BC gov’t taken to court over shooting of wolves from helicopters to save caribou

BC gov’t taken to court over shooting of wolves from helicopters to save caribou

The conservation group Pacific Wild is taking the BC government to court over how the ministry responsible is killing wolves to save the endangered caribou populations.

The government’s wolf management program was launched in 2015 to reduce predation on caribou.

An estimated 1,400 wolves have been killed since, according to Pacific Wild.

Animal advocates have long argued the reason behind the decline in caribou numbers is human caused, such as the loss of critical habitat through logging, mining, and road building, over the past few decades.

Legal counsel for Pacific Wild, Rebeka Breder, tells Daily Hive in a phone interview the judicial review is not about the science or ethics of killing wolves, it’s about the legality surrounding the wolf cull.

Breder said through FOI documents, they found the majority of wolf killings happen by third-party contractors, hired by the province, shooting the animals from helicopters.

“The wolf cull is unlawful because the provincial regulation that allows the killing of wildlife by aircraft conflicts with federal aviation laws,” Breder said.

Breder also said the authority to cull wolves by aircraft has been inappropriately given to the ministry’s regional managers under Wildlife Act regulations.

“When we started the lawsuit, the regulations didn’t provide for any kind of exemption for hunting wildlife from helicopters,” Breder said, then when the lawsuit was filed “they [the province] amended the regulations to allow the use of helicopters for hunting wildlife.”

(Ian McCallister, Pacific Wild/ Facebook)
(Ian McCallister, Pacific Wild/ Facebook)

“We say even with that amendment, it doesn’t go far enough because the regulations still need to set out a complete guide to the regional manager about the conditions under which hunting by aircraft is allowed,” Breder said.

If the group is successful with this judicial review, Breder said the wolf cull may continue, “but before it does continue, the government is going to have to go back to the drawing board, seriously rethink its regulations and draft and enact proper regulations that guide a regional manager when issuing permits for killing wildlife by aircraft.”

Breder said that way “the public can be assured that they could look at the regulations and know what’s going on,” adding, “there will be a lot more transparency and accountability.”

“When we’re dealing with an issue that involves the extensive killing of wildlife, coupled with potential impacts on public safety, we say it’s especially needed that the regulations and that the laws clearly set out what has to happen in these kinds of circumstances,” she said.

They were in court for two days in the beginning of July, and Breder said the judge has decided that at least three more days in court are needed, so now they are waiting to find out when those dates will be.

(Pacific Wild/ Facebook)
(Pacific Wild/ Facebook)

Speaking to the fact that they’ll have at least five full days in court, Breder said, “speaks volume,” because “it’s very rare that animal law cases get so much court time.”

“I think in the bigger picture, it’s a really good day when issues of wildlife protection are being seriously considered by the courts,” Breder said.

No one from the province was available for comment, but the Ministry of Forests provided a statement to Daily Hive.

“We are aware that the environmental organization Pacific Wild has petitioned the courts regarding wolf cull practices, which are part of governments’ science based approach to caribou recovery. While we cannot speak to an ongoing court proceeding, we can say that our government’s approach to predator control is based on science and sound wildlife management principles,” the ministry said.

This article by Michelle Morton was first published by The Daily Hive on 20 August 2021. Lead Image: (Ian McCallister, Pacific Wild/ Facebook).

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