fortuitous interaction between Dr. Bergerud and Ministry of Natural Resources staff resulted in the selection of Michipicoten Island as the island upon which Dr. Bergerud’s test would be executed. This ultimately manifested a key motivator for the reintroduction of caribou to Michipicoten Island.


Among the reasons the remarkable success of the caribou on Michipicoten Island was scientifically significant was that it conclusively demonstrated that caribou do not need lichen to survive. This demonstrated one of Dr. Bergerud’s suspicions that caribou are not food, or “bottom-up”, limited.


In relation to caribou, what of significance happened on Michipicoten Island in the winter of 2013/2014?


Two particularly harsh winters (2013/2014 and 2014/2015) saw the formation of ice bridges which spanned the approximately 16 km distance between Michipicoten Island and Lake Superior’s north shore mainland. Though not unheard of, the formation of such ice bridges where nevertheless not common. In that first winter, wolves transited to Michipicoten Island. As wolves do, they began to feast on the abundant caribou.


What happened to the caribou of Michipicoten Island after wolf arrival?


After wolf arrival, the caribou population was severely negatively impacted. At this time, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has not been readily forthcoming with population numbers. What is known is known anecdotally. In the years before wolf arrival, camp owners regularly saw all ages of caribou at salt licks which were placed out to attract the caribou. Only adults are now seen. This is expected as caribou calves are extremely vulnerable to wolf predation. Further, fewer and fewer caribou are seen and, for the first time this year, the wolves have presented themselves at occupied camps. Caribou carcasses litter the island, and the fox population has increased noticeably. It has been proposed that the reason for this fox population increase is because wolves do not eat most of the caribou they kill. That the latter should be the case is supported by statements from Dr. Brent Patterson of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry who claims that data show that these wolves are eating `high on the hog,’ and are able to subsist on only the choicest bits of the many winter-starved caribou they take down.


Provincial Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) requests are forthcoming which should shed light on the number of population surveys the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has done with respect to caribou, wolves, and beaver since wolf arrival; how the surveys were performed; and what the results of the surveys showed.


What does science say about this situation?


In 1986, Dr. Bergerud published a landmark paper which compiled results presented in many other publications to reach an important conclusion: A caribou population cannot be sustained if the wolf population density in the same area exceeds 6.5 wolves/1000 km2; this is hereafter called the Bergerud criterion. This important paper which, in effect, specified a “threshold” maximum wolf population density, has been cited over 250 times. The publication presented the results of an aggregation of data gleaned from the study of about 750,000 caribou. Adapting this result to 184 km2 Michipicoten Island reveals that the maximum number of wolves which could be present on the island and not threatening the persistence of the caribou is about 1.2. Therefore, if even two wolves were present on Michipicoten Island, that threshold would be exceeded.


Make no mistake: The above is settled science. There is nothing more to discover. From the perspective of persistence or extirpation of the caribou, the result of what is transpiring in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park is known. Adding what happens to the 700 animals in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park to Dr. Bergerud’s aggregate data derived from 750,000 caribou in no way significantly improves our understanding of Dr. Bergerud’s conclusions. Ontario is poised to lose its Lake Superior caribou for an inconsequential result.


The Bergerud criterion value of 6.5 is applicable to open systems. It has been suggested that the number would be much smaller – and probably strongly dependent on overall area – for islands where prey species cannot readily escape from predators or bear young safely.


Dr. Patterson has indicated here that he expects to find up to 20 wolves on Michipicoten Island this winter; more recently, he stated the numbers would be in the “high teens”. This represents a population density nearly 17 times greater than what the Bergerud criterion indicates the caribou population could withstand. Michipicoten Island is 184 km2. If it were a perfect square, its sides would have lengths less than 14 km/8.5 miles. This leaves little room for escape from 20 wolves.


Dr. Patterson is aware that caribou persistence on Michipicoten Island is imminently threatened. He and/or his associates were scheduled to give a talk at the 2017 The Wildlife Society conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico on September 26th at 2:10 PM (here). While the reason for the cancellation remains unknown, this cancellation occurred after concerned citizens discovered and transmitted knowledge of the abstract. Subsequent to the cancellation, the conference organizers deleted the abstract from the conference program. From the abstract: “Although preliminary, these data support Bergerud’s 1974 contention that predation rather than a shortage of winter lichens may be the primary factor limiting abundance of woodland caribou.”


The Dr. Patterson Albuquerque talk indicates that caribou extirpation will happen as soon as 2020. Are there other perspectives?


