In January of 2015, the Liberal government of British Columbia announced a five-year plan that would see contracted out helicopter companies cull wolves in the South Peace and South Selkirk Regions. The cull was initiated in response to substantial declines in caribou herds and saw the death of 84 wolves during the first winter alone. The winter of 2016 saw a total of 163 wolves killed under the cull program - 154 in the South Peace region and 9 in the South Selkirks.
Culling wolves to save caribou is a scientifically flawed approach and, simply put, is an irresponsible biological experiment. The data elicited from the Alberta wolf cull proved that removing apex predators did nothing to recover endangered caribou herds there.
Similar to the South Peace region, researchers found that rampant industrial development in Alberta led to the severe decline in caribou.
Wildlife Defence League is concerned that the government is scapegoating wolves, rather than listen to experts and take action to address the root causes for caribou decline - despite acknowledging them. Ministry of Environment documents, obtained through a Freedom of Information Request, reveal the experimental nature of the cull and acknowledge that, "Ultimately, as long as the habitat conditions on and adjacent to caribou ranges remain heavily modified by industrial activities, it is unlikely that any self-sustaining caribou populations will be able to exist in the South Peace."
Meanwhile, the government touts its commitment to protect 400,000 hectares of habitat in the South Peace, failing to mention that it is only the high-elevation winter ranges of the endangered caribou that they have protected. Oil and gas, combined with hydroelectric projects, cutblocks, roads, seismic lines and open pit coal mines have seriously threatened the survival of caribou herds in the region and continue to do so, including the proposed Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project, which would cut through caribou habitat. In the South Selkirk, the herd is down to just twelve animals, making them functionally extinct from the landscape. Logging interests there decimated critical habitat years ago, leaving the landscaped scared.
The government's intention to scapegoat wolves while allowing industry to go unchecked has not gone unnoticed. Another Freedom of Information application requested and obtained by the Wilderness Committee points towards industry representatives from logging corporations as the culprits who suggested initiating a wolf cull. Their suggestion, says the FOI, was due to the potential threat that a federal caribou recovery plan would place further restrictions on logging.
Profit has and continues to be placed above the survival of wildlife and the health of ecosystems across the province - this must not continue.
With a newly elected NDP government, we're hopeful they'll take a stance against the wolf cull. Until then, we'll continue to apply pressure to stop the unethical slaughter of wolves and protect critical caribou habitat.