(The Canadian Press)

(The Canadian Press)

Conservation group blasts B.C. for targeting predators to protect sheep

The province has contracted the cull of wolves and coyotes to protect two sheep herds in decline

The British Columbia government is expanding the bighorn sheep hunt in part of the Cariboo region at the same time it targets the animals’ natural predators to protect two herds in a move one conservation group is calling “astounding.”

For the first time since 1993, open hunting of rams with full curl horns is allowed in the Taseko Lakes area of the Cariboo. In the neighbouring region around Churn Creek southwest of Williams Lake, the province has contracted the cull of wolves and coyotes to protect two sheep herds in decline.

“Predator-prey dynamics are complex, and the ministry doesn’t make predator management decisions lightly,” the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development said in a statement.

Bighorn sheep are a blue-listed species in B.C., which means they are not immediately threatened but are a species ”of concern” because they are particularly sensitive to human activities or natural events.

The provincial wolf management plan says the government does not support predator control for the purpose of hunting ungulate populations, which would include the sheep.

No one was made available from the government to speak about the issue.

READ MORE: BC Interior First Nation government and province sign moose co-management agreement

The statement from the ministry said the cull was necessary to protect two unique migratory herds, one of which has only eight members and is at risk of extinction. The other herd has 29 animals and the goal is to increase populations to 50 sheep with a minimum of 25 to 30 adult ewes, it said.

The ministry said it expects “positive results” in three years. Predator removal is not being used in any other part of the province to manage bighorn sheep populations, it said.

Since 2016, 13 wolves and five coyotes have been “removed” within the Churn Creek area. Freedom of information documents obtained by the Wolf Awareness show the contractor was hired to “capture and collar” predators with a contract that permitted him to shoot, trap, snare, hunt with dogs or kill cougars, coyote and wolves.

In the neighbouring lands around Taseko Lakes, hunting season opened Sept. 10 and runs through Oct. 20. The hunting area was expanded this year because provincial biologists say the Taseko sheep population recovered to 106 in 2016, after dipping to 53 in 2012.

The province says even if all the rams with full curl horns were killed, enough older rams would remain in the population for breeding purposes.

Hunting for bighorn sheep in the Churn Creek wildlife management area has been closed since 2012. However, the two herds could be vulnerable if they wandered into adjacent lands.

Sadie Parr, executive director of Wolf Awareness, said predators like wolves, coyotes and cougars are not the biggest threat to the sheep and the province’s decision to remove them is representative of a broken wildlife management system.

“To me, this is predators being scapegoated. It’s an easy thing to do to make it look like you’re helping a species recover when there’s no evidence behind this,” Parr said.

“That is astounding to me for a variety of reasons.”

The B.C. Conservation Data Centre identifies primary threats to the species as habitat loss, livestock ranching and harassment by the public. Bighorn sheep are also vulnerable to stress and stress-related disease and predators are not mentioned as threats in the centre’s 2015 conservation status report.

Parr said removing predators from an ecosystem either by killing or relocating them can have trickle-down effects on other species. It could mean changing the sheeps’ grazing habits, for example, which would in turn affect the plant life in the area, she said.

“Predators have an incredible and extremely important role in maintaining functioning ecosystems.”

Parr said it would be more effective to target human caused threats to the species.

“The reality is you’re doing nothing to recover or preserve this species if you’re still damaging their habitat and if you’re still hunting a dwindling population,” she said.

The provincial government has been criticized in previous years for a wolf cull it launched in an attempt to recover endangered caribou herds.

While government officials argued in 2015 that the experimental cull was the best shot at protecting caribou from extinction, environmental groups and celebrities including Miley Cyrus and Pamela Anderson denounced the hunt as unethical.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Canadian Mental Health Association Shuswap Revelstoke’s homeless outreach coordinator Carly Shipmaker and practicum student Sarena Bryden take a turn on Thursday, May 6 on the stationary bike. They were cycling under the blue sun canopy outside the CMHA thrift shop to promote Mental Health Week and to prepare for this year’s Ride Don’t Hide event in June. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
Getting the wheels turning for Salmon Arm’s Ride Don’t Hide event

Canadian Mental Health Association awareness and fundraising campaign to run throughout June

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is an independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C.’s 1st vaccine-induced blood clot case detected in Interior Health

Interior Health also recorded 52 new cases of COVID-19

Interior Health provided updated data breaking down the vaccine administration totals in communities throughout the region on Monday, May 3, 2021. (File photo)
Nearly 40% of Shuswap adults vaccinated

More than 12,000 people in the Salmon Arm health area received their first COVID-19 vaccine

Ian Syme gets ready to swing the bat during skills training and picture day for Salmon Arm Minor Baseball 6U players at the Hillcrest Elementary field on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)
Young Salmon Arm ballplayers in training

Salmon Arm Minor Baseball Association seeking sponsorships for batting cage

The monthly totals from Jan.1, 2020 to April 30, 2021 show COVID-19 cases for most Local Health Areas in the North Okanagan-Shuswap, other than Vernon’s with the largest population, staying well below 400. (BC Centre for Disease Control image)
16 months in, COVID cases in North Okanagan-Shuswap areas stay under 1,000

Vernon, with the largest population, hovers under 900 cases since January 2020

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

The Primary Urgent Care Centre on Martin Street officially opened on March 31, 2021. (Brennan Phillips)
Okanagan-Similkameen Regional Hospital District reverses funding decision on care centre

Approval now granted to fund $1 million for Urgent and Primary Care Centre in Penticton

Motorists breaking travel rules can be fined $230 for failing to follow instructions or $575 if the reason for travel violates the essential travel health order, at this Highway 3 check area near Manning Park. Photo RCMP
RCMP begin checking drivers on BC highways

Four check points are set up Thursday May 6 around the province

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Kelowna City Hall. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
New temporary outdoor shelter in Kelowna opens

The new area on Richter Street and Weddell Place replaces the Baillie Avenue site

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

Most Read