The determination that caribou will be extirpated from Michipicoten Island “as soon as 2020” was possibly the result of a calculation performed using a complex model. Models are mathematical entities and something humans use. Nature is not obligated to use mathematical models. To suggest we should “test” our computer models on the last refugium population of caribou in the Lake Superior coast range is negligent, abominable, reckless, and does not conform to the stewardship principle that defines the wildlife professional. It is akin to testing bullets. Regardless, one cannot free oneself from one’s responsibilities for a particular outcome by saying “That’s what the model said”.


Another perspective: Using data from Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation, chapter 4, Peterson and Ciucci determined that wolves consume an average of 11.9 pounds/wolf/day. If 25% of a caribou is inedible, then 33% more caribou weight must be killed to provide 11.9 pounds/wolf/day of consumable meat. This means that wolves must kill 15.9 pounds/wolf/day of caribou. If a caribou weights about 160 pounds, one caribou will sustain one wolf for about 10 days. Thus, for 20 wolves, 20 caribou will be killed every ten days. From the abstract of Dr. Patterson’s talk, 450 caribou have declined >=60%, implying 180 caribou remained in the spring or the summer of 2017; recent other numbers have put the caribou at 116. This means caribou on Michipicoten Island have <=90 days left before extirpation. As of the time of this calculation, this puts extirpation around mid-February, 2018. No complex differential equation model is needed.


Complicating or other important factors:


- Word-of-mouth reports from Michipicoten Island have indicated the wolves there are extremely large, some heavier than the capacities of the scales which were used to weigh them at collaring. The consumption rate of caribou may thus be considerably higher than the figure used above;


- Initial reports indicated that the wolves were not eating the majority of the caribou they were killing, so the wolves may still be killing more than they require to sustain themselves;


- While beaver may have represented available prey during the summer months, in winter, the beaver generally disappear under the ice and into their lodges. As a result wolves will only have caribou on which to sustain themselves in the pending months; and


- The above calculation assumes no caribou were killed during the summer, keeping the population at around 180 animals as of the date of the calculation, 2017/11/12. This assumption is likely very generous. There are probably fewer caribou.


Another perspective: Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry population estimates for caribou on Michipicoten Island for the end of 2016 (approaching a year ago) are around 116 caribou; no uncertainties are given. The ministry’s estimate of the wolf consumption rate of caribou is about 0.4 caribou per day in 2017, or about 1 caribou every 2.5 days. That implies that 116 caribou should last 290 days, implying further that caribou should now be gone. However, the ministry also had 27 caribou cows radio-collared last winter. 14 of those animals (52%) are still alive. What should one take from this?



Will the presence of beavers make this system an unknown and therefore worthy of study?


Arguably many systems are worthy of scientific study. Further, revisiting systems which are claimed to be understood for a more thorough analysis can often yield new findings. Moreover, altering a factor in, or introducing a new factor into, a previously understood system may inject a facet of the unknown which could yield novel results.


What is known is that caribou and wolves can coexist in certain one-predator, one-prey open systems. When other prey animals are present in a system, the wolf population increases and it is usually the caribou which then become the bycatch. Long known, this important truth was recently reemphasized by Serroya et al. and captured by several significant media outlets (here, here, and here).


In the Michipicoten Island Provincial Park case, beaver will contribute to the growth of the wolf population to a density beyond which the caribou population can be sustained as specified by the Bergerud criterion. What may have been an unknown is how quickly beaver could contribute to the alteration of the wolf population. What was not unknown at any time was what the ultimate outcome would be for caribou in this system.


Is this system worthy of study? If worthiness of study is assessed through the execution of a net calculation which includes the price one must pay to gather the knowledge that a system might impart, then it is highly unlikely that the Michipicoten Island Provincial Park system will transmit any knowledge so precious that the people of Ontario and Canada must endure the loss of caribou from the Lake Superior watershed to obtain it. Based on this assessment, this system is not worthy of study in its present state.


What could be some of the research motivations for the investigations the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry claims are happening in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park?


The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has not been highly forthcoming with its plans and research intentions in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park. Much that is known was assembled from bits and pieces of information that escaped from this highly insular organization. For example, Dr. Patterson recently advertised for a graduate student to participate in his work in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park. The description of the work is not detailed. Pending Freedom of Information requests may help to shed some light on this.


Several caribou and wolves have been collared in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park. It has been speculated that the data collars provide is being used to “feed” models of wildlife movement behavior. As a result, while data gathered at any caribou or wolf population level could be useful, data might be particularly useful as caribou approach extirpation. This would manifest a reason for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to allow the caribou in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park to approach extirpation, or to become extirpated.


