INDEPTH: A Dangerous Mix
Garbage, wolves and death
CBC News Online | March 07, 2006
If wolves killed Ontario university student Kenton Carnegie, lax
environmental regulations may have played a role in the tragedy, a CBC investigation
Documents obtained by the CBC
show that Saskatchewan Environment Department officials have been concerned about an
illegal garbage dump near the Points North Landing mining supply camp a dump that
wolves have been regularly visiting. The department confirms it has been trying to do
something about the dump for years.
Wolves are fearsome predators
but are naturally shy around humans. The province's Environment Department and other
experts say there are no documented cases of healthy wolves killing a human in the wild in
North America, although non-fatal attacks have been reported. (To put that in
perspective, more than 300 people have died in North America in the past quarter century
in attacks by domestic dogs.)
From loss of fear to aggression
Wolves, humans and garbage are a
Experts say that when wolves
find easy meals either when people feed them or when they help themselves at
landfills they tend to lose their fear of people, making them more dangerous.
And there's evidence that's what
happened at Points North Landing, about 750 kilometres north of Saskatoon.
The Points North Landing dump is
filled with bits of waste food, empty milk jugs and other types of domestic trash one
would find in any dumpster or landfill in Canadian towns and cities. The main difference
is, it's unfenced and unlicenced.
Its also on Crown land,
meaning its ultimately the province's responsibility.
There's no question wolves were
seen in the area before Carnegie's death.
Among the documents CBC obtained
from the Environment Department is a set of photographs showing wolves in close proximity
to people around Points Landing North taken by Carnegie's co-workers a few days
before he died.
One picture shows a tan and
black wolf staring at a man with a stick a few metres away. Others show curious wolves
standing their ground with little apparent concern for the man with the camera a stone's
In the days after Carnegie's
death, there was a flurry of e-mail exchanges among Environment Department officials about
Who's responsible for the dump?
They raise the concern that the
dump exists without an operating permit and that previous efforts to bring the site under
proper regulation have failed.
For example, in a Dec. 6 e-mail
with the subject "RE: Wolves and the proper disposal of garbage," environment
official Tim Trottier writes: "It seems to me we should press for some resolution of
this issue and get someone to take responsibility for operating a dump in the area. Would
not Points North be the major contributor of garbage? I can see us being called to task
for not doing something given the recent incident."
Related document: What to do
about the dump
In a series of e-mails, Nov. 30-Dec. 6, 2005, Saskatchewan Environment Department
officials discuss what to do about the unregulated Points North Landing landfill.
Document (698 K .pdf file)
Related document: "Wolf
In Dec. 6-10, 2005 e-mails, Environment Department officials discuss Points North Landing
Document (807 K .pdf file)
Rosalie Tsannie, the coroner for
northern Saskatchewan who was at the site where Carnegie was discovered, is convinced open
garbage attracts hungry predators and did so in this case.
It's a problem that isn't unique
to Points North Landing, she says.
"It's [in] other
communities in the north as well. Black Lake, Fond du Lac, Wollaston Lake, they all have
landfills and they all have the same issue, the same type of relationship that the animals
have with the landfills."
Wolves where they don't belong
Tsannie said she consulted First
Nations elders and was told that nature is out of balance in this case.
Wolves don't belong here, she
said. "If landfills weren't here, I don't believe this would be an area that they
would be. They most likely would be following the caribou herds and normally not around
humans 'cause they fear humans."
Deputy environment minister Lily
Stonehouse confirmed that the government has known about problems with the dump for years.
"We've been working with
Points North and others in the area for several years now in terms of bringing that
landfill into compliance," she said.
"We are going to have to think that through very carefully we can't fence
everything in the north."
However, the government hasn't
talked to Carnegie's family about any possible link between wolves, garbage and his death.
"We need to wait for the
coroner's report to understand what the circumstances were here," Stonehouse said.
It's not the first time a wolf
attack has been linked to landfills in Saskatchewan.
In December 2004, a miner at
Cameco's Key Lake uranium mine, about 590 kilometres north of Saskatoon, was attacked by a
wolf while he was jogging along a bush road. He was able to fight off the lone wolf until
co-workers came by and helped scare the animal off.
"As a result of the wolf
Cameco has conducted an extensive wildlife management awareness campaign at
each of its operations," says a government e-mail from Nov. 30, 2005. "Feeding
of wildlife at Cameco's operations is grounds for company disciplinary action."
Cameco has also installed
electrified fencing at its Key Lake landfill. Other company operations now either
incinerate their garbage or, like Key Lake, have put electrified fences around their
These facts are cold comfort to
Kenton Carnegie's family.
A family's anguish
Four months after his death,
they're struggling to deal with their grief. They're frustrated by what they see as a lack
of disclosure about what happened to their son.
Carnegie's father, Kim, said
part of him wants to forgive and forget, but he feels he won't really begin to accept his
son's death until his questions are answered.
He wants to know whether his son
was given proper warning about the wolves, and if not, why not? He wants to know why more
wasn't done to make Points North Landing safer.
What he has learned about the
case so far infuriates him.
"I have an anger in me that
I've never felt before," he said. "I have a hard time keeping track of my
emotions. I just feel it could've been prevented, and that's what bothers me most."