Return of wolves prompts open hunting season

Some biologists quick to criticize B.C.’s wildlife management methods, say lobbyists sway decision makers


The B.C. government has declared an open hunting season in response to the wolf’s return to the Okanagan region. Brian Harris, regional wildlife biologist with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations, said the wolf population has been increasing “fairly dramatically” in the region within the last five years and is now estimated at 75 to 100 individuals.

To protect mule deer populations and livestock such as cattle and sheep, Harris said, from Penticton, the ministry is allowing a kill limit of three wolves per hunter, consistent with other areas of the province; trapping of wolves is also permitted.

He said the decision is based largely on widespread anecdotal evidence and that the province lacks baseline studies to accurately document declines in mule deer. Moose numbers are up due to increased habitat resulting from forest fires in the region over the past decade, he said.

Academic wolf biologists are quick to criticize the province’s style of wolf management.

Chris Darimont, Hakai-Rain-coast assistant professor in the University of Victoria geography department, said Monday the return of the wolf to the Okanagan should be a good-news story.

“Like most British Columbians, I am thrilled that wolves are returning to some places where humans have wiped them out or reduced their numbers.”

Although management should reflect societal values, the province seems to “simply roll over” for stakeholders such as the ranching industry, said Darimont, who has studied B.C.’s coastal wolves.

“Why shouldn’t ranchers do more to protect their livestock in wolf country? Why should their costs of protecting their sacred cows be externalized in the form of suffering among wolves?”

Paul Paquet, an associate professor of environmental design at the University of Calgary who has worked extensively in B.C., noted that the province claims to use the “best available science” in management decisions but is easily swayed by lobby groups.

“Implying that indiscriminate hunting and trapping will reduce human conflicts with wolves directly contradicts contemporary wildlife science, which shows hunting and trapping of predators exacerbates, rather than reduces, human-wildlife conflicts,” he said.

He noted that predator control programs that kill wolves indiscriminately “usually result in more predation on livestock rather than less” due to “disruption of wolf pack social dynamics and the breakdown of territories.”

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Chelsea Greer hanging a wildlife camera.