Conversations with Dr. Arthur Rodgers, on the other hand, have indicated that this work was undertaken to test the Bergerud Criterion. Unfortunately, one cannot meaningfully “test” the Bergerud Criterion; one can only add more data to the existing pool of data by which Bergerud arrived at his conclusion in the hope of perhaps better defining the region around the criterion value of 6.5 wolves/1000 km2. This is the reason why nobody has “tested” the Bergerud Criterion. Notwithstanding this, to better define the Bergerud Criterion, one should not begin by exploring ramifications on caribou populations of wolf population densities in a regime up to 1.2 orders of magnitude greater than 6.5. This is not well-planned experimentation.


Unfortunately, adding data derived from all of the extirpated caribou of Michipicoten Island Provincial Park to the data pool will increase the data pool size by <0.1%. For this near-imperceptible increase in data pool size, the people of Ontario will lose the Lake Superior caribou.


We now have two examples of islands where predators have eliminated caribou: Montreal Island, 1994 (here); and now, in all likelihood, Slate Islands Provincial Park.


Are there some investigations which might actually have been worthwhile?


An interesting investigation might have seen the evaluation of the Bergerud criterion on an island with a fixed population of wolves. Thus, for example, when the original wolves arrived in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park, all members of one sex could have been promptly removed and returned to their mainland origin areas. This might have left two females, for instance. No reproduction could have been possible, so there would have been no chance for the system to “run away” as it has now done. In the long run, there would have been a good chance that the wolves would have died well before extirpating 700+ caribou, so the study would have had a built-in safety mechanism. Had this work been coupled with a study involving the introduction or the natural appearance of wolves in Slate Islands Provincial Park – with perhaps modifications to achieve the same number and sex of wolves as in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park; and perhaps only for a brief period of time in total – one might have been able to make an initial effort to evaluate the Bergerud criterion as a function of island size.


Unfortunately, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry long ago lost the chance to take advantage of this incredible opportunity. The ultimate outcome of the situation underway now is known, and it is an abomination.


What about the second part of Dr. Bergerud’s test?


There is a second part to the test Dr. Bergerud proposed in his 1974 paper that required introducing predators to the test island after it was determined that caribou could survive in a lichen-poor habitat, but before the animals overgrazed the island. If the population grew before predator introduction, but shrank afterward – a simple, binary test – then this would conclusively prove that predation – not lichen availability – was the ultimate determiner of caribou population success.


At this time, the caribou population of Michipicoten Island Provincial Park has been severely impacted by the presence of wolves. As the abstract of the Dr. Patterson talk indicated, caribou populations have declined >=60% since wolf arrival, showing that Dr. Bergerud’s suspicions were correct, and gratuitously satisfying the requirements of the second part of Dr. Bergerud’s test. The experiment is now over. We do not need to extirpate the caribou to prove that predation is the ultimate limiter of caribou population success.


Are the results of studies in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park and Slate Islands Provincial Park really as significant as some claim?


The significance of the results verifying Dr. Bergerud’s suspicions in a binary fashion (caribou population rise or fall) are unquestionably significant and valuable. Beyond this, however, it must be recognized that while caribou are indigenous to the Lake Superior coast and its islands, and therefore not anomalous in presence, the island populations are anomalous in circumstance. In fact, in terms of anomalous circumstances, the Michipicoten Island Provincial Park and Slate Islands Provincial Park caribou populations are possibly the most anomalous in the world.


Put simply, what one learns about caribou in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park and Slate Islands Provincial Park may be academically interesting, but the information may well be useful to no other caribou context anywhere else on the planet. Thus, to claim that everything that is being learned in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park and Slate Islands Provincial Park will inform the management of threatened caribou in Ontario and Canada is to misrepresent the importance of what is being learned. There are no other such populations in Ontario or Canada.


Could the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry know of, or be planning for, a pending extirpation of caribou from Michipicoten Island Provincial Park?


This is unknown beyond what has already been discussed. However, additional information obtained through Freedom of Information Requests and anecdote provides the opportunity for speculation.


The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and/or associated parties have constructed vegetation exclosures in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park and Slate Islands Provincial Park that likely are intended to exclude caribou from grazing certain areas. This might help to answer questions regarding the impact of caribou grazing which may be transferable to other locations. These vegetation studies commenced after wolf arrival in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park. Before wolf arrival, research interest in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park was, somewhat unfortunately, extremely sparse. The park and the island seemed to be largely off the research radar.


In most parts of the province, the density of the caribou population is exceedingly low. This is in general how caribou deal with wolf predation: Caribou spread out to be nearly impossible to find, thereby limiting the growth of the predator population, making the predator population ultimately too small to eliminate the caribou population. Because of their high caribou population densities, both Michipicoten Island Provincial Park and Slate Islands Provincial Park were recognized as providing opportunities to engage in caribou research which could not feasibly have been undertaken elsewhere. Among the types of studies which might be unfeasible at lower caribou population densities but tractable at higher population densities are grazing studies.


