One of the more controversial actions of the provincial government in recent years is the attempt to protect caribou by shooting wolves from helicopters.
We can all agree that many caribou herds in British Columbia are at a crisis level. Some herds have gone extinct, some are close to extinction and others are in decline. What is more difficult is what to do about the predicament we are in.
So far the response from the province is to blame the wolves for being such efficient predators. However humans seemingly take no responsibility for the ongoing effort we have undertaken to assist the wolves through our persistent habitat destruction.
It’s a challenge to see that the long-term solution for solving the caribou dilemma is to actually shoot wolf predation into non-existence.
In Question Period I asked the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Hon. Doug Donaldson about the governments approach to wolf predation and caribou habitat protection.
Almost 30 of British Columbians 52 surviving caribou herds risk extirpation. A dozen of the herds have fewer than 25 animals. Two herds in the Kootenay region were declared locally extinct earlier this year.
We know why. Caribou are highly sensitive to disruptions to their natural environment, disruptions such as clearcutting forests, seismic exploration, road-building, oil and gas development and land clearing. These are the conditions that allow wolves to thrive. Hunting in families, STḴȺYE is a proficient predator, with highly developed relationships and exceptional capacity to work together.
The vegetation that once offered protection for the caribou and their food…. With rapid changes to the land base, the caribou have been exposed. Exploration corridors, trails and roads serve as predator highways, and caribou have had little time to evolve new food sources, skills or tactics to protect themselves.
The provincial response has been in part to shoot wolves from helicopters as a predator management strategy. My question is to the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources and Rural Development. Is the government planning to increase the wolf cull?
Hon. D. Donaldson:
Thank you to the member for the question. We as a government take caribou recovery in B.C. very seriously. That’s why we rely on a range of approaches in supporting these populations.
When it comes to making decisions about wolf management in B.C., for instance, we rely on expert research and the science. The research shows that wolves are the principle predator of caribou in B.C. In fact, in May of 2018, the federal government, under the Species at Risk Act, said the caribou populations in B.C. were under imminent threat, not due to habitat loss but due to predators.
Predator control is one of the tools we use, especially when herds are reduced in numbers to critical levels. We also use other methods, such as habitat protection, habitat restoration, maternity penning and supplemental feeding. This is because caribou are an iconic species to B.C. and Canada, and we’re taking measures to stabilize their populations and grow their numbers.
Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental.
I thank the minister for the response.
The real issue here is, actually, habitat destruction, and it’s on track to get worse. This government continues the massive taxpayer-funded subsidies of foreign corporations to expand LNG and thus increase fracking in caribou habitat.
We know culling wolfs to reduce the pressures on caribou is just a band-aid solution to a human-made problem. If this government doesn’t fundamentally change the way they manage the landscape, then frankly, we’ll have to continue killing STḴȺYE until they are no more.
This government is reluctant to specifically protect species at risk because they are showing no restraint.
Apparently, this government is okay with the short-term status quo approach to managing the decline to zero on a long enough trajectory that no one will notice.
My question, again, is to the minister. Is he comfortable knowingly committing a species to extinction by shying away from the responsible ecosystem habitat that we need, while spending millions of dollars to shoot hundreds of wolves so this government can continue unsustainable logging practices and increase fracking?
Hon. D. Donaldson:
Well, I agree with the member in that we’ve had to take drastic emergency measures to protect the populations of caribou that are left in this province. That’s because the inadequate patchwork of actions taken by the previous government led to the threat of an imminent stop-work order under the Species at Risk Act around habitat protection.
We’re determined to take this on. We know land use decisions impact caribou habitat and populations. We’ve provided $47 million for our caribou recovery strategy. That involves a whole suite of actions that I outlined earlier. We also took the unprecedented step of putting in place an interim moratorium on new industrial activities on 734,410 hectares of land in the northeast of the province until we can finalize a partnership agreement with the federal government, with First Nations in the area to address caribou populations and stability.
This is all part of an effort that includes making sure that we protect this iconic species. It’s part of the biodiversity in this province that we enjoy and part of the constitutionally protected rights of Indigenous people to hunt these animals. We’re determined that, with the measures we are taking, the caribou populations will stabilize and grow.