Mark Car­war­dine

The con­ser­va­tion­ist dis­cusses the plan to cull up to 1,000 wolves in Bri­tish Columbia, and in­vites your thoughts on the sub­ject.

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - CONTENTS -

The con­ser­va­tion­ist dis­cusses the wolf cull in Bri­tish Columbia

S Data shows that habi­tat loss is the great­est threat to cari­bou. Not wolves. T

Politi­cians us­ing wildlife as a scape­goat, in­stead of tack­ling the real prob­lems at the heart of so many con­ser­va­tion is­sues, ex­as­per­ates me. The lat­est hypocrisy is the no­to­ri­ous wolf cull in Bri­tish Columbia (BC), Canada. A re­cently leaked doc­u­ment re­veals that BC’s provin­cial gov­ern­ment plans to kill up to 1,000 wolves by 2020. It claims that it’s es­sen­tial to save the en­dan­gered south­ern moun­tain cari­bou. But it’s all pop­py­cock.

The gov­ern­ment’s own data shows that habi­tat loss is the great­est threat to cari­bou. Not wolves. And it ig­nores its own ab­ject fail­ure to pro­tect and re­store the old-growth for­est re­quired by moun­tain cari­bou to sur­vive. In­deed, for decades, it has ac­tively en­cour­aged the de­struc­tion of this crit­i­cal habi­tat by in­dus­trial log­ging, oil and gas ex­plo­ration, min­ing and recre­ational snow­mo­bil­ing. This is what has pushed the cari­bou herds to the brink of ex­tinc­tion. Yet in the past two years alone, it has ap­proved hun­dreds of new clear-cut log­ging blocks within crit­i­cal cari­bou habi­tat.

Wolves are merely a scape­goat, to make it look as if the politi­cians are ‘do­ing some­thing’ with­out hav­ing to rein in BC’s vo­ra­cious log­ging, oil and min­ing in­dus­tries. There is ab­so­lutely no sci­en­tific jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for killing wolves. BC’s provin­cial gov­ern­ment has been killing and ster­il­is­ing them for more than a decade – with no mea­sur­able ben­e­fits – and a 10-year culling pro­gramme in neigh­bour­ing Al­berta had ab­so­lutely no ef­fect on cari­bou sur­vival.

To make mat­ters worse, the wolves are be­ing killed in­hu­manely, chased and shot from heli­copters or caught with neck snares, which should have been out­lawed decades ago. But the gov­ern­ment doesn’t care. Bri­tish Columbia is one of only two Cana­dian prov­inces that has not adopted the Cana­dian Coun­cil on An­i­mal Care stan­dards that guides the wel­fare and hu­mane treat­ment of wild and do­mes­tic an­i­mals.

The whole saga is over a storm in a teacup any­way. The irony is that cari­bou are not en­dan­gered: there are nearly three mil­lion of them around the world. They are di­vided into umpteen dif­fer­ent sub-species (there is no agree­ment on the ex­act num­ber) and one of th­ese is the wood­land cari­bou which, in turn, is di­vided into five eco­types.

One of th­ese eco­types is the south­ern moun­tain cari­bou, which is adapted to the wet, moun­tain­ous forests of Bri­tish Columbia and west­ern Al­berta. Due to habi­tat loss, num­bers have been steadily de­clin­ing and there are now just 3,800 left. No one wants them to dis­ap­pear, of course, but the south­ern moun­tain cari­bou is only an eco­type within a sub-species.

Bri­tish Columbia’s provin­cial gov­ern­ment needs to be hon­est about the real is­sue at stake – habi­tat pro­tec­tion – and have the guts to con­front the in­dus­tries that are di­rectly to blame. It also needs to come clean about its ul­te­rior mo­tives for tar­get­ing wolves – it is kow­tow­ing to a pow­er­ful hunt­ing lobby that claims they are a threat to game species such as moose, elk and deer.

There are only about 8,500 wolves in Bri­tish Columbia and, un­der the provin­cial Wolf Man­age­ment Plan, huge num­bers are al­ready be­ing killed for sport with­out a spe­cial li­cence. It’s less a man­age­ment plan, more a preda­tor con­trol and ex­ploita­tion plan. But far from slaugh­ter­ing wolves, the BC gov­ern­ment should be set­ting aside pro­tected ar­eas for them to ful­fil their role as apex preda­tors in healthy, func­tional ecosys­tems.

The sad fact is that, against log­ging, min­ing, hunt­ing and many other pow­er­ful lob­bies, con­ser­va­tion is al­ways at the bot­tom of the pile. As US Se­na­tor Bernie San­ders put it so suc­cinctly on 30 Au­gust 2019: “If the en­vi­ron­ment were a bank, it would have been saved al­ready.”

MARK CAR­WAR­DINE is a frus­trated and frank con­ser­va­tion­ist.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? If you want to sup­port Mark in his views or shoot him down in flames, email wildlifele­t­[email protected]­me­di­ate.co.uk

Bri­tish Columbia in­tends to ex­pand its wolf cull pro­gramme.

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