One could speculate that there is a sudden interest in the impacts of caribou grazing on vegetation because the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry recognizes that Michipicoten Island Provincial Park faces a future without caribou. As such, researchers must take the opportunity to study grazing impacts before the opportunity is gone; when caribou are extirpated. Get your answers while you can, but hurry up!


Have any First Nation communities been consulted about this research?


At this time, we are unaware that any stakeholders, First Nation or otherwise, outside of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry or some of its academic affiliates, have been consulted regarding this research.


The wolves arrived in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park on their own, so isn’t the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry simply taking advantage of a fortuitous natural occurrence to conduct research?


The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry captured and collared all three wolves of which it was aware on its visit to Michipicoten Island Provincial Park in 2015, demonstrating that it had the power to capture and collar – or remove from Michipicoten Island Provincial Park – all the wolves. By capturing and collaring the wolves; electing not to remove the wolves from Michipicoten Island Provincial Park; and extensively camera-trapping the park so as to track and monitor wolves and caribou, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has thrice reinforced that it has actively and explicitly elected to engage and oversee a wildlife research experiment in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park using caribou and wolves.


The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry then doubled down on its decision to conduct an experiment. Shortly after the collaring expedition in 2015, another wolf – a female – was discovered. This wolf’s presence in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park may have been missed in 2015, or it may have arrived after the initial collaring. Regardless, this new wolf was collared in 2016, but during this visit, two pups were discovered as well. Once again, the Ministry of Natural Resources and forestry chose not to move the animals it had in its hands.


Because the present circumstances directly involve a species at risk which is to be managed for security and persistence – the species at risk is the very subject of the research – the election to not remove the wolves is exceedingly significant. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry chose to pursue research instead of its own goals to manage the caribou for security and persistence. This election compels the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to adhere aggressively, in a to the letter fashion, to accepted scientific and ethical guidelines concerning wildlife research.


What is “natural”? Consider also that although the wolves arrived in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park on their own, the assertion that the high density of the wolf population on the mainland is the result of anthropogenic factors cannot be dismissed. Also, the lack of caribou on the mainland which might have otherwise succeeded in repopulating Michipicoten Island Provincial Park in the future after caribou extirpation is certainly the result of anthropogenic factors.


Who approved the conduction of this research from a scientific perspective?


At this time, we are unaware that the research which is being conducted has been evaluated and approved, and/or is being overseen by a scientific standards and merits committee.


Such committees typically perform multiple roles, among them to “trap” and ensure problems occurring before, during, and/or after research are addressed appropriately, or avoided altogether. Committees might, for example, examine research to ensure it is scientifically valuable.


Who approved the conduction of this research from an ethics and animal care perspective?


At this time, we are unaware that the research which is being conducted has been evaluated and approved, and/or is being overseen by any animal care committee.


The Canadian Council on Animal Care has extensive guidelines (here, here) on how to minimize the impacts of research on wildlife. These guidelines extend far beyond simple animal handling. A cursory examination of those guidelines reveals glaring deficiencies, the existence of which tends to favor the hypothesis that no ethical or animal care considerations have been injected into the present research.


Highlighted as requirements by the animal care guidelines, just four (of many) examples of deficiencies include:


- Violation of Guideline #1: The studies have little scientific merit so should not have been performed; and ought not to have been, or were not, attested to be valuable. While what is discussed in the guidelines in relation to Guideline #1 is relevant, in a number of ways to the present studies, one particular requirement of the guideline is striking: “All studies must undergo an evaluation for scientific merit or potential value prior to ethical review by [Animal Care Committees]. Where this has not been done as a part of the application for research funding, the [Animal Care Committee] must

arrange for an independent review of scientific merit.” This has clearly not been done because absolutely no data being revealed in the Michipicoten Island Provincial Park studies is so meritorious as to justify the extirpation of a species at risk from its refugium. Further, as would have resulted from the generation of a clear research question, have any statistical analyses been performed so as to delineate the minimum number of caribou which must die to answer the research question; or are the studies merely randomly meandering data gathering exercises which will record the extirpation of a species at risk?


- Violation of Guideline #8: The study is likely to have long-term – in fact, terminal – effects on the population being studied and therefore should not be undertaken. This violation is especially egregious considering that a species at risk is being extirpated from one of its two local refugiums.


