At the same time that the BC government declared its refusal to increase habitat protection for any Mountain Caribou other than in the Peace River region, a leaked document reached the environmental community, revealing a plan to expand wolf extermination over a huge area of BC.  The document was sent by the BC government to “selected stakeholders” in a secret consultation process. It plans helicopter wolf culls for the Hart Ranges caribou herd at the northern end of the Interior Wetbelt, and the Itcha-Ilgachuz and Tweedsmuir-Entiako herds of the west Chilcotin region. A separate plan was underway to slaughter wolves in the range of the Central Selkirk herd. The Valhalla Wilderness Society (VWS) and numerous other environmental groups strongly oppose these wolf culls.

Download submission to government on the Hart Ranges and Chilcotin wolf culls.

Download submission to government on the Central Kootenay wolf cull.

Wolf extermination is no substitute for habitat protection

The public is often given the impression that predator control and habitat protection are interchangeable; that killing wolves is an effective substitute for protecting habitat, or that killing more wolves means we can save caribou while protecting less forest. Killing wolves has been portrayed as wiping away the impacts on caribou of logging their habitat. This  is why logging, heli-skiing and snowmobiling interests band together to lobby for killing wolves and building maternity pens: they have been misled to believe that they can avoid habitat protection and “save” the caribou at the same time, by killing and fencing out predators. But in a 2018 “Imminent Threat Assessment” by the federal government, Environment Canada scientists have stated that, once habitat disturbance reaches a certain level, it will be impossible to recover a herd to a self-sustaining level. Predator control from helicopters and maternity pens are very expensive. How long will the taxpayers want to continue them?

Read on:

Old-growth forest and snowmobile closures as non-lethal wolf reduction

The serious long-term impacts of killing large carnivores

Old-growth forest and snowmobile closures as non-lethal wolf reduction

Old-growth forest is natural, non-lethal wolf control, because it does not support much food for the moose, deer and elk that wolves and cougars need. After the old-growth is logged, young forest grows food for these prey animals, which move in and increase. Environment Canada has recommended “reducing the amount of disturbed habitat” as a means of keeping wolf populations low.

Closing caribou winter habitat to snowmobiles is another non-lethal form of wolf control that could have immediate effects in terms of protecting caribou. The Mountain Caribou of BC’s Interior Wetbelt (“Deep-snow Mountain Caribou”) differ from the more northerly herds in that they spend winter at high elevation in deep snow, which makes them more or less safe from predators. But this protection is stripped away by snow-packed trails and slopes created by machines and even skis and snowshoes.

The serious long-term impacts of killing large carnivores

There are detailed records of what happened to Yellowstone Park after it lost its cougars and wolves: the elk population exploded and stripped the park of their favourite foods, especially young trees. Over the next 60 years the park lost an estimated 80-85% of its aspen trees, 50-95% of its willows, and almost all cottonwood seedlings. The loss of vegetation caused soil erosion that destabilized stream beds. Researchers believe that the numbers and species of songbirds were likely reduced due to habitat loss. The loss of willows and aspens all but wiped out the beaver population. With the return of the wolves, some willows and beavers have returned, but due to hydrological damage, much of the wetlands that were lost can never be recovered, thus the willows and beavers cannot fully recover. Researchers say that the loss of species as a result of the elimination of large carnivores can go on for decades.

Valhalla Wilderness Society

© 2016, Valhalla Wilderness Society