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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Chemainus family pledges $50,000 to Chemainus Theatre Crisis Relief Fund

The Hilton family pledged $50,000 toward a matched fund. If fully matched, it will raise $100,000

Local woman makes face masks to raise funds for LRCA Food Bank

Cheryl Lowrence made 30 face masks and raised $326.25 for the food bank

Ladysmith family creates music video to show appreciation for community in the face of COVID-19

Sheila Richards, 77 is the star of new music video celebrating community kindness in Ladysmith

Burning complaints prompt regulation reminder from North Oyster Volunteer Fire Department

NOVFD has responded to at least 10 burning complaints in since April 1

Trudeau to seek 10 days of paid sick leave for Canadian workers, says talks are ongoing

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

We’re asking you to lock arms with us, as we look to better days ahead

Vancouver Island hasn’t seen a new homegrown case of COVID-19 in two weeks

Island’s low and steady transmission rate chalked up to several factors

Three people facing mischief charges after protests at Premier John Horgan’s home

Special prosecutor was appointed to avoid real or perceived undue influence

Eight people arrested in Victoria homeless camp after enforcement order issued

Those living in tents were given until May 20 to move indoors

Andrew Weaver says he was ready to defeat John Horgan government

Independent MLA blasts B.C. Greens over LNG opposition

44% fewer passengers flew on Canadian airlines in March 2020 than in 2019

COVID-19 pandemic has hit airlines hard as travel remains low

Commercial rent relief applications open as feds encourage landlords to apply

Program would see government cover 50 per cent of the rent

COVID-19: B.C. park reservations surge as campgrounds reopen

Keep trying, many sites not reservable, George Heyman says

Most Read