BC Liberals scapegoat and slaughter 163 wolves

The BC Liberal government has released the number of wolves slaughtered in the 2016 wolf cull. 163 wolves were gunned down by helicopters in the South Peace and South Selkirk regions - almost twice as many as were killed in last year’s cull. 

Wildlife Defence League condemns the BC Liberals and Bighorn Helicopters for their unethical, inhumane and unscientific war on wolves and their use of BC taxpayer dollars to fund this slaughter. 

The BC Liberals blame wolves for a decline in caribou in both the South Peace and South Selkirk regions and have justified the wolf cull as a measure to save the endangered herds, but in reality it is habitat destruction through human activities, including mining, logging, and oil and gas exploration that is the root cause. In fact, the wolf cull was initially put forward by the forestry industry as a way to shift blame for the decline in caribou and avoid restrictions on logging activity. 

Meanwhile, the BC Liberals have done little, if anything, to address the root causes for caribou decline. Instead, the herds continue to shrink - in the South Selkirk region they have diminished from 46 animals in 2009, to 18 in 2014, and by March of this year they’ve fallen further to 12. The reality in the South Peace region is just as grim, as the endangered herds there continue to dwindle as well.

Wildlife Defence League was on the ground in the South Selkirk region during this year’s cull, in an effort to monitor, document and expose its realities and the threats facing caribou. Crew members discovered disturbing details about the nature of the cull, including the government’s use of a collared “Judas” wolf, who is tracked back to his pack, only to see his family members slaughtered while he is left alive in order to lead government snipers to more wolves. 

“That the government considers this cull to be “humane” is beyond disturbing. It’s time the BC Liberals listen to and align with independent science and the vast majority of British Columbians who strongly oppose the scapegoating of wolves.” said Tommy Knowles, Campaign Director for Wildlife Defence League. “We are calling on the BC government and Bighorn Helicopters to end the cull and reallocate those resources to genuine caribou habitat protection and restoration.”

- Visit our Take Action page today to stand up for wolves and caribou! -

Ontario abandons expanded wolf and coyote hunt

April 5, 2016

The Ontario Government announced it will not be expanding the slaughter of wolves and coyotes in Northern Ontario, as was initially proposed by the Ministry of Natural Resources this past January. 

The plan, which would have eased hunting regulations for wolves and coyotes in an ill-informed attempt to protect moose populations, was opened for public comment and over 12,000 submissions were made. In addition, over 200,000 petition signatures were submitted in opposition to the proposal. 

The Government acknowledged arguments against the plan, which included that it would “reverse steps taken in recent years to protect wolves in general; it does not adequately protect Eastern wolves; that predation is not the cause of the moose decline and the proposal won’t benefit moose populations broadly; and opposition to hunting and trapping in general.”

Wildlife Defence League welcomes this decision and we hope it will inform a larger discussion about ethical and science-based conservation and that other provincial governments, including Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, will follow suit and end their senseless slaughter of wolves and other predators. 

This case highlights the importance and impact of public pressure. Together, we can help end the scapegoating of predators in British Columbia. Please contact your MLA and the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources (Honourable Steve Thomson) and share this announcement with them. Call on them to officially oppose and do their part to end the BC wolf cull and the expansion of predator control across the province. Encourage them to instead support genuine conservation efforts.

The Fight To Keep The Peace

The fight to stop the construction of BC Hydro’s controversial Site C Dam continues, as concerned members of the public protest outside BC Hydro headquarters in downtown Vancouver. One young woman, Kristin Henry, is on day 18 of a hunger strike in opposition to the project. 

“It’s simple - we don’t need the energy from the dam, but we need everything that the dam is going to destroy”, said the tired but resolute Henry. She is calling for an immediate halt to the dam’s construction until the Treaty 8 First Nations have been appropriately consulted, the current court cases by the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations have concluded, and the BC Utilities Commission has completed an independent review of the project. 

Henry is not alone in her disapproval - her hunger strike is in solidarity with Treaty 8 First Nations, who have been actively engaged for years in the struggle to defend their rights and territories from the threat of Site C. Treaty 8 members, with help from local farmers and supporters, initiated a peaceful protest camp in December of last year, on traditional territory near the construction site of the mega project. 

