The British Columbia government plans to hunt as many as 184 wolves in an attempt to save five dwindling caribou herds, including the extremely threatened South Selkirk herd, which ranges through the Kootenays, Idaho and Washington.
The South Selkirk herd is at high risk of local extinction. The population has declined from 46 caribou in 2009 to 27 in 2012, and as of March 2014 there are just 18 left. The Province said in a press release that evidence points to wolves being the leading cause of mortality.
The South Selkirk is a trans-boundary herd, and caribou move freely between B.C., Washington and Idaho. Officials from B.C., Washington and Idaho States, First Nations, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been working together on a research project and have collared six of the remaining 18 caribou to help investigate the cause of decline. Wolves have killed two of the remaining caribou (11 per cent of the herd)in the past 10 months.
In four caribou herds in the south Peace area, research shows that wolves are responsible for at least 37 per cent of the fatalities.
The province says hunting and trapping the wolves hasn’t worked and that method may even split up the packs and lead to more caribou being killed.
Instead, ministry staff will hunt two dozen wolves in the south Selkirk area and another 120 to 160 wolves in the south Peace by helicopter before the snow melts this spring.
On April 17, 2014, the Provincial Grey Wolf Management Plan was finalized and publicly released. “There are no plans to implement a general aerial wolf cull, and in fact, the Two Zone Strategy noted in the Wolf Management Plan would not support a general cull,” the government release said.
It added that wolf populations are plentiful and the grey wolf is not a species of concern in BC. The wolf population for the province is estimated to range between 5,300 and 11,600 with a median population of 8,500.
“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.”
With files from Canadian Press