In January of 2015, the Liberal government of British Columbia announced a five-year plan that would see helicopter companies cull wolves in the South Peace and South Selkirks.. The cull has now been expanded to the Revelstoke area. The cull was initiated in response to substantial declines in endangered mountain caribou and has seen the death of over 400 wolves.
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.
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 our newly elected provincial NDP government is following in the footsteps of the BC Liberals and scapegoating wolves, rather than taking meaningful 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 only high-elevation winter ranges of endangered mountain caribou habitat are 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 extirpated. In March of this year, the provincial government announced their final count for the South Selkirk herd - only 3 animals remained. Calls to remove the remaining caribou to a pen where they would be safe went unanswered and in the summer another caribou was lost to predation. It took until the fall before the government finally decided to move the last 2 caribou. Logging interests decimated critical habitat years ago, leaving the landscaped scared. Today, while significant portions of the landscape are protected, logging in what could have be a migration corridor still takes place.
Recreational activity (specifically snowmobiling) is having a detrimental effect on the survival and recovery of endangered mountain caribou across British Columbia. Reports suggest that stress hormones have been found in caribou up to ten kilometres away from snowmobiling. Reports also suggest caribou will intentionally avoid habitat with heavy snowmobile use, even though the habitat itself is suitable for caribou to thrive in. Predators also take advantage of snowmobile tracks to access caribou habitat where otherwise, the snow would be too deep to travel in. Like seismic lines, snowmobile tracks create predator highways.
The BC Liberals intention to scapegoat wolves while they left industry unchecked was not 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 continues to be placed above the survival of endangered species and the health of ecosystems across the province.