- An apparent failure to conduct a retrospective review of all wildlife research studies where animal welfare was an issue (e.g. with unacceptable mortality) to avoid repetition of these events. Dr. Bergerud’s work clearly indicates that caribou would face extirpation in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park; his conclusions were based on the aggregation of data from many studies, ultimately comprising the data gleaned from the observations of a total of 750,000 caribou.


- An absence of the ready sharing of data and resources, and the regular and frequent publishing of all results. To the contrary, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has been exceedingly insular.


How do the moose or bears in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park and Slate Islands Provincial Park effect the outcome of what is transpiring?


There are no moose or bears in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park or Slate Islands Provincial Park.


I support what you are proposing, but why should I, as a taxpayer, pay to implement your ideas?


There are at least three ways to approach this.


First, caribou represent sustainable, ecologically friendly, and profoundly valuable educational and tourism economic opportunities. Done properly, the return on an investment which is made to ensure their persistence could represent more money arriving in northern Ontario’s economy than the government would spend keeping these animals here.


Second, forthcoming Freedom of Information Requests should shed at least some light on how much money the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has already spent flying out to Michipicoten Island Provincial Park again and again and again to collar wolves and caribou. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry also reimburses volunteers for fuel money for the boat trips volunteers make to install and maintain the many game cameras they have deployed all throughout Michipicoten Island Provincial Park. Helicopters and airplanes – and even boats – are expensive, as are support staff and liability insurance policies. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has used, on at least one occasion, a private contractor to collar animals. That likely was not cheap considering that the contractor came from western Canada. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has already burned through mountains of your money. We suggest that a small fraction of that money could have been used to instead relocate four wolves from Michipicoten Island Provincial Park in 2014 thereby retaining the possibility to manifest the aforementioned economic opportunities in the future – rather than repeatedly collaring and re-collaring dozens of wolves and caribou. Since caribou die frequently from predation in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park, their collars must be frequently re-deployed. All this money – your money – has been spent for a study with no scientific merit.


Finally, is occasionally spending a bit of money intelligently to keep a species at risk around worth it? We believe so, yes.


Don’t wolves, as a species, need protection, too?


All species are valuable and we should be alert to threats – particularly existential threats – to all of them. At this time Canis lupus is not a threatened species, and that’s a good thing. Caribou, on the other hand, are threatened. Bestowing a species at risk designation – vulnerable, threatened, endangered, et cetera – is not the result of any type of value judgment. It is simply a formalization, supported by scientific evidence, that a species is potentially facing extinction if appropriate steps to mitigate this state are not taken.


Will you pursue legal action to attempt to force implementation of your proposal?


At this time we are a small group of volunteers, so we do not have large financial resources to pursue such an action. If you feel you can help us in this vein through the offering of resources other than money, we would welcome hearing from you. We feel the present situation offers an important opportunity to submit to our courts questions with respect to the fiduciary duty the Crown has to all the people of Ontario and Canada in terms of competent administration and management of the wildlands and wildlife commons. There is much here to investigate. Ontario has the Endangered Species Act, while Canada has the Species At Risk Act. The existence of these acts implies that, at least in principle, the people of Ontario and Canada have identified as a priority the maintenance of species at risk.


If there exists, as a result of legislation, plans and mechanisms by which to ensure the protection of species at risk, but these plans are ignored, why have the legislation in the first place? More importantly, why, using legislative language, hide behind claims that the maintenance of species at risk is a priority for the Crown when the reality is incongruent with this claim?


Would you like a donation?


Thank you kindly for your generous offer. At this time, we have no reason to seek financial donations, nor do we have a mechanism in place by which to accept such donations. Further, we feel we are freer in numerous ways to focus on our aforementioned proposals and the pursuit of accountability when money, or loyalties to its sources, do not enter into consideration.


Doesn’t what you are proposing interfere with the balance of nature?


There is no balance of nature (here, here). This dangerous and corrosive panchreston persists to this day to the frustration of many who teach (here, here, here, [here, here], here, and here); it is tenacious and resistant to elimination. Among the most famous dismissals of the idea was provided by Charles Elton, no less than the “Father of Ecology”. Connell and Sousa quote Elton ([here, here]): “It is assumed that an undisturbed animal community lives in a certain harmony referred to as the balance of nature [... ] The picture has the advantage of being an intelligible and apparently logical result of natural selection in producing the best possible world for each species. It has the disadvantage of being untrue.”


At the heart of the balance of nature idea is the notion that if humans simply walk away from a given system, all will automatically self-regulate. Of greater concern is the interpretation by some that any attempts to influence the natural world could only untangle a magically-balanced world. When one accepts that these notions and concepts are completely unfounded in science – and totally untestable – then one quickly realizes that the balance of nature most dangerously becomes a moralizing force which buttresses excuses to do nothing in the face of exigent circumstances such as where species are faced with extirpation. Hiding behind the balance of nature is the warm, comfortable, feel-good, and generally-accepted way of abdicating our duties and responsibilities as stewards of the natural world.


