Slaughtering wolves will not save the caribou – only ending habitat fragmentation and repairing the habitat can do that.
Two science advisors for the B.C. government have recommended that Premier Christy Clark’s administration expand its program to kill wolves, mountain lions, moose and deer in an experimental attempt to conserve and recover threatened southern mountain caribou. Written in October 2016 by two members of the Provincial Mountain Caribou Recovery Science Team, “Next Steps for Southern Mountain Caribou recovery in planning unit 3A,” provides a rationale for shooting wolves from helicopters in a southeastern part of the province known as the Revelstoke–Shuswap region.
However, the same authors of the report admit: “There are no humane methods to directly reduce wolf numbers, but aerial removal is the only method of killing enough wolves (and entire packs) to reduce wolf densities with no risk of by-catch.”
Reports have shown that the province’s experts are not certain that slaughtering wolves will save the caribou – only ending habitat fragmentation and repairing the habitat can do that. Two of Canada’s senior wolf biologists, Dr. John and Mary Theberge, were disturbed when the B.C. government implemented a massive wolf control plan in 2015 with the low probability of recovering a few small, isolated, range-edge herds of mountain caribou. The Theberge’s ask, “Why has past wolf killing not worked? The government’s chosen reason seems to be wolf killing needs to be more intensive, and more long lasting; that choice is inferred in the wolf management policy. Another possibility is that no rise in caribou numbers is possible because of habitat destruction, regardless of the presence of wolves.”
This time last year, Pacific Wild and Valhalla Wilderness Society challenged the legality of the government of British Columbia’s controversial wolf cull program. Despite considerable opposition over the last few years, the B.C. government launched a multi-year wolf kill program in January 2015 in the South Peace and South Selkirk regions. “To date, the province has neglected to protect and restore sufficient habitat for endangered caribou,” says Ian McAllister, Executive Director of Pacific Wild. “The government has known for decades that habitat destruction and fragmentation by forestry, energy projects, coal and other human use led to drastic caribou declines. So much more could have been done, and could still be done, to protect and restore the habitat that caribou need to survive. Instead, they are killing hundreds of wolves to appease industry and other vested interests.”
In a recent article by Wolf Awareness Executive Director Sadie Parr and Paul Paquet, a senior scientist with Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Parr and Paquet say this proposal damages the integrity of scientific inquiry. They write, “We believe experimental wolf kill programs are unwarranted and unethical, and should be replaced with adequate habitat protection.”
A Revelstoke resident formerly associated with the Mountain Caribou Project, Virginia Thompson, recently wrote a letter to the Revelstoke Times Review in an attempt to clarify information on caribou habitat protection in the Revelstoke Shuswap Planning Unit. Thompson writes, “My question is: What do people want in this situation? I strongly suggest the federal and provincial governments protect more caribou habitat. This will probably save the North Columbia Herd at least, and avoid killing so many animals in what is turning into a bloodbath.”
BC’s caribou recovery plan is still pitched as a great conservation commitment at the sacrifice of industrial and recreational interests, yet it has never resulted in protecting sufficient habitat to support caribou in the long-term.
Read the article by Wolf Awareness’ Sadie Parr and Raincoast Conservation Foundation’s Paul Paquet here: National Observer, “BC government scientists admit wolf cull is inhumane, then propose to expand it.“
Read the letter by Virginia Thompson, former member of the Mountain Caribou Project, here: Revelstoke Times Review, “Protect habitat, don’t kill wolves, to save caribou.“