Last Updated on May 8, 2022 by Stone
British Columbia has a problem with declining caribou herds. Loss of habitat to human activity is the primary reason however, wolves are bearing the brunt. It is easier to kill them off than take steps to protect BC’s wilderness. So where do wolves live in BC and what is being done to help them? Read on to find out.
Where Do Wolves Live in BC?
Wolves live on the coast and nearby islands, mountains, central interior, sub-boreal interior, boreal plains, and northern boreal mountains. British Columbia has approximately 8500 wolves and over 1400 have been killed in the last 6 years. The cull has been an ineffective approach to saving the Woodland Caribou, yet the province is forging ahead.
British Columbia’s Wolves
British Columbia is one of Canada’s 10 provinces. It is a large province about 2 1/4 times the size of California. North of the Queen Charlotte Islands, the coastline becomes Alaska, and the Canadian border moves slightly inland. Wolves in British Columbia are found on the coast and nearby mountains, Central Interior, Sub-Boreal Interior, Boreal Plains, and Northern Boreal Mountains ecoprovince.
As you can see wolves are widely found throughout the province. For a time, they were extinct from Vancouver Island but have since recolonized. Here they are mostly found on the northern part of the island, north of Campbell River, and along the west coast of the island down to Ucluelet. Not many live on the east coast but they can be found in the mountains around Nanaimo, Ladysmith, and Lake Cowichan.
British Columbia is also unique because in addition to larger Gray Wolves it is also home to the Coastal Wolf. These smaller wolves can be found on the islands and inlets of this province with its long coastline. Interestingly, the coastal wolf derives up to 90% of its diet from marine sources.
What is an Ecoprovince?
The word ecoprovince was mentioned above. In case you are wondering what that is, an ecoprovince is an area that shares similar landscapes, animals, plants, and climate. British Columbia has nine. While they are all connected, each has features that make it unique to the others.
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How Many Wolves are in BC and How Many Were Just Killed?
It is estimated that there are 8500 wolves in BC. About 350 wolves on Vancouver Island. In the last 6 years 1447 wolves have been killed, 472 in 2020 alone. The biggest reason is the province’s declining caribou herds. Killing wolves it’s the only solution the province is currently endorsing, but it isn’t working and there may be a better way.
Decreasing the Potential for Encounters.
Researchers hypothesized that limiting interactions between wolves and caribou would save countless caribou lives.
As I mentioned in the article “Gray Wolves Ecosystem -Unexpected benefit“, wolves prefer to travel along man-made corridors such as logging roads, snowmobile trails, and so on when they exist. They can move around more quickly that way.
A study that was published in June of 2021in the journal Frontier in Ecology and the Environment looked at a large area of land (92 square km or 35.5 square miles) near Fort Nelson, BC. The study was funded by the British Columbia Oil and Gas Research and Innovation Society.
Over 100 wildlife motion-sensing cameras were set up in the wilderness to track the movements of predators and prey. The predators took advantage of human-made landscape alterations and traveled along gas and oil cutlines or trap lines in the forest to access the caribou herds.
Researchers downed trees to obstruct these paths and piled up the earth in the wetlands where the caribou are found to mimic natural hills and bulges in the landscape.
The scientists banked on the fact that wolves and caribou are specific about the landscapes they prefer to use. The land was essentially made harder to use by the wolves and the same changes afforded protection to the caribou by decreasing encounters with wolves.
The results were immediately seen with an 85% reduction in wolf-caribou encounters and a 60% in bear-caribou encounters.
The Arugument for Killing.
Wildlife officials with the BC government questioned the validity of the study stating that it only proves that fewer wolves and caribou walked past the cameras, not that fewer caribou were killed.
It is also argued that it would be an expensive solution to alter the landscape with downed trees and piles of earth widescale across the province.
There is also the fact that paths are created by other human activity such as ATV use and in the winter, snowmobiles, which would reduce the effectiveness of the barriers created. So as it stands currently, the BC government will only entertain a culling of wolves as a solution.
Legal Action Taken
In July, the environmental group, Pacific Wild, took the BC government to court because the wildlife act was amended in January 2021 to allow wolves to be trapped with a net gun from a helicopter. The wolves are then radio-collared and released.
When the wolf rejoins its pack, the location is known and the pack is found and shot by snipers from a helicopter. This is known as the Judas Tactic.
Shooting a wolf from a helicopter is an inhumane form of euthanasia. Not every wolf shot is killed right away but it is left to die in the snow as the helicopter flies away. There is no public oversight of the killing operation.
British Columbia is one of only two Canadian provinces that has not adopted the Canadian Council on Animal Care standards that guide the welfare and humane treatment of wild and domestic animals.
Wolves are intelligent, social animals that live as a family in packs. The cull exposes wolves to traumatic events where they watch pack members chased to exhaustion and shot from helicopters.
It is unfortunate because killing wolves in this manner is a lazy solution and does not address the root cause of the problem of declining caribou numbers. Researchers agree that it is the destruction of caribou’s habitat that is the primary cause of the decline, yet the province of British Columbia has no plans to prevent further habitat destruction or to restore what has already been destroyed.
To date, the wolf cull program has cost the province $2.2 million dollars.
Once again wolves are the scapegoat for the activity of man. Most mammals on earth find their natural numbers. There is a supply and demand relationship between predator and prey, one keeps the other in check. Not so with humans.
The AI-generated agent in the first matrix movie referred to humans as a virus and our planet as the host when he was interrogating Morpheus. That is a bleak summation of humanity though sometimes, it doesn’t feel too far off the mark as we watch the news and see flooding, wildfires, and huge islands of plastic floating in the ocean. There are no limits to how much we will exploit our environment to propagate ourselves at the expense of every other living thing.
By all accounts, the decline of the caribou in British Columbia is due primarily to our destruction of their habitat. Wolves do kill some caribou, but we are pinning the whole thing on them so we can keep on destroying the habitat guilt-free.
How to Help
If you would like to help with the plight of British Columbia’s wolves, check out Pacific Wild and consider a donation. Wolves are in trouble in most places they are found. Here are other ways that you could help:
- On a national level, you could write to The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- You could donate to groups like the WWF or Defenders of Wildlife who stand up for animals like the Gray wolf. If you live in Canada, you could consider a gift to Exposed Wildlife Conservancy.
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