Opposition to the provincial announcement of a wolf hunt conducted by helicopter to reduce numbers in order to protect the endangered mountain caribou population in the Selkirk mountain region has been swift to arrive.
The Ktunaxa Nations says it is deeply concerned about the plan.
“We are worried that this approach to conservation is extremely hasty,” said Kathryn Teneese, Ktunaxa Nation Council Chair. “We are deeply concerned about the very low numbers of caribou in the south Selkirk, but we believe that management efforts should focus on increasing the population of caribou. Wolves are not the primary cause of the caribou population decline in the region and killing wolves at this scale will have to continue for many years to effectively reduce the risk of wolf predation. Killing one species of animal to benefit another species is contrary to Ktunaxa stewardship values.”
Teneese says the caribou may be better served by a multi-faceted approach which includes restriction of access to and restoration of key caribou habitat, decreasing vehicle mortality and establishing breeding programs, including maternal penning.
“”This approach requires cooperation and commitment from all partners in Ktunaxa territory. We support monitoring of predation impacts, however, we strongly feel that these actions are a narrow and short term approach.
“Recovery planning and long term management of these caribou requires strong commitment to collaboration and adaptive co-management of the herd.”
Further doubts about the wolf cull come from the Northern Lights Wolf Centre, headquartered in Golden. Director Sophie Parr says that not only is the helicopter hunt cruel, the reasoning behind it has no basis in science.
“Whole packs will be chased by helicopters until they are exhausted, and then shot under the guise of recovering dwindling caribou herds in the South Selkirk and South Peace areas,” Parr said. “Caribou are in this situation because of us, not because of wolves. The province has allowed energy and recreation industries to destroy critical caribou habitat, facilitating predation by wolves which would otherwise be less able to access remote caribou herds.
“This choice is scientifically unsound. This is not the first time aerial gunning and sterilization of wolves has occurred in BC. All past efforts have failed to increase caribou numbers. Similar efforts to protect caribou in Alberta resulted in almost 1000 wolves being killed, and research shows that it is not enough to render caribou populations viable in the long-term. Wolf populations rebound quickly and dispersing wolves fill in the vacant space created following wolf removal – the killing must continue on taxpayer dollars for many decades until habitat recovers naturally. Furthermore, most caribou herds live in multi-predator environments that also support bears, mountain lions, wolverines and lynx. Focussing on removing a single type of predator will not be effective.
“This is a question of animal welfare. In recent decades we have learned more about the true nature of wolves as emotional and intelligent beings, and their unique and beneficial impacts on biodiversity. Are we as a society prepared to spend the next thirty or more years gunning down families of wolves? This practice is not an approved method under Canada’s current guidelines on Approved Animal Care.
“This is an expensive, short-sighted approach to caribou recovery. Hiring sharp-shooters and flying them around remote BC in helicopters in order to destroy entire wolf packs will take hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. It is morally indefensible that taxpayers are paying for the government’s neglect of wildlife. Do BC residents want their money spent on helicopters, or ecological restoration, education, health care, etc.?”
The governments Wolf Management Plan, implemented in April of 2014, allows for measures such as targeted aerial wolf removal in support of caribou protection for circumstances exactly like those occurring in the South Peace and South Selkirk herds, says background information from the Ministry of Environment. While the plan at the time said there were no plans for an aerial cull, it does not rule it out.
“The risk of removing the number of wolves recommended is very low, whereas the risk to pertinent caribou populations of doing nothing is very high.”
The most recent estimates put the number of caribou in the south Selkirk region at 18 in March of 2014.