Last year British Columbia’s government launched a now-controversial program to kill wolves in the Peace and Selkirk Regions in order to protect the dwindling caribou population. The government has enlisted various methods of controlling wolves to reduce caribou loss since 2001. BC’s Pacific Wild is leading the charge to fight against the wolf cull. With social media support from Miley Cyrus, Pacific Wild’s fight against the wolf cull has dominated international headlines.
Last year British Columbia’s government launched a now-controversial program to kill wolves in the Peace and Selkirk Regions in order to protect the dwindling caribou population. The government has enlisted various methods of controlling wolves to reduce caribou loss since 2001. BC’s Pacific Wild is leading the charge to fight against the wolf cull. With social media support from Miley Cyrus, Pacific Wild’s fight against the wolf cull has dominated international headlines. Some BC biologists have said that the cause of caribou decline is dwindling habitat, not wolves. The BC government’s 2014 report on wolf management even states that a correlation between reducing wolf numbers and caribou recovery could not be demonstrated. We spoke with PW’s executive director Ian McAllister about their work and why Canadians should pay attention.
A\J: What is the BC wolf cull?
Ian McAllister: Last year, without any previous announcement, the BC government announced a five-year plan, with a budget of over $2-million, to use helicopters to kill wolves through the Peace and Selkirk Regions. These are really large parts of the wilderness in BC where they plan on removing wolves. They radio collar individuals within each pack of wolves and in the wintertime, track them. They call them “Judas wolves.” They track those wolves to uncover the rest of the pack, then send helicopters in to kill the pack. The substantive issue in the wolf cull is that wolves are being blamed for the caribou population decline in the Peace and South Selkirk Regions.
Why is Pacific Wild opposed?
There is no clear proof that killing wolves will bring back caribou. Many biologists have said the caribou will not survive into the future even without wolves because the provincial government is not protecting adequate levels of habitat. It’s the human encroachment from industry, mining, oil and gas, logging, recreational activity and a host of other intrusions into critical caribou habitat that is driving them to extinction. The problem is that the BC government has known about this for decades. They have not taken the steps to properly protect caribou habitat and now, at the final hour, they’re trying to shift blame onto wolves and use them as a scapegoat. There’s a huge level of inhumane and cruel treatment in the way the cull is being conducted. Wolves are being wounded and left to suffer and die. The extended families in the packs are being ripped apart. Independent biologists and scientists are saying that the caribou are doomed unless habitat is addressed.
What is Pacific Wild doing about it?
Since the government made the announcement that they were going forward with this large-scale kill program, we’ve launched petitions and received over 200,000 signatures in support. We’ve been addressing the issue in media around the world and trying to mobilize as many people as possible to voice their opposition. This is an issue that went from obscurity to dominating the front pages of BC newspapers. There has been considerable conversation within the science community about whether we should be conducting such an inhumane, unscientific wildlife management policy such as this wolf kill. We’re hopeful that through more public outrage and condemnation of the BC government, they’ll reconsider this and address the real issue, which is habitat protection.
Is there a way to address the caribou habitat before it’s too late?
Some biologists are saying that the caribou don’t have a chance, that their future is written. There are others that say if the BC government would stop issuing licences for road building and construction, clear-cut logging and recreational activities, and safeguard that critical habitat, then caribou actually have a chance.
Find BC’s full report on grey wolf management at ajlinks.ca/greywolf.
Anne Bell takes in-depth look at how Canada is failing to protect species at risk. ajmag.ca/species.
Megan is A\J’s editorial manager, a lover of journalism, and graduate of the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Environment.