Recognizing how harmful the balance of nature lie was to species conservation and wildlife management, Dr. Bergerud spent a significant amount of his career trying to dispel the myth. He realized that until people dismissed the balance of nature, management actions appropriate for the persistence of caribou would often not be considered, or otherwise be dismissed.


Imagine how it must feel to watch a species move ever-closer to extinction as a result of people not wanting to dismiss a myth.


Here and here, particularly at 25:30, Dr. Patterson talks about how much harder it is for natural balances and equilibriums to appear on islands versus a mainland. It is suggested that Dr. Patterson is waiting for something to appear that does not exist. In the meantime, the people of Ontario pay for one researcher’s work while they lose their Lake Superior caribou.


Isle Royale has shown that the notion of balance is false: Says Carolyn Peterson of balance, “We don’t use the word balance anymore.


Shouldn’t we just let nature take its course in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park and Slate Islands Provincial Park?


The abandonment of the balance of nature idea represents an empowering transition through which an individual can pass if s/he so chooses. Alternatively, choosing to not make this transition will not imbue the balance of nature with any grain of validity. Your election to not reject the assertion that the balance of nature exists does not make the balance of nature exist.


Upon meaningfully completing a transition away from the acceptance of the existence of the balance of nature, one recognizes that one inhabits a world where there are no preconceived outcomes; where a vigorous and biodiverse world can be repaired or maintained based on choices and political will. One will also recognize a very dangerous reality: If mistakes are made, there is no safe, divine ecological hand which will appear from nowhere to catch us before we destroy something precious. In many cases, we have one shot to get it right.


By abandoning the fallacious balance of nature concept, we demystify the natural world. Once this is accomplished – admittedly a paradigm shift for most of the general public – we are left with possibly the most important truth: There is only one entity which is responsible for the vitality or the failure of the natural world it occupies both today and into the future – humanity.


If we feel caribou – or any other species – are a valued part of our natural, cultural, and indigenous heritage, then we are obligated to choose management actions which will keep these animals and plants around. This may involve intervening from time to time and, as we stress the natural world through anthropogenic mechanisms ever more, intervening ever more often. If we are uncomfortable with ever-increasing intervention – a reasonable position; where does it stop? – then rather than letting species fade into extirpation or extinction so that we no longer need to intervene to ensure their welfare, we should instead make meaningful efforts to reduce anthropogenic stressors.


Each species moves through existence independently; some species become extinct, others endure. This has been true since life began. What is different now is that one species exists on earth which possesses the power to extinguish life itself. This species has already commenced another mass-extinction, a type of event seen only a handful of times before in the earth’s history, and only after massive disruptive non-anthropogenic events. At this time, we are increasing the carbon dioxide composition of our atmosphere by over a half a percent per year by belching tens of billions of tonnes of it into the air. We have deforested fantastic amounts of the earth’s surface. There are now 7.6 billion members of this species on this planet, many greedily consuming.


Humanity has long ago chosen to not let nature take its course. Are we mature enough to vanquish this mythology and accept our roles as stewards of our planet? We have already made innumerable bad choices. Now that we have been empowered with the knowledge that we have options, perhaps it’s time to start making some positive choices.


What if your proposed solutions are enacted, caribou are saved, but then another ice bridge forms to Michipicoten Island Provincial Park or Slate Islands Provincial Park in the future and wolves return?


It is broadly expected that global warming will see fewer such ice bridges form. It’s always possible that we’ve seen the last one to Michipicoten Island, for example, but this is pure speculation. The details of how climate change will affect the earth, or different parts of it, remain elusive.


We can choose to keep caribou in the Lake Superior watershed and, in making that choice, we can commit to, and follow through with, actions to manifest this objective. This may involve enacting the above-proposed solutions again in the future, but hopefully before four wolves become twenty, and before those four wolves become fully segregated from their mainland origins.


Alternatively, considering how successful caribou in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park and Slate Islands Provincial Park become given the chance, we can start to seed animals to other parts of the Lake Superior coast and other islands. This is invariably the best way to ensure the persistence of the animal – establishing many redundant populations to hedge against inevitable stochastic events. This is how the animal persisted from the last ice age until the advent of colonialism in North America, even with human use. It should be noted that some countries take the stewardship of their Rangifer tarandus very seriously.


