Signal management

Commentary: Uncontrolled logging: management for industry, not for wolves

Taxpayers have already shelled out more than $6 million for what many scientists, conservationists and British Columbians have condemned as an “inhumane” wolf slaughter that has questionable scientific backing as a measure of conservation of endangered caribou.

The British Columbia government’s controversial wolf cull program, which has killed 1,709 wolves since its launch in 2015, has been extended for another five years.

This year, the province released the results of its predator reduction survey for caribou recovery. Nearly 60% of respondents opposed killing wolves on the pretext of saving caribou.

Taxpayers have already shelled out more than $6 million for what many scientists, conservationists and British Columbians have condemned as an “inhumane” wolf slaughter that has questionable scientific backing as a measure of conservation of endangered caribou.

In the past four winters alone, the province has spent this exorbitant amount of taxpayers’ money trapping, hunting and shooting wolves from low-flying planes. Considering the program has been in operation for six years, after decades of government-sanctioned “unofficial” aerial shootings, poisonings and sterilizations, another five years of killing wolves could result in collective costs in excess of $10 million. .

More importantly, this program will continue to incur a significant additional cost – the suffering and lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of additional wolves. This price is ethically and ecologically unjustifiable.

The level of man-made wolf mortality in British Columbia can only be described as staggering. In addition to the number of wolves who die at the hands of lethal control programs, the BC government estimates that some 1,200 wolves are killed each year due to recreational hunting and trapping, all sanctioned and encouraged by the province. .

Notably, where the welfare and humane treatment of wild and domestic animals falls under provincial jurisdiction, British Columbia is one of two Canadian provinces that has not adopted the standards of the Canadian Council on Animal Care. (CCPA) when revising their regulations. Thus, BC’s wolf cull program does not meet this national standard.

In a 2016 report by two members of the provincial Mountain Caribou Recovery Science Team, the authors concede, “There are no human methods to directly reduce wolf numbers, but aerial removal is the only method of killing enough wolves (and entire packs) to reduce wolf densities without risk of bycatch.

Five years later, the method remains the same, but the province’s narrative of aerial abduction has shifted to “the most efficient and humane method”. Additionally, the BC government says its approach to predator culling follows current American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines for euthanizing wildlife under field conditions – a claim that is more ambitious. than real and which does not imply any responsibility. Killing wolves by aerial fire is not within the guidelines.

Dr. Chris Darimont, senior large carnivore expert at the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, warned that “keeping caribou herds afloat would require extraordinary wolf persecution, conducted over wide landscapes and over long periods of time (perhaps the order of several decades).

The British Columbia government has yet to conduct an environmental assessment of a provincial wolf management program that has historically emphasized culling, recreational hunting and lethal control. Wolves play an important role in the ecosystems in which they live, influencing a variety of other species of flora and fauna.

Removing wolves from ecosystems can harm ecological and evolutionary relationships, leading to substantial changes in the numbers, behavior, and distribution of plants and animals. Wolfless environments can suffer from severe ecological imbalances and environmental depletion.

Although killing wolves may provide temporary relief to caribou, long-term and permanent recovery of endangered herds is an unlikely outcome. At best, wolf culling is wildlife management disguised as conservation in an effort to avoid doing what is clearly necessary, which is to protect caribou from ecological damage by people and wildlife. ‘industry.

Caribou have co-evolved and depend on increasingly sparse old-growth forests to protect themselves from predators and provide the lichen they eat. Therefore, safeguarding intact old-growth forests and restoring degraded habitats are the most important aspects of caribou recovery. Recent research from the University of Alberta suggests that caribou habitat restoration can reduce not only wolf predation effectiveness, but also regional wolf density.

The dilemma, however, is that despite these restoration efforts, including wolf control, the landscapes will no longer favor caribou for a very long time, if ever.

Due in large part to the combined adverse effects of industrial forestry and climate change, the habitat required by many mountain caribou herds will likely not be viable in 50 to 100 years. From these perspectives, is such a great wolf control experiment, given its limited signal of effectiveness and an incessant appetite from the industry, worth the carnage?

Chelsea Greer is the Raincoast Conservation Foundation’s Wolf Conservation Program Coordinator. Chris Genovali is Raincoast’s Executive Director.