Three of B.C.’s largest Central Mountain caribou herds are recovering strongly as provincial biologists continue the aerial shooting of wolves, a government report says.
The predator control program began in 2015 to address a “drastic decline” in South Peace and Kootenay caribou herds, as resource roads and winter snowmobile trails gave wolves access to winter back-country that allowed increased predation of young caribou.
“The decrease in wolf abundance across the South Peace treatment area has shown conclusive evidence that intensive wolf reduction has halted and reversed the declining trends of the Klinse-Za, Kennedy Siding and Quintette caribou populations,” says the report submitted to the forests ministry in August by staff biologist Mike Bridger.
“Although the first year of wolf reduction did not occur at a high enough intensity to elicit a caribou population effect, the following three years were sufficiently intensive [wolf densities were reduced to below two wolves per square km] to elicit a strong population response in all three treatment herds.”
The results of the predator control program helped Forests Minister Doug Donaldson decide that further extension of protected areas in the Williams Lake and Kootenay regions would not be necessary.
Last spring community meetings were packed with concerned citizens and industry representatives after closed-door sessions with a pair of northeast B.C. Indigenous groups resulted in a proposal to greatly extend protected areas there. Premier John Horgan intervened and appointed former Peace River South MLA Blair Lekstrom to review the situation, resulting in a two-year moratorium on new development rather than the proposal to shut down some forestry and mining operations.
Donaldson told Black Press in mid-September that consultations with B.C. communities about 20 endangered herds are working towards management plans that do not require adding to already extensive areas put off limits to industrial and recreational use in the mountainous regions of B.C.
“We’ll be developing those over the next couple of years in consultation with communities and their interests,” Donaldson said. “But we think we have enough tools at our disposal not to require additional habitat protection areas for those herds.”