For two months the land defenders at the Rocky Mountain fort protest camp braved the cold to protect not only some of the most fertile agricultural land in the province, but also one of the largest and most critical wildlife corridors on the continent. A Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative report concluded that the cumulative impacts of Site C “are highly significant for all species.” Wolves are predicted to suffer a loss of 22 per cent of landscape productivity, caribou 31 to 37 per cent, and grizzlies 42 to 44 per cent. The Peace river valley is also home to incredible old growth boreal forests and the treaty rights and cultural heritage of the Treaty 8 First Nations. The 60 meter high dam would destroy all of this and flood over 100 km of the valley, an area equivalent to 14 Stanley Parks. Beyond that, opponents say the dam will support an expanded fossil fuel industry in the province, and taxpayers will be left to foot the over $8 billion bill for the mega project.

In late February, the BC Supreme Court ruled to grant BC Hydro an injunction to remove protestors from the dam site, ironically stating that the peaceful protest was causing irreparable harm…to the utility company’s profits, that is. While BC Hydro may have been able to remove the protestors from the land, they cannot remove the love of the land from those who defend it. The Treaty 8 First Nations courageously continue their fight to protect their homeland against the Site C Dam - a fight which is now before the Federal Court of Canada. You can show your support by contributing to their legal defence fund.

It’s time the BC Liberals honour the treaties and heed the concerns of those who elected them, as opposition to Site C isn’t going away, it’s right at their door step. 

Photo: Global News

Photo: Global News

Mowat's Spirit of the Wolf in the South Selkirk Mountains

Sam Edmonds, Conservation Photographer & WDL Campaign Photographer

Sam Edmonds, Conservation Photographer & WDL Campaign Photographer

Commentary by Sam Edmonds

The importance of Farley Mowat's canonical work Never Cry Wolf is well documented in Canadian culture. In many ways, the recount of a government naturalist sent to investigate the behavior of wolves and the decline of caribou in the farthest reaches of Canadian wilderness directly addresses the lives of a nation of people whose choice of latitude at which to survive has forged so precarious a relationship with wild nature. In almost stark contrast to the Londonian Klondike that aesthetics our perception of lupine species, the context of Mowat's story initially shrouds our relationship with wolves in a cloud of cold pragmatism and bureaucracy. But the writer's exposure to the familial happiness and innocent existence of canis lupis quickly quells any reader's ominous conception of the canids. It is in this way that Mowat's sentiment has once again been validated as the current government of British Columbia assails wolves in the name of rigorous anthropocentrism. And again, Canadians are forced to bear witness to the injustices born of economic untruths and callous disregard.

During our time in the south east of "British Columbia", the majority of our days were spent tracking wolves whose territory we believed lay just to the east of the Kootenay Pass. Over time, we began to preempt where we might find signs of these evasive animals and just as Mowat's relationship with the pack at Wolf House Bay blossomed over time, as did ours with a solitary yet unseen wolf nicknamed "Ghost". On a particularly foggy day, a chance encounter with a member of the Caribou Recovery Program uncovered information about the tax­payer funded cull that detailed usage of the "Judas Wolf" method ­ an archaic practice now deplored by most wildlife management authorities that facilitates the efficacy of culling programs by leaving a single subordinate male wolf perpetually collared while any accumulated members of his pack are repeatedly killed throughout the duration of a season.

This was how we knew Ghost was alone.

While Mowat's interaction with wolves in Canada's north came of an almost instantaneous sighting after his landing in sub­arctic tundra, among the steep slopes and dense coniferous forest of the Selkirks, our only interaction with Ghost came in the form of footprints in last night's snow; mounds of fur and bone at a kill site; week old stories of sightings by local loggers. Not unlike Amarok himself, for us this elusive canid became the unseen archetype of lupines; the spirit of the wolf in the South Selkirk Mountains.

The boundaries of Ghosts territory were ostensibly marked by the US border to our South and an active hauling road to the east and repetitive travel upon the latter soon afforded us a glimpse as to the ephemeral lives of trees in the area. One week we hiked amongst towering Spruce and Douglas Firs only to find them severed at the base upon our return days later. While the wolves of this area are being blamed for the decline in caribou numbers, we hiked among the aftermath of an industry that is clearing their habitat hectares at a time and the temptation to quote Mowat strikes us again: “Once [wolves] have entered timber, they are exposed to a concentrated, highly skilled and furious assault from men.”

