The second year of the B.C. government’s wolf cull project has concluded in the South Selkirk Mountains and South Peace regions.
The five-year wolf cull project was launched in January 2015. Government contractors are paid to radio-collar wolves in the spring so snipers in helicopters can track and kill wolves throughout the winter.
The province says 163 wolves were killed this year – nine in the South Selkirks and 154 in the South Peace.
In 2015, 84 wolves were killed in those two regions, although the original goal was to remove 184 wolves. Bad weather and a low snowpack made it more difficult for the province to reach its initial goal last year.
The province says the controversial wolf cull is the best way to protect endangered caribou in those regions.
“Habitat recovery continues to be an important part of caribou recovery, but cannot address the critical needs of these herds in the short term,” said the province in a press release.
The South Selkirk herd numbered 46 caribou in 2009 declining to 12 in the most recent survey conducted in March 2016.
In the four caribou herds in the South Peace – Quintette, Moberly, Scott
and Kennedy-Siding -, populations are also decreasing and the province says wolves are a key factor, with 37 per cent of all adult mortalities have been documented as wolf predation.
Earlier this year, two environmental groups – Pacific Wild and Valhalla Wilderness Society – filed an application for a judicial review to determine whether the provincial government’s decision to cull wolves reasonably constitutes proper management of wolves.
The B.C. SPCA also says there is a lack of credible scientific evidence to support the wolf cull and that it cannot be achieved humanely. Dr. Sara Dubois, the B.C. SPCA’s Chief Scientific Officer, says culling can fracture pack social structures and create an ecological imbalance for other species in the area.
According to the province, the operational plans for both the Selkirks and South Peace wolf cull have been independently peer-reviewed. With a wolf population estimated to range between 5300 and 11,600, the provincial government says wolf populations are plentiful, and that the grey wolf is not a species of concern in B.C.
Forests Minister Steve Thomson said the program will continue next winter, along with a project to capture and pen pregnant female caribou in the South Selkirks to keep newborn calves from being killed by wolves.
“They’re getting increased survival rates for the calves from the maternal penning, with lots of partners in support in that program,” Thomson said.
– With files from Tom Fletcher