Killing wolves not the solution

A sad reality is that caribou are on their way out because of what people have already done, not because of wolves.

Dear Responsible Ministers, I am writing in regard of the recent announcement to kill up to 184 wolves in the South Selkirk and South Peace ranges under the guise of Mountain Caribou recovery.  I am opposed to this for several reasons.

A sad reality is that caribou are on their way out because of what people have already done.  Caribou are in this situation because of us, not because of wolves.  We have watched and allowed the province and industry to destroy the habitat that caribou require.  The discussion about what caribou really require (true habitat protection with no resource extraction, roads, commercial recreation, seismic lines or other disturbances) has taken place for the past 50 years,   yet we have continued to allow human activities in critical caribou habitat.  This conservation dilemma we are in is certainly difficult and problematic, yet it is a consequence of our neglect.

Quote from  BC Forest Practices Board(2004):

“It seems unlikely that effective mountain caribou recovery will be achievable under the current land use plans.  Mountain caribou populations have declined under existing land use provisions and no all the plans’ management approaches to mountain caribou habitat appear to be consistent with best available science”,

Revelstoke, Parsnip, Quesnell Highlands, South Selkirks, and Wells Grey wolves have been trapped, killed, or sterilized by government employees since 2002, yet this has had no effect on increasing caribou numbers.  Furthermore, all evidence to date show that indiscriminately killing wolves can lead to increased conflicts with humans and livestock, (Wielgus RB, Peebles KA (2014) Effects of Wolf Mortality on Livestock Depredations. PLoSONE 9(12): e113505. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0113505).

 

In addition, scientific evidence shows that  wolf populations may increase as a result of plural breeding as the stability of packs becomes compromised, and that the health and quality of life for wolves deteriorates in hunted populations (Heather M. Bryan, Judit E. G. Smits1, Lee Koren, Paul C. Paquet,Katherine E. Wynne-Edwards1 and Marco Musiani. (2014)  Heavily hunted wolves have higher stress and reproductive steroids than wolves with lower hunting pressure. Functional Ecology. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12354 and D. E. Ausband, C. R. Stansbury, J. L. Stenglein, J. L. Struthers & L. P. Waits (2015) Recruitment in a social carnivore before and after harvest.  Animal Conservation.doi:10.1111/acv.12187)

Wolf killing on a large scale has been used in the past and has not resulted in a decrease in wolf populations over the long term, for example during  1982-1986 aerial hunting of wolves occurred  in Fort Nelson BC, during which the BC government aerial culled more than 1,000 wolves in Northeastern BC before being stopped by intense public outcry.

The decision to kill more wolves is scientifically unsound.  Killing wolves to increase ungulate populations is an outdated management practice that has failed to increase ungulate populations long-term where-ever it has been tried in the past.  Wolf populations rebound quickly and dispersing wolves fill in the vacant space created where resident wolves have been killed.  All evidence to date shows that killing wolves will not work to reduce predator numbers.  This is not the first time wolf helicopter killing and sterilization has occurred in BC.  All past efforts have failed to increase caribou numbers.  So why would this be attempted again?

This is also a question of animal welfare.  Are we as a society prepared to spend the next thirty years shooting wolves from helicopters? (If not indefinitely?)   Causing harm to hundreds of intelligent and sensitive animals for any reason should  be questioned for its moral ground.  As new wolves migrate into the area and populations rebound,  killing hundreds of wolves would have to be continued in order to maintain the small herds of caribou.  Some areas that have been protected for caribou are not only small, but they are isolated, (eg.  South Selkirk’s),  so ongoing wolf killing would likely continue to keep the small herds in existence without newcomers migrating in.  Aerial shooting is not an approved method under Canada’s current guidelines on Approved Animal Care.   Shooting wolves from helicopters violates animal care standards and is unjustifiable.

The government has been engaging in sterilization experiments and government control (“kill”) for more than a decade and wants to continue to, although these programs have not resulted in any measurable benefits for caribou, despite nearly all of the wolves being killed in these caribou recovery areas, as stated in the BC Wolf Management Plan.

Statements from BC Wolf Management Plan Released April 17, 2014

pg. 17 5.3  Management of Species at Risk

Attempting to control wolves to reduce predation risk on endangered caribou has been a provincial priority since 2001 with the initiation of a pilot reduction program in the Cariboo region (Roorda and Wright, 2004, 2007, 2010). Wolf reduction occurred through removals and sterilization of dominant pairs.  Wolf densities were reduced; however, a correlation between reduced wolf densities and caribou recovery could not be substantiated….

pg 17.

“…The provincial government hired trappers to remove wolves from within, and adjacent to, endangered caribou range in the Kootenay region.  Although some wolves were removed, most caribou herds continued to decline (C. Ritchie, pers. comm., 2011).  The rational for the wolf removal is based on the hypothesis that increasing populations of moose and deer within caribou habitat have resulted in higher wolf populations that have incidentally increased predation pressure on caribou (Mountain Caribou Science Team 2005; Wittmer et al. 2005)

Also, as stated in the management plan, government was clearly aware that increased hunting/trapping  of wolves could lead to an increased population with unstable social dynamics, however more hunting/trapping was encourage around caribou recovery areas and across most of BC, where seasons have been extended and in some cases bag limits removed.

pg 8.

Social disruption through the loss of alpha members can lead to unstable pack dynamics as dominance relationships within and among packs and individuals are re-established.  The result can be higher rates of intraspecific strife and “Plural breeding” (ie. mating by non-alpha members of the pack; Packard)

NOTE:            As of 2010, wolf  “control” had been increased to include the following

• Wolf hunting seasons extended in some Wildlife Management Unit’s (WMU’s), and there are now No Bag Limits in several ranges that overlap with mountain caribou habitat.  There is still no game seal required to hunt a wolf, and many regions are open year-round below 1100m.

 

• MOE sterilization project in the Caribou Region on pilot basis,…ongoing trapping, sterilization, collaring and killing in Quesnel and other areas.

 

Conservation, ecology, wolf social dynamics and ethical considerations were left out of this part of the caribou recovery plan and an apparent pre-determined agenda which encourages killing wolves has been exposed.

I urge you to stop killing wolves IMMEDIATELY under the name of caribou recovery and to improve wolf management such that ecology and ethics are factored in.

I look forward to your response and a decision to end the killing of wolves under the guise of endangered species recovery.

 

 

Most Sincerely, Sadie Parr -Director Wolf Awareness Inc.