COMMENTARY · 27th January 2015
I can't believe that I'm reading this. It sounds ridiculous. The BC government is going to slaughter 184 wolves to save 18 caribou. Once again the BC government is launching a war on wolves. What's worse is that the government knows it won't work. In the BC wolf management plan they stated themselves that " The ultimate reason that caribou have declined is likely habitat fragmentation and loss...To date, B.C.'s wolf management actions have not been successful in meeting Mountain Caribou recovery objectives." The government has tried before to save caribou populations by culling wolves and it hasn't worked before, it won't work now. That's because wolves are not the problem and definitely not the cause of the declining caribou population. Habitat degradation is the leading cause in the population decline. Things like clear cutting, logging, pipelines, oil sands and recreational activities such as snowmobiling are to blame. Caribou are adapted to living in areas where no other ungulates can survive. This choice of habitat is an important predator avoidance strategy. When there is so much habitat loss it pushes the caribou into smaller areas but higher concentrations which makes them easy targets for predators. Not to mention that the clear cutting and road building certainly makes hunting easier for the wolves. In addition, the habitat loss and fragmentation alters their habitat to start increasing the growth of shrubs. This opens up new territory for other ungulate species such as deer, elk, moose. Wolves will follow their main food source, and this new territory is often where they end up which increases the predation on caribou as a result. In addition to this, wolves are highly intelligent creatures with very complex social relationships, much like humans. When a pack member is killed it disrupts the entire pack, and research shows that as a result it can increase reproductive rates in wolves and destabilizes pack structure causing more predation of livestock and other non-native prey.
For decades the BC government has ignored the science and continued to side with lobbyists from groups like the Cattlemens Association. Now they are getting into bed with other organizations such as the US Fish and Wildlife Service which has a history of scapegoating wolves for the benefit of livestock producers. In addition to all of this the government says that the wolf population is stable enough to sustain a cull, yet it is almost impossible to get an accurate population number since the assessment of changes in population numbers is based on both anecdotal information and records of the number of wolves killed. "Trends in the wolf population are estimated primarily from changes in reported harvest, along with observational reports from ministry staff, First Nations, stakeholders, and the general public." As stated in the BC wolf management plan. Yet this "stable population" estimate of 8,000 wolves is considerably less than the provinces 17,000 Grizzly bears which has been designated as a species of concern; seems a little conflicting.
The BC government will continue to use scientifically unsound reasons to scapegoat the wolf in order to divert attention from the fundamental problem of ongoing habitat destruction and displacement caused by human encroachment due to the advancement of industry. There are other ways to protect and help ensure a future population for the caribou but shooting wolves from helicopters isn't one of them. Please write to your government to voice your opposition to this barbaric plan.