The provincial government is moving forward next month with plans to remove about 90 wolves in the Itcha-Ilgachuz mountain ranges in an effort to save the area’s dwindling caribou herd.
Today approximately 385 caribou remain in the area, a decline from 2,800 in 2003, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development noted.
“Wolves are caribou’s principal predator in B.C. and high wolf numbers are associated with declining caribou populations,” the spokesperson stated. “It is clearly the case for the Chilcotin/Itcha-Ilgachuz caribou herd which has reached a critically low population.”
In addition to the cull, other recovery actions including habitat protection, habitat restoration and maternal penning may be implemented.
“Based on five years of research on wolf management in the central group, we know that wolf populations can rebound quickly. It is imperative to implement a predator control plan to ensure the last remaining caribou in the Itcha-Ilgachuz have a chance to survive.”
Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett supports the wolf cull.
“The Itcha-Ilgachuz herd are living in an isolated area, hard to get to,” Barnett said. “I’ve talked to many people who know something about wolves who say it is the right thing to do, so let’s hope it does what it is intended to do and we protect what caribou are left.”
She criticized the ministry for not having public meetings about the caribou recovery plan.
“The more people that understand why this is being done the better. We’ve asked for meetings throughout the region.”
So far the ministry confirmed it has consulted with local government and Indigenous communities on caribou recovery planning.
In 2019, the licensed hunt for caribou was closed in Management Unit 5-12 to protect the Itcha-Ilgachuz herd.
Residents living in the remote area say they have notice a rapid increase in wolf numbers, and a sharp decline in caribou numbers in recent years.
The wolf cull is expected to be carried out by helicopter.
Aerial removal is the favoured method for wolf culls as it is considered the most effective and humane, according to an August 2019 letter penned by ministry staff.