Cry Wolf: An Unethical Oil Story

Read time: 1 min

Over the last several years, Alberta has killed more than 500 wolves using aerial sharpshooters and poisoned bait in order to conceal the impact of rapid industrial development on Canada’s iconic woodland caribou. 

Independent scientists say that declining caribou health stems chiefly from habitat destruction caused by the encroachment of the tar sands and timber industries. But in a perverse attempt to cover industry’s tracks, the Alberta government is ignoring the science and shifting the blame to a hapless scapegoat: the wolf. 

As DeSmogBlog reported earlier this year, the Alberta Caribou Committee, tasked with the recovery of the province’s dwindling caribou populations, is dominated by timber, oil and gas industry interests. Participating scientists have been silenced – their reports rewritten and their recommendations overlooked.
The prospect of the expansion of this unscientific wolf cull, projected to claim the lives of roughly 6,000 wolves over the next five years, has outraged conservationists and wildlife experts. While the wolves dodge bullets and poison, this scandal is flying largely under the public radar. 
A team of DeSmogBlog researchers traveled to the Tar Sands region to investigate the dirty oil politics behind this fool’s errand. Here is our first report: Cry Wolf: An Unethical Oil Story.

CRY WOLF: An Unethical Oil Story

Is this what “ethical oil” looks like? 

Rather than relying on science to protect caribou habitat and restore this iconic species, Alberta is killing wolves in order to protect unfettered industrial development. 
As a result, our unethical oil addiction is leading to one of the most shameful wildlife control programs ever imagined. Government complicity, on both the federal and provincial levels, leaves biologists caught up in the mix with no higher power to appeal to. Real science is shelved, while industry-friendly political decisions prevail.
What does this say about the state of our democracy when scientists are ignored and industry profits are prioritized ahead of safeguarding iconic wildlife species?  
Stay tuned for more details as DeSmog continues our investigation into this controversial issue. 

Take Action


You can make a difference by participating in these actions to stop the unscientific wolf cull.

Credo actionTell the Canadian government: Stop your tar sands wolf kills! - Over 200,000 voices in opposition to the wolf killings. 

DeSmogBlog petition on - Tell Canada's federal Environment Minister Peter Kent, who considers the cull “an accepted if regrettable scientific practice,” to put an end to the reckless wolf slaughter.  

Alberta Provincial petition - Put some pressure on at the provincial level too, by signing this petition to Frank Oberle, Minister of Alberta's Sustainable Resource Development and Fiona Schmiegelow from the University of Alberta. 

NWF Action Center - American residents can go here to send a letter to their senator or representative in order to connect the dots between the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and the wolf cull. Also watch National Wildlife Federation scientist David Mizejewski on the Today Show and read NWF's report on the plan to poison wolves to protect tar sands interests.

For more information on the tar sands, check out DeSmogBlog's tar sands action page.

And for those who may be unfamiliar with what the 'ethical oil' campaign is, check out our previous coverage of the Sierra Club's John Bennett and Ethical Oil Institute spokesperson Kathryn Marshall on CBC's Power and Politics with Evan Solomon.

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Ok everyone, I decided to delete all nine of the original comments on this post because they were all off-topic and several violated the comment policy.  We welcome an honest and open dialog about each of the blog posts - provided the comments are on-topic and comply with the comment policy. 

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Now that we have that out of the way, what do people think about the attacks on science and wildlife happening in Alberta to protect industry interests?  Please watch the video, read Carol's post, and let's discuss this important issue.



This reminds me of the ariel wolf kill proposed in BC about 30 yeras ago. There was strong opposition to it and enough pressure was applied to halt the idea. If memory serves, Rafe Mair was the BC Minister of Environment at the time and later confessed he didn’t like the idea and didn’t want to go down in history as the Minister of Killing Wolves. The same song and dance was used to rationalize it then: to protect the caribou.

Unfortunately there hasn’t been enough opposition to stop this madness in Alberta. Thanks for the video. I hope it can get distributed far and wide so it can help raise awareness. Kudos to Carol for working on this heart-breaking subject. (Did she do the narration?).