In the pre­dawn light of our last day tracking him, while the sky was like blue ink, we heard Ghost howl. After weeks of following ungulates through cut blocks, watching coyotes and elk roam the snow-­covered potato fields, we heard our first tangible sign that Ghost was in our presence, just across the creek. And in light of moral frostbite from the cold politics of such a volatile and fiercely debated issue, we were warmed by the voice of whom was really threatened.

But we were the only ones that howled back.

It was in this realization, at the close of our time in the Kootenays, that the injustice suffered by wolves at the hands of irrationality, speciesism and betrayal became so clear. As recounted to him by his friend Ootek, Mowat's tutored notion of Amarok became unhindered by the bounds of any purely mythical design in place of a realization of Amarok's ecological nobility that every wolf embodies. For Mowat, the truth that abounds in the observation of wild nature was enough to sway his preconception of lupine ferocity and instead prompt reflection upon the hubris of his own species. As he concludes: "this is why the caribou and the wolf are one; for the caribou feeds the wolf but it is the wolf who keeps the caribou strong."

A Judas Wolf Named Ghost

Photo credit: John E. Marriott

Photo credit: John E. Marriott

Historically, the grey wolf was common throughout most of North America. Healthy ungulate populations, including bison, moose, elk and caribou provided an adequate food source. In turn, wolves limited overgrazing of wild lands by preying on these animals. They hunted weak and older ungulates, which kept herds strong and ensured the overall health of the ecosystem remained intact.

Indigenous nations lived in harmony with wolves and at times hunted on the same plains for bison. Upon contact, this changed for each of the aforementioned.

European settlers landed on the shores of North America with an anthropocentric creed. They clearcut and burned the forests, hunting and trapping numerous species into extinction. Bison were intentionally slaughtered en masse to take away food, clothing, shelter and ceremonial practices from Indigenous people, systematically wiping out their traditional way of living. Wolves were targeted as pests by settlers because of perceived threats to livestock and the belief that their mere existence was a detriment to people.

Intense pressure from hunting resulted in the extermination of wolves throughout most of the United States. Only recently have they begun to recover in the Great Lakes region and the Northern Rockies. In Canada, wolves fared slightly better but were still extirpated in territory that was dense with settlers.

The story of the wolf has changed little over time. Ranching and hunting lobbyists fight tooth and nail to continue extensive predator control. Today, Idaho, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and soon Ontario, are engaging in culling wolves.

Ghost has become a part of this story.

In the South Selkirk mountains of British Columbia, a wolf roams, devastated and alone. He is fitted with a radio collar that transmits a GPS signal to the government to notify his location. His name is ’Ghost’.

Ghost is the “Judas” wolf for a cull program designed by the BC Liberals to slaughter entire packs, including mothers and pups. He is referred to as the “Judas” wolf after the biblical story of the disciple Judas. Just as Judas betrayed Jesus to his enemies, the “Judas” wolf is used as a tool by hunters in helicopters to unintentionally betray the location of his pack. The program has put wolves in the crosshairs because of misinformation regarding the decline in mountain caribou. Habitat fragmentation and loss, mainly through logging in the South Selkirk has decimated critical caribou habitat. Rather than take action to protect habitat, which would limit corporate profits, the government has chosen to instead give the illusion of action via their scapegoating of wolves.

At some point during the cull, Ghost was trapped, collared and released. He unknowingly led Bighorn Helicopters to the location of his pack, who were then gunned down as they ran in panic from the helicopter that tormented them. When the slaughter ceased and blood stained the snow, Ghost was left alive, intentionally. This solitary wolf will be tracked as he instinctively searches for a new family, only to be traumatized yet again as his new pack is slaughtered before his eyes.

The BC Liberals have publicly stated that their wolf cull is being conducted in a humane manner, but the information uncovered during our field campaign contradicts such a claim.

During our time in the field, we tracked Ghost through the mountains and down into river valleys, yet never caught a glimpse of this elusive wolf. Tracks led on winding trails as he followed deer, drank from streams and laid down to rest. On our last morning in the field, just as the sun began to rise over the mountains, we heard Ghost let out a long and deep howl. Who was this call to? One can only guess.

The BC Liberals’ controversial, unethical and unsustainable wolf cull reveals the reality of who is truly betraying who in all of this. It is our own provincial government who has betrayed not only the wolves they scapegoat, but the endangered caribou they fail to protect, the concerned citizens, whose voices fall on the deaf ears of the elected and whose tax dollars are spent in secrecy on a slaughter they oppose.