B.C. predator cull would target 80 per cent of wolves in caribou recovery areas

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The provincial government is proposing a predator that would kill more than 80 per cent of the wolf population in parts of central that are home to threatened caribou herds, according to correspondence from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

“The objective of this wolf reduction program is to reverse caribou population decline in the Tweedsmuir-Entiako, Hart Ranges, and Itcha-Ilgachuz herds,” says a memo signed by Darcy Peel, director of the B.C. Caribou Recovery Program. “To reverse caribou population declines, high rates of wolf removal (>80%) must be achieved.”

A five-year program of wolf reduction has turned a 15 per cent a year decline in the population of the Central Group of the Southern Mountain Caribou into a 15 per cent a year increase, according a memo from the B.C. Caribou Recovery Program. Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre file photo

The Tweedsmuir-Entiako and Itcha-Ilgachuz herds are in the central part of the province, roughly east of Bella Coola and west of Quesnel, while the Hart Ranges herd is near the Alberta border, east of Prince George.

A parallel cull is also proposed for the Itcha-Ilgachuz herd area to “remove cougars that have likely begun to focus on caribou as a prey source.”

A 30-day consultation with Indigenous communities and “targeted stakeholders” is underway.

A five-year program of wolf reduction has turned a 15 per cent a year decline in the population of the Central Group of the Southern Mountain Caribou into a 15 per cent a year increase, Peel writes.

A study of 18 caribou herds released earlier this year found that populations stabilized or increased in eight of 12 herds in areas where were culled. Six herds that were not subject to predator removal continued to decline, according to the study led by Robert Serrouya, director of the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute’s Caribou Monitoring Unit.

The Central Group’s Klinse-Za herd posted the most dramatic recovery through a combination of predator reductions and maternal penning, in which pregnant caribou and calves are protected by fencing.

Serrouya found that predator management must be applied “intensively” to produce a positive result and that combining strategies such as culls, restoration and safe havens enhanced the effectiveness of recovery efforts.

Serrouya’s study identifies as a “proximate” cause of caribou decline, while ecosystem alteration is the “ultimate factor.”

“Habitat restoration is the long-term piece to this strategy,” Serrouya said in a interview. “But if we wait for the habitat to be restored and do nothing else, there won’t be any caribou to occupy it.”

Several herds in B.C. have already turned around because of this multi-pronged approach, he said.

Bryce Casavant is a conservation policy analyst with Pacific Wild.

B.C. is currently rolling out a $47-million caribou recovery plan.

“Wolf populations in these herds are far above the level that research tells us is needed to ensure caribou recovery,” the ministry wrote in response to questions from Postmedia. “These herds have reached a critical point, with a combined total of only 801 individual animals. All have had steep declines in recent years due to predation.”

The proposed cull was condemned as outdated thinking that ignores the real cause of the caribou decline by a one-time NDP candidate and former conservation officer.

Habitat loss to logging, mining, oil and gas development and roadbuilding is the real problem, said Bryce Casavant, now a conservation policy analyst with Pacific Wild.

“It’s not a scientific discovery to say that if we kill the predators, the caribou will do a little better,” he said. “What’s really happening is that taxpayers are subsidizing inappropriate industrial operations by paying for the cull and the wolves are paying with their lives.”

The ministry memo advocates an adaptive management approach to conservation, combining predator management with other strategies and studying their effectiveness as they are applied.

Casavant argued that so-called “science on the go” is intended to support the government’s predator management strategy.

“The data shows that habitat loss is the largest agent of decline, not wolves,” he said.

This article was first published by The Vancouver Sun on 12 September 2019.


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Linda George

LET NATURE TAKE CARE OF ITSELF. LEAVE THEM ALONE.

Fran Mehan

Leave them alone they help the natural balance and health of the herds

Ann Wardle

Wolves are an integral part of the ecosystem. They have a role to play. When you harm a part of a system, you harm the entire system. The entity that created the system was much wiser that those who pull the triggers and those who allow it. We are facing the 6th mass extinction and this is a contributing factor.

Maria Anna Mavromichalis

leave the animals alone you evil pricks!!!!!!!!

Doneraile
Doneraile

Seems like a case of ill-applied micro science in BC and elsewhere I’m sure. How long has the cycle of predator/prey been going on? 10 days, 3 years, 90 years? NO, it’s been part of the natural system for millennia. If caribou take longer to recover then don’t over-harvest the fragile forests or plan development for the sensitive calving grounds. Provide maternal penning, use modern thinking and technologies but don’t use wolf culling as part of the caribou reverse population formula.