To reduce predation on a woodland caribou population threatened by industrial disturbance, a recent study in Alberta (Canada) used strychnine baits to kill wolves, even though its use has been largely abandoned. Raincoast scientists Paul Paquet and Chris Darimont have recently published a comment in Environmental Conservation detailing the reasons why the use of strychnine to control wolf populations is biologically and ethically unacceptable.
Death by strychnine ingestion is inhumane, as it causes frequent periods of tetanic seizures, occasional cessation of breathing, hyperthermia, extreme suffering, and death from exhaustion or asphyxiation, which typically occurs within 1–2 hours of the onset of clinical signs. However, death can take up to 24 hours or longer if the dose is low.
Not only is the use of strychnine inhumane, but it is contravention of Canadian Council on Animal Care guidelines and other veterinary associations.
Furthermore, the use of strychnine is non-selective to wolves as individual deaths and population level effects in other animals (for example wolverines, fishers and foxes) are often seen. Since strychnine is highly persistent in poisoned animals, their carcasses remain highly toxic which can kill even more non-target scavengers.
The authors conclude that strychnine should not be used to control wolves because it is: (1) inhumane; (2) in contravention of animal welfare guidelines; and (3) non-selective.
Accordingly, the authors believe that the use of strychnine poisoning in wildlife conservation should be prohibited and condemned by the scientific community, governments, and conservation groups.
Gilbert, Proulx, Ryan K. Brook , Marc Cattet, Chris Darimont and Paul C. Paquet. 2015. Comment: Poisoning wolves with strychnine is unacceptable in experimental studies and conservation programmes. Environmental Conservation. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0376892915000211
Link to the journal: http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract