FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – British Columbia quietly renewed its controversial wolf cull program for another five years earlier this winter which will target the Peace as well as Kootenay, Cariboo, Omineca, and Skeena regions of the Province.
The provincial government claims the aerial wolf reduction program, which involves shooting wolves from a helicopter, is the most humane and effective way to curtail wolf populations in remote regions.
The program was established in 2015 in an attempt to prevent the further deterioration of caribou populations. Since then, over 1400 wolves have been culled through the program.
A 2019 report from the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development on Caribou recovery in the South Peace, following the first cull, states that drastic declines in caribou were seen prior to predator reduction.
According to the report, the declines “followed extensive landscape change resulting from forest harvest, mining, oil and gas exploration, road construction and other industrial activities within or adjacent to caribou ranges. This has led to the direct loss of habitat and altered predator-prey dynamics.”
The report also claims that forests created by industrial activities benefited species such as moose, which attract wolves. Linear features, such as roads, can also increase wolf movement and access to caribou.
In an interview with CBC, Laurie McConnell, a wolf campaigner with the conservation group Pacific Wild says the province should focus on preserving habitat instead of culling BC’s wolf population.
“Wolves just keep dying while industry … still utilizes the backcountry and backs the caribou into smaller pieces of old-growth forest,” she said.
“No amount of killing wolves is going to save caribou if they don’t have habitat.”
The province says that habitat protection alone does not create new habitat and that the creation of new habitat relies on forest growth, which won’t happen in the timeframe they’re aiming for to revive the caribou populations.
The ministry said, “The decision to carry out wolf culls is not taken lightly, but science and past results show that this recovery action is an effective way to decrease predator pressure on BC’s threatened caribou herds.”
The ministry says it will continue to assess the situation to inform future decisions on culling.