Save B.C. Wolves
Wolves are still legally persecuted throughout B.C. There are no protected areas set aside for wolves to fulfill their roles as apex predators in healthy, functional ecosystems, or to live out their lives as highly intelligent, social animals. The B.C. Wolf Management Plan needs an overhaul, starting with the unscientific, costly, and inhumane wolf cull program.
The Sea Wolves
Wolves in the Great Bear Rainforest are different; they are genetically distinct from inland grey wolves. The population carries more genetic diversity because it has never been through a population bottleneck, the term used to describe the severe depletion of a population followed by a resurgence in numbers originating from only a few individuals.
Rainforest wolves inhabit all environments along the mainland coast and adjacent islands, but not the offshore archipelago of Haida Gwaii. They live almost exclusively on deer and what the ocean provides, including salmon, herring roe and even seals and sea lions.
In B.C., all wolves are subject to the provincial government’s Wolf Management Plan, updated and released in April, 2014. The plan does not appropriately address the societal, ecological and economic roles that only healthy populations of wild wolves can fulfill. Instead, the plan, based on faulty estimates of population growth and unfounded beliefs about impacts to cattle ranchers, is mainly focused on wolf control. In 2010, approximately 1,400 wolves were reported killed - the highest mortality rate since 1976 and 12-26% of all wolves in the province based on the government’s estimated population numbers. Under the management plan, it is legal to hunt wolves without any special license in most regions of the Great Bear Rainforest ten and a half months out of the year; in Tweedsmuir Park it is legal seven months out of the year.
(Read more about sea wolves in the October 2015 edition of National Geographic.)
B.C.’s Wolf Cull Program
Between January and April of 2015, government contractors killed 84 wolves from helicopters in southeast B.C. The cull was ordered to protect two populations of mountain caribou that are close to local extinction. Further government communications revealed that, unless we stop it, the winter cull will continue for at least 5 years, potentially killing thousands of wolves at a taxpayer cost of $2.1 million.
The government’s decision to scapegoat wolves represents a failure to protect and restore the habitat required by mountain caribou: old-growth forest that has been fragmented and destroyed by industrial logging, oil and gas exploration and recreational snowmobiling. Over decades, these impacts have left many populations of woodland caribou in serious decline, without the habitat they need for their specialized diets and protection from predators.
The federal Boreal Woodland Caribou Recovery Strategy (released in 2008) clearly states that predator management should be used as a last resort to save caribou populations, after habitat protection and restoration. No other predators of mountain caribou are being targeted.
Reasons to oppose the wolf cull program
The wolf cull is a disastrous management experiment with no scientific evidence to support its methods or intended outcomes. A report on a 10-year cull program in Alberta that killed 733 wolves, cited by B.C. officials in support of the cull, actually showed that the cull had no effect on adult female or calf survival rates.
Without adequate habitat protection and restoration, mountain caribou populations are still likely to decline. Very small populations of these specialized animals may no longer be viable and are susceptible to being wiped out by many things besides wolves, such as disease or forest fires.
Shooting wolves from helicopters is an inhumane method of euthanasia. Many of these wolves will be wounded and left to die in the snow. There is no public oversight of the killing operation. B.C. is one of only two Canadian provinces that has not adopted the Canadian Council on Animal Care standards that guide the welfare and humane treatment of wild and domestic animals.
The wolf cull is hypocritical: although there is much scientific evidence showing the beneficial effects of wolves on ecosystems, there are no recovery plans for wolves in regions of B.C. where they face local extirpation. In areas where they are beginning to make a comeback from historical eradication, they are still legally hunted and trapped.
To learn more about B.C. wolves, click here.