Saving Habitat: Caribou and Wolf

Posted in: ,

RE: Ministry of Forest Lands and Natural Resource Operations decision to reduce the wolf population in the South Selkirks and South Peace in an effort to save the mountain caribou from extinction.

The act of killing one species to save another is wrought with irony and raises a number of legitimate and justifiable concerns. Because habitat degradation and human land use are the primary threat to the long term survival of the mountain caribou, we cannot rely on reducing the wolf population to ultimately solve the problem of dwindling mountain caribou herds. That said, we have presently hit a crisis point where the caribou are facing extinction after years of attempts to increase the herds.

Faced with the current difficult situation, conservation groups like Wildsight and Conservation Northwest have reluctantly endorsed the ministry plan noting in a joint statement:

“We are very concerned and generally do not support predator control as a management tool except in rare and extreme cases involving endangered species. Predators are often scapegoated and pay the price for human caused habitat loss and when government policies result in reduction of ungulate species. We share the public sentiment against wolf kills. But we recognize that in some rare cases it may be necessary to keep a globally unique animal like mountain caribou on the landscape and, in so doing maintain its protected habitats. It’s a short term, desperate strategy to grow herds and heal degraded habitat to the point where predation is less of an issue.”

My BCNDP colleagues and I agree that habitat protection must be the long-term solution. Significant headway has been made to protect caribou herds and their habitats, but more needs to be done so that biologists are not put in a position where they have to contemplate reducing wolf populations to save the mountain caribou.

To help protect mountain caribou habitat, local wolf packs and fragile ecosystems, here is what you can do:

• Minimize your impact when using the backcountry; obey all posted signs and closures.
• Continue to educate yourself and others about the challenges faced by wildlife as result habitat degradation.
• Continue to write your MLA and the Premier calling for better environmental protections and enforcement.

Additional information on this issue:
Ministry of Environment’s Peace Northern Caribou Plan, Mountain Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan, Wolf Management Plan and the full statement from Wildsight and Conservation Northwest.