Hi Peter,

First of all, yes that is Carol's narration on the video. She was the lead researcher and interviewer on this project, and we're proud of her dedicated work on this. 

We've read a bit about the BC controversy, but if you have any additional info, please send it via the contact form or editor at desmogblog com.  We'd like to remind people that public pressure can stop these misguided proposals, as the BC example demonstrated.



Ethical oil sounds like an oxymoron similar to clean coal or clean oil. Somehow they are able to sell the message that it’s more ethical to buy resources locally than from “terrorists”, but are able to quash the message that it is unethical to destroy the natural environment and it’s inhabitants in doing so.

I wonder how the Saudi Arabians feel about their demonization of muslims as almost 2nd rate human beings by much of the right wing media? Considering they supply Canada with almost half their oil needs.

Phil’s comment:

“Somehow they are able to sell the message that it’s more ethical to buy resources locally than from “terrorists”“

Shows how much the Oil Industry and their political allies are spinning the whole tar sands debate. There are two proposed export routes for the bitumen, South to the Gulf Coast via XL Pipeline and West to the BC coast via Northern Gateway Pipeline.

The bitumen going South will be upgraded in US refineries and most likely exported to Europe or other buyers.

The bitumen going West will be exported as raw dil-bit to China.

Now is China any more “ethical” that the major Middle East importers? Is it more ethical to sell to “nonethical ” countries that it is to buy from “nonethical” countries?

My view is that no bitumen should be exported from Canada, it should be upgraded in Alberta. That would put a slow down on bitumen extraction since it is easy and relatively cheap to recover bitumen but more complicated and expensive to upgrade it. This would also result in about a 50% decrease in pipeline capacity since there will be no need to import diluent into Alberta.

I would smear pcitures of dead wolves all over.  But wolves are not exactly a likable animal.  (Its not like you’re putting pictures of dead seal pups up there.)

I see the best way to do this is attach oil company names and logo’s to the supported cull.  i.e. “We at Shell prefer to kill wolves rather than earn less money.”  (Which is a true fact.)  I think Carol’s orignal jpg of the company logo’s makes it hard for them to hide as well know they will.

However… I would point out that in Alberta private land owners are allowed to shoot all the wolves they want.   That kinda weakens the arguement that killings wolves = bad.  ‘Cause dang, every farmer can do it.

“Timber Wolf
A Resident may, without a licence, hunt (but not trap) timber wolf from the opening of any big game season in a particular WMU to May 31, 2012, or until June 15, 2012 in WMUs where black bear seasons are open until June 15, 2015.

A Non-resident or Non-resident Alien who holds a Non-resident/Non-resident Alien Wolf/Coyote Licence may hunt (but not trap) timber wolf from the opening of any big game season in a particular WMU to May 31, 2012, or until June 15, 2012 in WMUs where black bear seasons are open until June 15, 2012.”

” But wolves are not exactly a likable animal. (Its not like you’re putting pictures of dead seal pups up there.)”

I was going to say the same thing. It’s a bit like sharks here in Australia. Marine biologists and other advocates warn they are a vital part of the food chain and removing them would create great imbalance. Yet, I doubt that too many shed a tear if they haul a 5M tiger shark up from popular swimming beaches. 

It’s a difficult thing to do to listen to reason instead of your inner fears. I guess it’s the wolves & sharks suffer from the same problem that the muslims do……it’s easy to sell fear. Sure wolves & sharks would kill us if they were hungry & we were injured or in their territory. But the majority dont want anything to do with us & don’t come actively looking for us, or want to be near us. Was the recent movie “The Grey” sponsored by the tar sands industry? It helps to sell the message that wolves just want to kill you.

In the movie Liam Neeson works as a shooter ( not sure what the job description is?) for an oil company, who’s job it is to protect oil workers from wolves that want nothing more than to sprint at their limit to attack the oil workers.

Who came up with the idea about the killer wolves with a taste for oil workers?

