Opposition to B.C.’s wolf cull mounts in aftermath of government’s program extension

Conservationists plan to present a petition opposing the provincial wolf cull to B.C.'s minister of forests. Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press

B.C.’s controversial wolf cull was extended for five more years starting this winter, according to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

The ministry said in a statement that authorizations are now in place for the predator reduction program that sees wolves shot at from helicopters to begin in selected caribou herds throughout B.C., including the Kootenay, Cariboo, Omineca, Skeena and Peace regions.

“Predator reduction can and has had immediate, positive impacts on caribou populations, particularly when used with multiple management tools as is done in British Columbia,” the ministry said in a statement.

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“For example, the Klinse-za (Scott/Moberly) herd has grown from 42 animals to 101 since wolf reduction measures began in 2015 in conjunction with maternity penning.”

Regardless, the plan is not supported by the majority of British Columbians. The ministry said that in the 2021 consultation and engagement process it learned that 98 per cent of the 15,196 respondents feel that caribou recovery is important to them but only 42 per cent of the respondents from British Columbia were in support of predator reduction.

Conservation groups like Pacific Wild oppose the program, which it estimates has seen more than 1,000 wolves killed since its implementation, and believe it would be more beneficial to the caribou if habitat were restored.

There’s also a great deal of high-profile support, including the likes of Miley Cyrus.

A B.C.-based conservationist publicly voiced his opposition to the cull in his Instagram account Monday in a post that garnered more than 371,000 interactions.

“The tax-payer-funded attack on wolves in my home province of BC will continue for the next five years despite opposition from the majority of British Columbians,” Paul Nicklen wrote.

“I am disappointed that my leaders have cowardly chosen to scapegoat an innocent species rather than admit their fossil fuel and forestry policies are the true threats to endangered caribou populations. Protecting caribou habitat would do far more to ensure a future for the species and mitigate climate change than the needless and cruel eradication of a keystone predator. This is not feelings – this is science.”

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He has asked his followers to reach out to B.C.’s political leaders to state their opposition.

Whether that will have an impact remains to be seen.

“While public opinion is taken very seriously, wildlife management in BC considers many factors and is primarily science-based,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The science and population monitoring has demonstrated that reducing wolf densities in caribou recovery areas is one of few short-term management options that will effectively halt or reverse caribou population declines and prevent extirpation.”

Conservationists will visit the British Columbia legislature Monday to present a petition opposing the provincial wolf cull to B.C.’s minister of forests.

Karen McAllister, interim executive director at Pacific Wild, said in October 2021 the group had gathered more than 500,000 signatures opposing the cull program, which was implemented to protect endangered caribou, and has killed more than 1,400 wolves over the past seven years.

The group cited a recent study that found the program has had no detectable effect on reversing the decline of endangered caribou populations.

The decline in caribou, the group says, has been linked to habitat loss due to industrial activities including old-growth logging and road-building in sensitive caribou herd areas.

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