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

Grand Forks residents suing province, logging companies on behalf of 2018 flood victims

Lawsuit alleges B.C’s forest ministry and logging companies contributed significantly to devastating freshet

Two men killed in Hwy 3 collision west of Castlegar

The single-vehicle incident happened Thursday morning

March to protect old growth, stop industrial logging coming to B.C. Legislature

Organizers say they want to give frontline communities a bigger say in nearby logging

Health ministry to hire 33 new practitioners for Kootenay Boundary

Over 15,000 people in the region don’t have access to a primary care provider

How a Grand Forks woman and her family came to live at Bare Ass Beach

Ongoing drama at a section of Grandby riverfront that doubles as a nudist beach

Record-breaking 165 new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in B.C. in 24-hour period

Fifty-seven people are in hospital battling the novel coronavirus

Interior Health reports four new cases of COVID-19

First hospitalization since mid-August announced

B.C. releases details of $1.5B economic recovery plan, $660M in business tax incentives

Economic plan includes support for employers, as well as training for workers

‘Not criminally responsible’ hearing slated for man convicted of Abbotsford school stabbing

Gabriel Klein was found guilty in March of killing Letisha Reimer, 13, in 2016

Conservation groups blast province for logging in caribou habitat near Revelstoke

In the last year, 104 cuts have been approved near Revelstoke in caribou habitat

B.C.’s 1st mental health and addictions minister won’t be seeking re-election

MLA Judy Darcy is the fifth cabinet minister not intending to run in the next election

Vancouver’s shuttered aquarium searching for financial solution amid pandemic

The aquarium needs about $1 million a month to cover its costs

Most Read