80% of BC wolves could be killed under expansion of controversial program: Group

Sep 20 2019, 2:14 pm

A non-profit group is renewing its call to British Columbians to speak against the province’s “wolf kill program” in BC’s efforts to conserve caribou numbers after learning the ministry responsible is considering expanding the controversial move without public consultation.

In 2015, the province launched the wolf management program to recover caribou populations it said were under threat from the predators.

Pacific Wild posted on Instagram that a leaked internal document was released and “reveals the B.C. government’s intentions to expand the wolf cull program, targeting 80% mortality in some areas.”

It said the letter, titled “Predator Reduction for Caribou Recovery,” was penned by the Ministry of Forests, and that wolf killing costs taxpayers between $200,000 and $500,000 per caribou herd a year.

The actual cause of caribou declines is the removal of critical habitat through logging, according to Pacific Wild.

Image: Grey Wolf / Shutterstock

In a phone interview with Daily Hive Vancouver, Executive Director Ian McAllister said there has been no public process or science behind this escalation of the wolf kill.

“People should be outraged,” McAllister said, and that this is could be one of the largest “government-funded wildlife kill programs witnessed in North America in 100 years.”

He said on average since the program launched, 200 wolves have been killed a year in BC.

McAllister said killing wolves won’t bring caribou back and soon, what will be more than a thousand animals, will have died in an “unnecessary and cruel death.”

“It’s deplorable,” McAllister said of the way wolves are being killed, “they [government] tranquilize one, put a GPS collar around its neck” and then “they will follow that wolf by helicopter and the wolf of course will go to the rest of its pack members, so the rest of the pack is revealed to aerial snipers in helicopters where they will kill all the wolves, and of course they only hope that they kill the wolf on the first shot, but they’re frequently wounded,” adding “so those wolves go off to die a slow death,” then kill the collared wolf.

McAllister said wolves are an “integral part of our wilderness and a key species in maintaining eco system function,” and without them we’ll see “massive changes in our forrest structure,” and “predator-prey balance.”

In an emailed statement to Daily Hive, the Ministry of Forests said the document wasn’t leaked, but rather is a letter emailed to “potentially affected stakeholders about an upcoming engagement regarding wolf removal.”

caribou population funding

Shutterstock

It said wolves are caribou’s primary predator in BC and a high number of wolf numbers are associated with declining caribou populations.

“This is clearly the case for the Tweedsmuir-Entiako, Hart Ranges and Itcha-Ilgachuz caribou herds where predation by wolves is a key cause of the decline of caribou,” it said, adding “wolf populations in these herds are far above the level that research tells us is needed to ensure caribou recovery.”

The ministry said based on five years of “independent expert research on wolf management in the central group, we know that this action has immediate positive impacts on caribou populations and wolf populations rapidly reoccupy these treatment areas.”

“These herds have reached a critical point, with a combined total of only 801 individual animals. All have had steep declines in recent years due to predation.”

The ministry said following a regional decision under the Wildlife Act, the Caribou Recovery program is reaching out to stakeholders regarding an emergency two-year predator reduction program for these herds, which is “required action to achieve caribou recovery objectives in BC, and is part of the broader caribou recovery efforts that the province is leading including habitat protection, habitat restoration, maternity penning and supplemental feeding.”

It said that BC is committed to protecting caribou herds, and that’s why it brought in a $47 million strategy.

Pacific Wild said the consultation opportunity for “targeted stakeholders” is happening until Sunday, and people can go to its Save BC Wolves campaign page to send a letter to the ministry.