In an effort to save predators, such as wolves, cougars, coyotes and raccoons, from being destroyed for cash prizes, the Vancouver Humane Society has joined a coalition of 54 conservation groups and scientists in calling on the province to end wildlife-killing contests throughout BC.
This comes after conservation groups called for the same action from the government in the beginning of March when they heard about a Predator Tournament being hosted by the Creston Valley Rod and Gun Club. The organization said the event is “to assist young ungulates (fawns and elk calves) to survive the winter.”
From March 16-24 a hunter can pay $10 for admission, and each animal killed counts for a number of points. Whoever has the most points at the end wins the pot of cash.
VHS said it learned about two more similar events taking place this month: one being called the “wolf-whacking contest” hosted by Chilcotin Guns in Williams Lake with a $20 entry fee, and what VHS calls a “wolf bounty” being offered by the West Kootenay Outdoorsmen Club, where a hunter gets $500 for every wolf hunted or trapped.
In a phone interview with Daily Hive Vancouver, VHS Program Coordinator Emily Pickett said the coalition sent an open letter to the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Doug Donaldson, to ban the “unethical, outdated, and unscientific” contests, and is encouraging British Columbians to do the same.
Pickett said the coalition is concerned that predator-kill contests teach disrespect for wildlife through “indiscriminate killing” of as many animals as possible, and disregards the value of the individual animal, including on an ecosystem level.
“While organizers claim that they’re protecting game species, ultimately for them to hunt, and protecting livestock by killing these predators, the research that we’ve seen just shows that this indiscriminate killing of wildlife is ineffective and it’s actually counter to sound evidence-based wildlife management,” Pickett said, adding that more damage is being done.
“Predators rarely overexploit their prey,” Pickett said. “Killing of predators can actually disrupt the social structures in predator families, so it can have the opposite effect of increasing conflict because what happens is you’ll have orphaned young when their parents are killed who are left to fend for themselves, or you have experienced individuals in these packs or families that are killed and those animals can’t pass down appropriate hunting behaviour to the younger animals — so that’s where you may see more conflicts with humans or pets or livestock.”
Pickett said predator-kill contests fail to identify the root causes of decline in ungulate numbers, and professionals have advised that conservation efforts should be focussed instead on investing in restoring and protecting habitat.
The West Kootenay Outdoorsmen Club Secretary Treasurer, Richard Green, said the organization is not holding a predator-kill contest, he said hunters and trappers are receiving a $500 “incentive payment” instead.
“The difficulty as we see it, is that there is no longer a balance in this area between predators and prey. We see too many predators and not enough prey and what we would like is to help restore a balance so there are numerous prey animals and healthy predator populations as well,” Green said. “We don’t have any prize for the most successful person.”
Green said the only reason hunters and trappers are getting that $500 is because hunting wolves is costing people more than what the animal’s pelt is worth, which he said is $200 — which hunters still keep on top of their payment.
When asked where the money comes from to pay these hunters and trappers that cash, Green said it’s from the gun club’s pocket.
Daily Hive Vancouver has reached out to Chilcotin Guns organization, but has not heard back.
The Creston Valley Rod and Gun Club says its predator-kill tournament is about trying to keep a balance between predators and prey, and is all within legal hunting seasons.
It told Daily Hive the club has been concerned about the growing population of predators in their area, and the decline of ungulates, specifically elk and white-tailed deer, adding that wolves had a “major impact” on the few remaining caribou that were in the mountains.
The club said its 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, and to educate people more about big game management, it said a symposium has been scheduled for next month, which they posted on their Facebook page.
In the beginning of 2015, the province launched a wolf management program in the South Selkirk Mountains and the South Peace to recover caribou populations, and it continues in the Peace region, as well as within four herd areas.
The province then invested $27 million in 2017 to create the Provincial Caribou Recovery Program and is working on a new strategy — expected to be released this Spring.
In regards to predator-killing contests, the Forests Ministry said it does not condone or encourage those types of events.
It said there are no rules preventing these types of “contests” providing the hunters are properly licensed and all laws are followed, adding the government last used a bounty on wolves in 1955.
The province said it manages wildlife populations on the principle of conservation first, followed by First Nations’ rights — only then is licensed hunting allowed.
It said wolf populations are healthy and self-sustaining throughout the province.”
Pickett said that the coalition is encouraging supporters to contact their MLA and government officials to ask that predator-killing contests be banned, and that the contact information can be found on the VHS website.