The recent wolf cull in British Columbia has been the subject of hot debate, even more so after the announcement that it will last for five years or more.
At least four of the Boreal caribou herds, part of the caribou herds throughout Canada, have been declining steadily over the last decades. The provincial government blames the wolves for the disappearing caribou and have decided on drastic measures that involve killing entire packs in order to help with preservation and recovery of the existing caribou herds. Conservation groups such as Canada Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) argue that it is the destruction of habitat due to human activity that has caused the sharp decline in the caribou numbers.
According to a new study, a long lasting cull in Alberta has only stabilized the numbers of caribou. Conservationists are asking the government to end it and instead look at the habitat destruction that is pushing the caribou to the brink of extinction in certain areas.
A strong advocate of wildlife and the environment, Ian McAllister of Pacific Wild has been active in petitioning the government to change the decision. And while many have signed the petition and contributed to the Indiegogo campaign raising funds to promote conservation efforts, the cull is to continue as planned.
Planet Experts: How many wolves are in British Columbia?
Ian McAllister: Nobody really knows for sure. The province has estimates that vary in numbers because of the diversity of ecosystems in BC that support many different wolf densities, but also because even in the absence of government-funded aerial killing of wolves, there’s an open season on wolves province-wide. Any hunter can go out and kill wolves and they do not have to report it to the government, nor do they have to have a mandatory inspection of the animal. In short, anyone can go out and trap, kill, poison wolves on any part of the province and the BC government would never know how their numbers fluctuate.
PE: Why do we need wolves?
IM: They are essential to healthy ecosystems. If we didn’t have wolves, there would be significant imbalances in the natural world. The provincial government has managed wolves in ways that discredit wolves, working to exterminate them from parts of the province. Even in parks, they can be legally hunted. It leaves us to consider that wolves are considered vermin by the BC government.
PE: What about the declining caribou herds? The wolves are being accused of taking what’s left of them to the brink of extinction in certain areas.
IM: It is a scapegoat situation. The provincial government will have to look into protecting the caribou habitat. Instead of doing that, they continue to blame wolves for the problem, while various human activities such as oil and gas extraction, mining, clear-cutting and logging, recreational activities are still allowed in critical caribou habitat.
PE: The government recently announced that the wolf cull will continue for at least five years. What do you think of that?
IM: It will go on for at least five years, but it will likely go on for decades. The BC public should expect to pay the bill. In just two months of aerial killing, they budgeted $575,000. So the final costs will be in the millions and well in excess of 1,000 wolves will end up being killed and, with no habitat protection, the caribou will die off regardless. In doing that we are committing extreme cruelty to one of the most highly socially-evolved animals in North America.
PE: Do you think there is a way to make the government revisit this decision?
IM: I think we are being heard loud and clear. I can only hope they are regretting this decision. We cannot do nothing, because the way of managing one species by killing another will take us to the turn of the century. There have been many situations where introducing a species or killing another in order to manage ecosystems, backfired, and the reason is, we are tinkering with ecosystem functions we have no understanding of. To eliminate wolves from some areas of the province in order to protect remnant caribou herds will simply not work.
Ian McAllister, co-founded Pacific Wild with his wife Karen and has been involved in many conservation campaigns including the one regarding the recent wolf cull in British Columbia. Click here to learn more about the campaign.