Caribou calf in a maternity pen near Revelstoke, 2014, to protect it from wolves until it is old enough to survive. (Black Press Media)

B.C. VIEWS: Wolf kill, not backcountry bans, saving caribou

B.C.’s largest herds turn the corner from extinction

It would have come as a relief to many B.C. communities when Forests Minister Doug Donaldson told me in September his latest management plans for 20 endangered caribou herds will not require further industrial or back-country bans.

Now I understand why Donaldson was able to make that decision, after intensive study and community meetings in the Cariboo, Kootenay and Peace regions, packed with people worried about the future of their already fragile resource economies.

Plunging caribou populations are indeed a crisis, one that can be seen across Canada, all the way to the vast herds of Labrador and northern Quebec that are central to the traditional way of life of Indigenous people. That’s why the federal government is poised to invoke its species-at-risk legislation to impose further protection measures on B.C.

It’s already too late for some of the 54 B.C. herds, despite protected areas, mothers and calves captured and held in maternity pens, and an escalating program to control rising wolf populations by shooting them from the air.

Donaldson acted on the latest report from ministry biologists, showing the first glimmer of hope. Three of B.C.’s largest herds in the South Peace have turned the corner from a steep decline towards extinction, and are trending toward recovery. This is after the maternity penning program was extended from Kootenay herds to the South Peace, and the wolf kill was stepped up over four years.

“The decrease in wolf abundance across the South Peace area has shown conclusive evidence that intensive wolf reduction has halted and reversed the declining trends of the Klinse-Za, Kennedy Siding and Quintette caribou populations,” states the B.C. report submitted to Donaldson in August.

RELATED: Wolf kill working for caribou recovery, study shows

RELATED: U.S. government protects already extinct caribou herd

The existing set-asides are enormous, and their effectiveness is questionable. By 2016, the area off limits to logging and road-building in South Selkirks was 2.2 million hectares, covering 95 per cent of prime mountain caribou habitat. The South Peace recovery plan covered 400,000 hectares of high-elevation winter habitat.

As the B.C. Council of Forest Industries pointed out last year, banning forestry and mining is no magic answer. Caribou are declining in Wells Gray Provincial Park in central B.C. and Jasper National Park in Alberta, where there has been no modern-day industrial disturbance. They’re gone from Banff National Park, which has been protected since 1885.

Another strategy should be given credit: the efforts of local snowmobile and off-road clubs to keep prime habitat off limits. This is backed up by Conservation Officer Service flights over key areas to enforce restrictions, a daunting task given the size and remoteness of regions. More people are becoming aware of the impact a single snowmobile track through deep snow can have, allowing wolves to quickly penetrate areas they could not otherwise reach.

B.C.’s southern mountain herds have range extending into the United States, and this region has had human settlement and industrial activity for longer than B.C.’s northern regions. The contrast between our efforts and those south of the border was highlighted by a sad news report last week in the Revelstoke Review.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally declared the whole population of southern mountain caribou endangered, months after they became locally extinct in the U.S.

The last three animals in the cross-border herd, known locally as the Grey Ghosts, were captured and relocated to protective pens north of Revelstoke in January. It’s hoped they can bolster a small herd there.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press Media. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislature

Just Posted

Hospital’s Chief of Staff asks for vigilance

Doctor stresses vigilance and compliance to guidelines to mitigate future surge in COVID-19 cases

Alone together

How local families are coping during COVID-19

Mountain art

Local artist invites you to follow her instructions and create your own mountain painting

Loving in dangerous times

Faith column submitted by local pastor

B.C. couple celebrates 61st anniversary through seniors’ home window

Frank and Rena Phillips marked occasion at Nanaimo Seniors Village this week while social distancing

A look at some of the B.C. inventors creating life-saving tools in fight against COVID-19

Groups across B.C. are working together to create what they hope will help people affected by the pandemic

Association launches French-language games, online tools for families learning at home

Games, culture and vocabulary included in new virtual resources

‘There can be no ambiguity’: Travellers brought home to B.C. must self-isolate

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the mandatory isolation must be abided by

Interior Health confirms five additional cases in Okanagan COVID-19 outbreak

The total amount of confirmed cases at Bylands Nurseries Ltd. is 19; no further cases expected

55+ BC Games cancelled amid COVID-19 concerns

Greater Victoria set to host 2021 event

ANKORS East Kootenay details concerns surrounding harm reduction amid COVID-19

Harm reduction providers are having to keep up with rapidly changing situation

BC Hydro offers three-month bill ‘holiday’ for those affected by COVID-19

Industrial customers can defer half of their power bills

Some April Fool’s Day jokes bring much-needed laughter; others tone deaf to COVID-19

Police are warning the public not to use the ongoing pandemic as a punchline

Most Read