In mid January, after receiving numerous emails from British Columbians across the province, I wrote to the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to ask a number of questions concerning the rationale for the wolf cull in the South Selkirk Mountains and the South Peace of British Columbia. I have now received a very detailed, comprehensive and thoughtful response to the questions that I posed. I encourage you to read the Minister’s response.
As noted in the response, the situation in the South Selkirk has changed since Steve Wilson wrote his 2010 report entitled “Estimating the Short-term Benefit of Wolf Management to Mountain Caribou Herds”. The Selkirk caribou population dropped from 46 to 18 caribou from 2009 to 2014 after increasing from 2004 to 2009. Few wolves were in the area during the earlier period while increasing numbers have been present in recent years and “the most recent confirmed mortalities on the South Selkirk herd are due to wolf predation”.
The Minister’s letter also outlines steps that have been or are being taken to preserve the caribou’s natural habitat. In addition, it outlines several predator management projects that are being developed on a trial basis.
“The South Selkirk caribou population is declining by 30% to 40% per year (as demonstrated by the population numbers listed in the operational plan. Based on this rate of decline, the caribou population will likely be in a state of quasi-extirpation within a year.”
It’s clear from the evidence that the South Selkirk caribou population is near extinction and that predation by wolves is a leading cause of most recent mortalities. As a society, I believe we have a responsibility to protect endangered species. It is clear that a choice needs to be made. Not dealing with the growing wolf population would mean almost certain extinction of the caribou herd. Dealing with the growing wolf population gives this herd a fighting chance.
Not withstanding this short-term emergency measure that needs to take place, and the government’s recent efforts to create and preserve increased habitat for the caribou, I will continue to monitor government’s 2008 “Interim Strategy for Predator/Prey Management Actions in Support of Mountain Caribou Recovery”, where it notes that “habitat loss and fragmentation is largely the ultimate cause of mountain caribou declines”.