Wildlife laws and regulations help protect wildlife that is at risk or endangered. Scientists can help with their enforcement by using a technique called DNA barcoding.

Canada is fortunate to have lots of wilderness filled with all sorts of interesting wildlife, such as deer, beavers, wolves, foxes, and bears. Many of these species are still hunted for their fur and their meat. Controlled hunting can also be used to manage animal populations, ensuring that their numbers are kept in check. Simply put, Canadians love to hunt!

Did you know? Hunting and gathering has always been an important part of Canadian culture and history. One of the reasons that Europeans first came to Canada was to hunt beavers for their pelts. These were used to make clothing and felt hats for the European market.

Scientists study animals and their habitats to help understand when individual species should and should not be hunted. In order to avoid environmental damage, there are laws that control what, when, and where people are allowed to hunt. Although the rules differ from province to province, a licence is usually required for both hunting and fishing. Special allowances, or tags, are distributed to hunters to help ensures that only a certain number of animals are killed, and that specific species are not hunted in areas where they are having trouble maintaining their populations. When followed properly, these laws help sustain important ecosystems while allowing humans to harvest valuable resources from the environment.

Did you know? Approximately 10 000 wild turkeys, 5 000 black bears, and 6 000 elk are hunted every year in Ontario alone.

Unfortunately, not everyone obeys the law. Many people hunt animals that are at risk or endangered. Those who harvest plants or kill animals illegally are called poachers. Wildlife officers enforce Canadian wildlife laws and help ensure that animals are not being hunted in areas where they are protected.

Did you know? Poaching of protected wildlife in Canada’s National parks is punishable by a fine up to $150 000 and/or imprisonment for up to five years.

Scientists can also help catch poachers using DNA barcoding. It is possible to determine what species meat comes from by comparing its DNA barcode with a database of barcoded species. If the meat matches the barcode of a protected species, then officials will know that it came from a poached animal.

Every day, more specimens are added to the barcode databases, enhancing both our understanding of genetic diversity and our ability to accurately identify specific species. Poachers be warned: scientists are on the case!

Learn more about DNA Barcoding in this article!

References

Ontario Government: Hunting in Ontario

http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/FW/2ColumnSubPage/STEL02_168421.html

Canadian Geographic: Hunting Poachers

http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/magazine/ma99/feature_poaching2.asp

Trent University: Wildlife Forensic DNA Laboratory

http://www.forensicdna.ca/collection.htm

Therion International: Animal DNA Testing Services

http://www.theriondna.com

Sean Walkowiak

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