Reestablishing this animal probably won’t happen by itself; it will be a choice, and it will require action from time-to-time. At least we know now that we will not be disrupting the balance of nature by undertaking reintroduction or predator management actions.


Are you arguing for increased interventionism in wildlife and wildlands management?


If taking actions now and from time-to-time in the future to ensure the persistence of caribou in the Lake Superior watershed represents increased interventionism, then yes. Recognize that Ontario has the Endangered Species Act; Canada has the Species At Risk Act; and that acts such as these are, by their very nature, highly interventionist. The existence of these acts represents a clear statement that we value species at risk and that we are prepared to take measures to ensure their persistence. As a society, we have already, therefore, accepted a high degree of interventionism in wildlife and wildlands management in certain circumstances. Without question, interventionism will not solve every problem; and yes, it can also create problems. This, however, is not unlike most solutions to most problems: Rarely does “one size fit all”. Nevertheless, in situations such as that in which the caribou and wolves of Michipicoten Island Provincial Park and Slate Islands Provincial Park find themselves, interventionism can provide a viable solution where the benefits far outweigh any reasonably foreseeable risks.


Dr. Bergerud explicitly challenged us to do better; to set our goals higher: With management, he said,we could have it all.


Am I, the reader, an interventionist?


Organizations such as Wildlife Preservation Canada or Kakapo Recovery manifest the philosophies of the highest degrees of interventionism. Using active and aggressive interventionist techniques, they have pulled species back from the brink of extinction – from a handful of individuals – or augmented or reestablished populations of species which were catastrophically close to extirpation, or extirpated. If you commiserate with the plight of such species or the challenges organizations such as these face; or, more importantly, you condone the activities of organizations such as these, then you have revealed to yourself that you are, to at least some degree, a supporter of a high degree of interventionism. That’s OK: It could mean that you are willing to take, or have already assumed, at least some measure of responsibility for the state of species at risk. You can make a difference now, before caribou are extirpated from the Great Lakes, by making your feelings known to the people indicated at the beginning of this FAQ.


Wildlife Preservation Canada and Kakapo Recovery are mentioned in this document only as examples. We have no relationship whatsoever with these organizations.


Fine, I’m an interventionist. Somehow, though, I’m still uncomfortable with intervening in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park and Slate Islands Provincial Park. Can you help me to understand my hesitation better?


It is suggested that there are at least two types of interventionism: The first type would advocate intervention to alter a course of events arising from anthropogenic factors; the second type would advocate intervention to alter events demonstrably not with anthropogenic underpinnings. We suggest our proposed actions are of the first type, not of the second.


Some celebrated examples of the first type of interventionism include:


- the banning of the pesticide DDT. The reasons for this ban are myriad, but they include the protection of birds. DDT’s presence in the environment resulted in the thinning of birds’ egg shells, thereby imperiling overall reproductive success. One bird which has responded well to the DDT ban is the peregrine falcon;


- assisting peregrine falcons to reproduce after the DDT ban. The quality of the bird’s reproductive response was in no small measure dependent on the efforts of many organizations and individuals who, among other things, protected nesting sites, provided observations, or assisted with wild releases; and


- implementing changes to the building code such as those advocated by an organization like FLAP. Migratory birds suffer severe and often fatal injuries as a result of impacting the glass on buildings. Since migratory birds face remarkable challenges already – both anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic – mitigating any losses to bird populations represents a significant assistance to these animals. One way by which this may be done is to improve the building code so that impacts on glass by birds are substantially reduced or eliminated.


The problems highlighted in the above examples have clearly anthropogenic causes. Few would argue against the merits of the actions which have been taken to address these problems.


We believe that the burden of proof of the claim that the caribou’s urgently poor situation in North America is not anthropogenic in origin lies with those who would make that claim. In particular, we believe that our assertion is scale-invariant because it holds equally for the North American caribou population as a whole, and for the somewhat more local situations which are now unfolding in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park and Slate Islands Provincial Park.


Caribou in North America have sustained humans since the last ice age (here, here). It was only subsequent to the arrival of the colonial powers, their colonists, and their heavy-handed, profit-motivated manners of subjugating the land and its indigenous peoples that the range of the caribou began to diminish sharply. Evaluated today, the mechanisms for the caribou’s decline are varied, but invariably they are anthropogenic. The caribou’s retreat and pending loss is our fault. Dr. Bergerud’s 1974 publication certainly supports this idea.


Just because the anthropogenicity of the mechanisms which have positioned the caribou in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park and Slate Islands Provincial Park to face extirpation appears somewhat nebulous for those who are not intimately familiar with the animal, does not render the anthropogenicity non-existent. Denial does not help the caribou to persist. The precautionary principle’s being featured prominently in the preamble of Ontario’s Endangered Species Act would imply that the absence of indisputable, hard-and-fast evidence of anthropogenicity should never be a criterion constraining protective actions.


