Wolves are not only beautifully complex creatures, their influence on the environment—though not entirely understood—carries value, and to ignore even one part of an ecosystem is a recipe for unbalance and further decline.
Wolves are exceptional hunters their skill and teamwork is unrivalled amongst other land predators—yet even they are helpless to a siege from the sky. This subjective and unfounded judgement supports an unscientific conservation strategy, to cull wolves in an effort to improve dwindling numbers of woodland caribou. Hunters in helicopters are licensed to target wolves from above, the advantage is obvious and the consequences devastating.
Not only does this strategy dismiss other contributing factors including loss of habitat and human encroachment, but it also overlooks more viable, non-violent options including protecting critical habitat, such as lichen-rich high elevation forests (threatened by government approved logging and industrial exploration). In the Selkirk Mountains winter-based motorised activities are popular and the tracks they make leave caribou vulnerable to wolves who then have easy access to their natural prey. However, this human induced circumstance is not being considered as a key catalyst for the decline, nor is it being addressed as a potential solution.
In a recent interview for Bare Essentials magazine, Emmy-award winning documentary filmmakers, Jim and Jamie Dutcher described the nature of these much maligned animals as highly social, intelligent and integral to the balance of wild ecosystems. Having lived with the Sawtooth Pack for an extended period of time they are uniquely informed to speak about the behaviours and value of wolves. By contrast the government in British Columbia, Canada, have focused on one facet of the wolves nature, their predatory skills—and identified them as the cause of caribou decline throughout the region.
British Columbia’s 2007 Mountain Caribou Recovery Plan failed dismally to halt the decline of southern mountain caribou. After seven years of recovery efforts between 2007 and 2014, the Interior Wet Belt in southern B.C. had lost 500 caribou, leaving approximately 1,200 individuals in 15 herds. This equates to approximately 17% of the historical, provincial abundance of southern mountain caribou. In an attempt to save the endangered caribou, the B.C. government launched a multi-year wolf kill program in the South Peace and South Selkirk regions in January of 2015, against the recommendations of independent scientists.
The government’s decision to scapegoat wolves represents a failure to protect and restore the habitat required by mountain caribou: old-growth forest that has been fragmented and destroyed by industrial logging, oil and gas exploration and recreational snowmobiling. Over decades, these impacts have left many populations of woodland caribou in serious decline, without the habitat they need for their specialized diets and protection from predators. B.C. continues to approve logging cut blocks in endangered caribou habitat and continues to entertain discussions about building open-pit coal mines in critical habitat within several Central Mountain ranges, where every single herd is in decline.
THE SEA WOLVES OF BRITISH COLUMBIA
Wolves in the Great Bear Rainforest are different; they are genetically distinct from inland grey wolves. The population carries more genetic diversity because it has never been through a population bottleneck, the term used to describe the severe depletion of a population followed by a resurgence in numbers originating from only a few individuals. Rainforest wolves inhabit all environments along the mainland coast and adjacent islands, but not the offshore archipelago of Haida Gwaii. They live almost exclusively on deer and what the ocean provides, including salmon, herring roe and even seals and sea lions.
In B.C., all wolves are subject to the provincial government’s Wolf Management Plan, updated and released in April, 2014. The plan does not appropriately address the societal, ecological and economic roles that only healthy populations of wild wolves can fulfill. Instead, the plan, based on faulty estimates of population growth and potentially biased beliefs about impacts to cattle ranchers, is mainly focused on wolf control. In 2010, approximately 1,400 wolves were reported killed—12-26% of the estimated number of wolves in the province, and the highest mortality rate since 1976. Under the management plan, it is legal to hunt wolves without any special license in most regions of the Great Bear Rainforest ten and a half months out of the year; in Tweedsmuir Park it is legal seven months out of the year.
That’s where you and I can help—we can give wolves a voice.
Pacific Wild Alliance is a successful wildlife conservation organisation, leading the charge for community advocacy and opposition to #SaveBCWolves
Join Pacific Wild in advocating for the conservation of British Columbia’s wolf population.
Other Ways You Can Help
• Send a Message your voice can make a difference
• Join the Call to Save B.C. Wolves