Big, bad wolf is B.C.’s favourite scapegoat

"Our Backyard" columnist Lawrence Woodall argues wolf cull ignores real problems facing B.C.'s caribou herds

The disconnected B.C. government may be smoking just a wee too much B.C. bud these days. First, they’re opening B.C.’s vault of natural beauty to a new type of tourist — thousands of foreign trophy hunters who will take food from the tables of B.C. hunters so they can mount natural B.C. in their family rooms.

Then again, I guess we need the new tourists as decreased ferry services, increased ferry rates and the closure of several tourist info booths in B.C. are keeping away folks who just want to view our wildlife, not kill it. And let’s not forget the Bella Coola region, where several new lodges have been built in the last decade to diversify the economy. This is healthy for smaller communities, but with the lost of the Ferry service, and the present 16-car ferry farce that Transport Minister Stoner supports comical at best, will these businesses survive? Questioning several operators this summer, it sounds unlikely, as operators in the region lost more than 70 per cent of business this year.

Then there are the pipelines in North Central B.C., which will negatively impact both grizzly and caribou populations. Christie’s plan of prostituting B.C. to foreigners is alive and well, at the expense of Natural BC. Under Christie’s ‘B.C. is the greenest province in Canada’ plan, there is more land allotted for mining leases than ever before in the history of the province. This is the development of natural B.C.; human development is the serial killer of nature.

And now we come to the culling of up to 184 wolves by snipers operating out of helicopters. Sounds like a page out of Alaska, where they kill wolves with 50-calibre machine guns from helicopters, so there are more moose to sell more moose tags. That’s the “Apocalypse Now” version of wildlife management; it’s all about the illusion wolves are responsible for the decimation of wildlife populations, when in reality it’s about development and the almighty dollar.

Caribou populations have been decimated in Canada due to development, not by wolves. The George River herd, which numbered over 800,000 in the late 80’s, now numbers fewer than 27,000 and is continuing to decline at an alarming rate. This was forecasted in the early 90’s by Caribou biologists, but development went ahead. Government attempts to blame increased predation and parasites, which is true to a degree, but without the open scar on the landscape due to development, population cycles would’ve remained stable.

With the Southern Selkirk caribou herd we see the B.C. Government scapegoat the wolves for its demise. It was habitat destruction and the lack of habitat protection which put the herd at risk, so what exactly does the Ministry of the Environment do? To answer that question, they take taxpayers’ money. Anyone that has followed me over the years know I’ve defended the Conservation branch, but it appears that the decimation of the conservation authorities under Gordon Campbell in the 90’s has made a mockery of what is expected of them. This isn’t their fault, but the fault of a government that gives the illusion they care about natural B.C.

A wolf cull is only a quick fix, and unless habitat is quickly restored and protected, the last of the Selkirk herd will fade into history. Caribou don’t coexist well with development; they prefer the canopy of the forest and don’t like to traverse large, open, linear disturbances, where it is a turkey shoot for wolves. As humans deforest regions through mining and other forms of development, large open scars on the landscape are created. This allows wolves to move further into caribou territory, where wolves wait on the edges of forests for caribou to migrate across the scars. The wolves chase down and kill, and as more scars are opened it increases the killing ground for wolves, which means more kills, an environment for a growing wolf pack, and a short-sighted excuse to blame the wolves.

An example of this is the Little Smoky Caribou herd (seven-year study) which numbers approximately 70 animals. More than 95 per cent of their territory is disturbed by industry development. Instead of habitat restoration or protection, the wolf was blamed once again, and a cull began in 2005. By 2012, 841 wolves had been slaughtered, poisoned or shot from helicopters. This raises several questions about caribou management by government as energy leases are still being sold, which will likely cause the collapse of the herd and the senseless destruction of hundreds of wolves.

This study looked at adjoining caribou territory under the same strains of development where no culls occurred and there was little difference in population fluctuations. Where caribou territories haven’t been impacted by industry, populations remain stable with wolves present. This isn’t about anti-development, but about responsible development, and whether we have to remove the protection of natural B.C. from the hands of shortsighted politicians such as Christie Clark.

Are we a species that is bent on destroying all other species at the cost of development? If you’re telling me there is no alternative to these short sighted projects, then we are a species that is best suited for extinction before we eradicate what’s left of the biodiversity on this planet. And to you responsible North Island outdoor enthusiasts out there, this isn’t being dramatic, but realistic.

Most of us live here because of the beauty. For me, it’s the black bears on the island and the coastal grizzlies only a short flight away. Could any of you imagine a world without grizzlies, moose, or caribou, and even the wolf, which has constantly been slandered by humans but which plays a major role in wildlife management?

It’s our lack of protecting habitat and the reckless development at all costs that will destroy these animals. I sometimes wonder about our lack of sensitivity towards other species. And on a lighter note, I also wonder if Christie’s snipers will play Ride of the Valkyries as they fly overhead and butcher innocent wolves.

Just Posted

Mount Waddington Regional Fall Fair logo
Mount Waddington Regional Fall Fair cancelled again due to COVID-19 restrictions

The 2022 fall fair is still scheduled to take place in Port Hardy

North Island Gazette
EDITORIAL: What to do about homelessness in Port Hardy

‘people suffering from homelessness deserve to be treated with dignity and compassion’

North Island Eagles logo
North Island Eagles give update on the upcoming 2021-2022 season

The North Island Eagles minor rep hockey teams are getting ready for… Continue reading

Ma Murrays 2021 virtual ceremony screenshot
North Island Gazette wins big at 2021 Ma Murray Newspaper Awards

Zoe Ducklow and Bill McQuarrie both won gold at the online ceremony

Port Hardy council has agreed to cancel Canada Day celebrations in wake of the discovery of the remains of 215 children being found on the grounds of a former residential school. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Council votes to cancel Canada Day celebrations in wake of mass grave sites being found

Coun. Treena Smith made the motion for the chamber to not host Canada Day celebrations this year

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

The Co-op gas station at Whiskey Creek is burning after a camper van exploded while refueling just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Exploding camper van torches Highway 4 gas station between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni

Highway traffic blocked after Whiskey Creek gas station erupts into flames

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

Greater father involvement in the home leads to improved childhood development and increased marital satisfaction, says expert. (Black Press Media file photo)
Vancouver Island researcher finds lack of father involvement a drag on gender equality

Working women still taking on most child and household duties in Canada: UVic professor

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

Most Read