FLAP is mentioned in this document as an example. We have no relationship with FLAP.


Aren’t the Lake Superior caribou just hold-outs and/or the walking dead?


We must not lose sight of the fact that the Lake Superior caribou were, until the past 200 years, right at the heart of the caribou’s overall range. That they are still here means that they are not anomalous in presence – they very much belong here. We have already identified that they are, at least in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park and Slate Islands Provincial Park, and possibly on the rest of the Lake Superior coast, somewhat anomalous in circumstance. The word anomalous” is sometimes invoked to imply that something is “bad” or “odd”; this is not the case presently. The anomalous nature of the circumstances for caribou in the Lake Superior Coast Range is a good thing for the whole range and caribou in general.


When a species faces potent stressor assaults, one of the responses the species may manifest is a continually decreasing range; this is the case for caribou. During the range retreat, small populations may be “nipped off” of larger contiguous ranges. This could occur because there are anomalous circumstances in the locations where these nipped-off populations reside which render these locations particularly well-suited for the species. One or more things about these locations allows animals to more successfully cope with the stressors as contrasted with other places where members of the same species have failed and have been extirpated. The Lake Superior Coast Range is such a particularly well-suited habitat. The Lake Superior coast and its islands represent critical habitat backstops. In very recent times the caribou populations in the Lake Superior Coast Range area have been “nipped off” of the contiguous northern caribou range, with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s “discontinuous zone” sitting in between. The Lake Superior watershed is therefore among the best places to enact caribou persistence measures during a time when the species as a whole faces potent stressor assaults.


Should we really waste resources to save the Lake Superior caribou when those same resources might be better-spent on other caribou populations?


Among other things, this question raises the issue of conservation triage; it has been argued that triage is a viable way to assist caribou in North America. Triaging means assigning priorities so that limited resources are directed towards situations which offer the greatest chances of success. Embedded in triage is the notion that certain things will be ignored if success with these things is judged to be unlikely, or judged as drawing of too many resources for a given outcome.


Triage is controversial to say the least. Among the most controversial aspects of triage is the implicit, in-built notion that loss must be accepted. This leaves parties bickering over remaining resources while, magically, and unnoticed by these parties, that pool of resources is slowly drained. It is a type of “divide and conquer” strategy plagued in numerous ways by individual interests and shifting goalposts.


That the total amount of resources allotted to a conservation or recovery effort will progressively shrink represents just one set of moving goalposts. Another set of moving goalposts is represented by the ever-changing answer to the question of where the final “line in the sand” is drawn. If triage constantly forces the redrawing of that line, one can triage oneself down to the last individual of a species one is trying to save. One is forced to conclude that triage and principle” are forever mutually exclusive concepts. Triage allows one to convince oneself that one is doing something meaningful or adequate when, in reality, one is not; it attempts, but categorically fails, to justify loss; and perhaps most toxically, it lulls one into believing that one has successfully moralized the progressive shifting – the invariable reduction – in goals. Triage is a train wreck; it is the ultimate mechanism by which to de-prioritize virtually any problem.


You seem to find triage distasteful. Fine, but where would you draw a final “line in the sand” for caribou?


The caribou has lost nearly half its range in the past 200 years. Perhaps now, when only half of the caribou’s range is left, and where its ranges are now, is an opportune time and place to draw a line in the sand. We submit that we have already, over 200 years, tacitly triaged the species, and that this has done everything except get the species any further ahead. We believe discussions regarding triage are actually retrospective, and that the time for triage is now over. The time and the place to entrench is upon us. We must now face reality: Only if we let them will the Lake Superior caribou become the walking dead.


Have you filed a Request for Review to try to protect the Lake Superior caribou?


Yes. Under Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights, and through the province’s Environmental Commissioner, citizens may request reviews of how issues related to the environment are being handled. Some of us requested such a review in 2017/03/25 with respect to Lake Superior’s caribou. Also requested in this engagement were reviews of how the protected lands which are supposed to function as havens for species at risk were being managed. The response the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry provided – denial of the request – can be found here and here.


Did you file a Freedom of Information Request to obtain details with respect to how this Request for Review was handled?


Yes. We are in possession of the initial responses to this request. We will share these soon. Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) section 19 – solicitor-client privilege – section 21 – personal information – and section 65 – application of act – exemptions have been applied to some responsive records, meaning record release is incomplete. Some of us have appealed the application of the exemptions with the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario. Documents relating to this appeal will also be made available in the near future.