Since an aerial wolf management program started in 2016 for Revelstoke, 52 wolves have been killed by the province to help stop declining caribou populations.
However, a recent study by scientists from multiple Canadian universities, suggest there is no evidence that predator control will save mountain caribou.
“This comes at no surprise at all,” said Sadie Parr, executive director of Wolf Awareness, a non-profit firmly against wolf culling.
The new study found statistical flaws in an influential 2019 report supporting wolf culls, which has been used by the B.C. government to expand its wolf cull program, killing 463 wolves in the past year.
“We’ve been duped,” said Parr.
Since 2015, 1,208 wolves have been killed by the province. According to Wildsafe BC, there are approximately 8,500 wolves in the province.
The new study said the main factors impacting caribou decline include habitat loss, snowpack variation and snowmobiling.
“We can’t kill our way to saving caribou,” said Parr.
She said wolves are an invaluable part of the ecosystem. For example, reintroducing wolves in 1995 to Yellowstone National Park in the U.S. caused a cascade of ecological change, including increasing beaver populations and brought back aspen trees.
Wolves were killed off in Yellowstone in the 1930s to help elk populations, which exploded, causing widespread erosion.
According to the Wilderness Committee, an organization aiming to protect biological diversity in Canada, there are multiple logging cuts planned by BC Timber Sales in the caribou habitat in the Revelstoke area.
Earlier this month, the province announced $1.1 million to fund seven caribou habitat restoration projects across the B.C., one of which is replanting trees along an 11-kilometre road in the upper Bigmouth Valley, approximately 130 kilometres north of Revelstoke (see related story).
Yet, Parr said the province isn’t doing enough to protect caribou habitat.
The province still stands behind predator control and despite what the new study says, said wolf culling has immediate and positive impacts on caribou populations.
While the aerial wolf management program was scheduled to end this year, the province said data from the program will be evaluated to determine the next steps and if the program will continue.
Caribou in B.C. have declined from 40,000 in the early 1900s to fewer than 19,000 today. There are 54 herds provincewide, 30 of which are at risk of extinction and 14 have fewer than 25 animals.
The province is working on caribou herd management plans and one for Revelstoke is expected by the end of the year.
However, when Minister of Forests Doug Donaldson, visited Revelstoke in March, he told stakeholders it’s unlikely more land will be set aside to protect caribou.
“Our biologists feel that we have set enough land aside,” he said at the time.
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