The Grey trailer:

I have not heard whether “The Grey” had any industry funding, but it seems like an opportunity almost too good to miss. The opportunity was not lost on the miners in Australia when they heard of the prospect of “Red dog” being filmed in a mining community.

Joe Carnahan (The writer) probably saw the successful funding of red dog & thought, what an easy way of getting a film financed. Why wouldn’t the fossil fuel industry want to inject a bit of funding into a film that would portray them as the good guys and create empathy for them, not the wolves in the movie?

“Now is China any more “ethical” that the major Middle East importers? Is it more ethical to sell to “nonethical ” countries that it is to buy from “nonethical” countries?”

I guess the west has to be careful with the country that most of them are in hock up to their eyeballs with. Otherwsie the right wing press would be splashing propaganda like executions in China, lack of freedoms, lack of democracy. All true, but it ignores the failings at home. Glass houses etc.

How would GWB placate the Saudi’s had he been prez still, considering he had oil interests and had friendships and business dealings with the Saudi’s?

Brendan: I get so hopping angry when I come across these kinds of stories, it makes me want to cull some two-legged critters. Are there any plans to do anything with this video? Are there going to be follow up stories from Carol? What can we all do to help?

Ian: I agree with you completely. The problem is even with blue chip players like Exxon, Syncrude, Shell, Encana, CNRL, etc, there’s not enough investment capital as it is to keep up with demand for all the in situ and/or mining development. That’s partly why China has gotten involved. Everyone’s financially overcomitted to extraction. And even if the refineries existed, pipeline capacity would simply switch from sending dilbit to sending light or medium crude. Unfortunately, they’re going to need more pipelines, no matter what’s passing through them.

AnOilMan: That’s not a bad idea. It would be interesting to see the reaction if someone put one of those wolf carcasses on a Minister’s desk, or go on a tour with some carcasses across the province visiting all the public schools. As for ranchers, in the film it’s noted that some ranchers’ dogs are getting caught up in the strychnine poison program. So maybe there’s a potential ally there, who knows.

When the Premier of Alberta said he hadn’t seen pictures of Suncor’s oil soaked birds, some activists delivered 36X48 pictures of them to put on his office wall.  He knew all about them after that.

That was another whole incident that is laughable from a PR perspective.  (Hint: Pay the fine and walk away… don’t argue in court for all to hear, then loose.)

You get the most impact by associating company logos with bad things.  They really don’t like that.

On the other hand, oil companies are constantly getting their images tarred and sanded.  Its pretty hard to stir up a frenzy over it.  BP had to detonate a rig, and gush oil all over the coast to achieve that result.

Like your video points, it’s all about keeping the public in the dark.  Give them just enough information so that they can support the direction you want to go in.  For example: ethical oil, the “problem” with funding for environmental groups, environmentalists being “enemies of Canada”.  Like mushrooms: keep ‘em in the dark and feed ‘em s#@t! 

It’s all rather scary.

Well, thank you Ms. Linnitt for the info and the video.  I’ll do my bit to spread the information to my contacts.

“Well, thank you Ms. Linnitt for the info and the video.  I’ll do my bit to spread the information to my contacts.”

Yes, good job Carol. I’ve seen the video at a few different blogs on the interwebs. I did one that was similar myself a few years back, over an incident here in Australia. Although mine was to a music video.

Politically, the Harper Conservatives are the most environmentally destructive government we have ever had. In Alberta the Wildrose Party will be just as bad or worse if they win or have much influence after the election; and the Progressive Conservatives are not much better.

I think Albertans in general are more in favour of preserving wildlife if they hear about it; but we can’t depend on the media to spread the message all that well.

I like Oilman’s idea of associating the wolf kill with company names. Is it possible to find out how many wolves have been killed around each company’s operations? As well as bears?

I keep wondering if any whooping cranes have ended up in tailing ponds. Canadians used to take pride in the conservation of the whooping cranes, but Harper gutted the Canadian Wildlife Service years ago, and we don’t hear about them any more. But I’m sure if any have died in the tarsands, it would be covered up.