It’s being called “another war on wolves and carnivores” by BC conservation groups: a predator-killing tournament in the Kootenay region scheduled for this month.
In a Facebook post, The Creston Valley Rod & Gun Club said it will be hosting a Predator Tournament “to assist young ungulates (fawns and elk calves) to survive the winter,” and it’s scheduled to run March 16-24 with a $10 per hunter admission.
Points are accumulated by the total number of animals killed. The highest points go to killing wolves and cougars, followed by coyotes and raccoons. Whoever wins the most points, takes the pot of money.
This comes after the province launched a wolf management program in January 2015 in the South Selkirk Mountains and the South Peace to recover caribou populations. Today the program continues in the Peace region, as well as within four herd areas.
In February 2017, the government invested $27 million into creating the Provincial Caribou Recovery Program and is now working on a new strategy which is expected to be released this Spring.
Conservation groups Wildlife Defence League and Pacific Wild are now calling on British Columbians to speak out against the Creston Valley Rod & Gun Club’s Predator Tournament, and contests like it, to contact the province to voice their opposition against the event.
In a phone interview with Daily Hive Vancouver, Wildlife Defence League Co-founder and Executive Director Tommy Knowles said tournaments like the one in Creston Valley are cruel, result in the unnecessary killing of predators, and that there’s little to no science “that these contests actually have any effect in recovering ungulate populations.”
Knowles said he’s concerned there is no proper oversight with these Predator Tournaments, “it’s not like that they have a biologist there who’s saying, you know, if ‘it’s sustainable to kill this many predators,’ or ‘not sustainable to kill this many predators,'” adding it’s also concerning that members of a rod and gun club are “taking what they believe is an act of conservation when in reality you can have severely negative consequences on the overall health of the ecosystem.”
“It’s not predators who are responsible for the decline in ungulates, it’s industry that has ran rampant in that area for the last you know, 30, 40 years — they destroyed critical habitat for many species,” Knowles said, “you know the predator-prey relationship in that area has existed for much longer than we’ve been around and the reality is is that it’s our fault that ungulates are in decline.”
Knowles said that it’s important to protect the ungulates’ habitat and conserve predators, “we believe in this whole concept of ‘Beautiful British Columbia’ but I don’t believe that there is anything beautiful about these contests — and if we really want to portray that image then we need to start protecting our predators.”
A spokesperson for the Creston Valley Rod and Gun Club, who wishes to remain anonymous because they say the group’s Facebook page has since received threats after announcing the Predator Tournament, said the contest is about trying to keep a balance between the predators and the prey.
The spokesperson said the club’s been concerned about the growing population of predators in the area, particularly wolves, and decline of ungulates, specifically elk and white-tailed deer, “wolves had a major impact on the few remaining caribou that were in the mountains here.”
“It’s [the Predator Tournament] all within legal hunting seasons and the thing is is that very very few wolves are killed by hunters,” the spokesperson said, explaining that wolf management isn’t done in their area,” very few [wolves] are taken by hunters and we’re just encouraging individuals to, you know, get out and put some pressure on wolves. I wouldn’t anticipate that very many would be killed,” they said, adding it’s hard to locate wolf packs.
The spokesperson said there are a fair number of huntsmen targeting cougars and it’s more likely that that animal would be taken out, “but that’s strictly controlled by the game laws and bag limits.”
“People think there’s some sort of natural balance but with the number of people, development and so forth, there isn’t really a natural balance anymore. What would happen is of course is that the wolf population expands, they eat all of the ungulates and then the wolves starve and move to a different area and then slowly, over many years, their prey would come back… but it’s really quite slow,” the club spokesperson said.
The representative said the club’s Wildlife Committee has done the research, which included reading studies that were done south of the border in Idaho and Montana because the wolves in the Creston Valley came from those two states. The spokesperson said that to educate people more about big game management, a symposium has been scheduled for April, which they posted on their Facebook page.
Knowles said that if you would like to make your opinion heard, to contact the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Forests, and those contacts can be found on the Wildlife Defence League’s Facebook Page.