Critics denounce use of military-grade rifles by province in B.C. wolf cull

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Critics denounce the use of military-grade rifles by province in wolf cull
WATCH: B.C.'s program to control the wolf population has been controversial from the beginning. Now the animal cull is facing even more controversy, over the type of weapon that critics say is being deployed by the provincial government. Paul Johnson reports. – Oct 20, 2022

A Freedom of Information request obtained by the environmental charity Pacific Wild Alliance reveals military-style assault rifles and high-capacity 30-round prohibited military-grade magazines are being used to shoot wolves in British Columbia, as part of the provincial wolf culling program.

Bryce Casavant, director of conservation intelligence at Pacific Alliance Canada, told Global News hundreds of wolves have been killed by aerial gunning since the cull was first put in place in 2015.

However, he said the Freedom of Information request has revealed something more about this program.

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Casavant outlined the two issues with what they have learned.

One is the Judas Wolf Program, where an Alpha male wolf is caught, fixed with a tracking device, and that wolf is then followed back to his pack. That is when helicopters are dispatched to kill the family unit from the air.

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“The second issue is the manner in which the CBK (Capture, Betray, Kill) programs, or the Judas Programs, are being carried out in the province of B.C.,” Casavant said.

“Pacific Wild did raise a court action a year ago for a judicial review of the permits that were being issued to allow this to occur,” he added.

He said the province is allowing ” semi-automatic, military-grade weapons with high-capacity magazines” to be used in the program.

“Those are prohibited items.”

Click to play video: 'Conservationists call for end to B.C. government wolf cull program'
Conservationists call for end to B.C. government wolf cull program

In a statement to Global News, the B.C. Conservation Officer Service said it has used patrol rifles for more than two years following a successful pilot project.

“The patrol rifle is a standard-issue firearm for Conservation Officers (COs) across the province, allowing them to do their jobs more safely.”

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However, conservation officers are not involved in shooting wolves through the wolf cull program.

“As the primary first responder agency addressing human-wildlife conflicts and predator attacks, Conservation Officers face dynamic and fluid circumstances in all types of weather  — such as a charging bear or other predator species — and require a firearm best suited to the task of defending themselves,” the service said in a statement.

Cassavant said if there is a need for high-capacity assault rifles in the wolf cull program, then that throws into question whether wolves can be killed humanely by this method.

“This concept that we need 30 rounds and the ability to fire them very quickly is the exact antithesis of an ethical shooting activity.

“We are paramilitarizing our police and our wildlife conservation services. There is no need to kill wolves, or any wildlife, in this manner.”

Click to play video: 'Judge denies group’s request to halt controversial wolf cull'
Judge denies group’s request to halt controversial wolf cull

In a statement to Global News in April, the Ministry of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship said the wolf cull “provides data to government biologists about wolf movements and pack territories and helps facilitate the removal of packs during winter wolf reduction efforts. The removal of packs within treatment areas is critical to supporting caribou survival.”

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However, Casavant said this practice is “very concerning” and inappropriate.

“It’s essentially a declaration of war on wildlife.”

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