The BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations announced in a statement dated Jan. 15, 2015 that they were initiating a “cull” of some 120 to 160 grey wolves from a pack located in the South Peace region of B.C. and another 24 from a pack in the South Selkirk Mountains. According to the statement, the planned cull will be conducted by ministry staff, who will shoot the wolves from helicopters, in order to protect dwindling herds of local mountain caribou under threat from the wolves.
“The South Selkirk herd is at high risk of local extinction,” says the ministry. “The population has declined from 46 caribou in 2009 to 27 in 2012 and to 18 as of March 2014. Evidence points to wolves being the leading cause of mortality.”
Wolves are similarly responsible for the decline of caribou herds in the South Peace region where an estimated 37 pre cent of all adult mortalities have been documented as wolf predation.
The statement goes on to say that “hunting and trapping of wolves have not effectively reduced (wolf) populations and may even split up packs and increase predation rates on caribou. Habitat recovery continues to be an important part of caribou recovery, but cannot address the critical needs of these herds in the short term.”
In another Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations statement, assistant deputy minister Tom Ethier notes the province believes caribou are a valuable part of the natural ecosystem and should not be left to slowly die out. He goes on to say other recovery efforts, including habitat protection and restoration, are already in place to help the caribou, “but if we wait for these measures to have an impact it will be too late.”
While the peer-reviewed Wolf Management Plan, released in April 2014, outlined the need for a targeted wolf cull, wolf researcher and director of the Ontario based Wolf Awareness foundation, Sadie Parr says that the planned cull is “unscientific and flawed.”
Parr says wolves are social animals, and killing them will fracture existing groups. Many would move on to breed and form other packs, thereby increasing the wolf population and subsequently, put even more pressure on caribou herds
In another January 2015 press release, B.C. based Pacific Wild states, “Decades of habitat destruction and human encroachment have left B.C.’s mountain caribou on the edge of survival. Instead of protecting critical food and habit for the caribou, such as the lichen-rich Interior forests, the B.C. government is now blaming the wolves.”
The group also points out winter-based, motorized activity is another major factor in the decline of caribou herds in the Selkirk Mountains.
“Traditionally, deep snow would provide security from wolves, but the tracks made by these vehicles allow wolves easy access to caribou.”
The way I see it, expecting wolves not to predate on caribou grazing in there back yard is sort of like cooking up pork chops, setting them a plate on the kitchen table, leaving the room and telling the dog not to touch them.
The wolf cull, not unlike the plate of pork chops, amounts to a lack of reasoning, coupled with a lack of understanding, combined with a natural instinct to eat food that’s sitting right there in front of you. What you have left to chew on is pretty much a no-win situation.
The above was originally published in the Jan. 30, 2015 Shuswap Market News.