Pacific Wild and Valhalla Wilderness Society are challenging the legality of the government of British Columbia’s controversial wolf cull program. In January 2015, despite considerable opposition, the BC government launched a multi-year wolf kill program in the South Peace and South Selkirk regions. Government contractors are paid to radio-collar wolves in the spring so snipers in helicopters can track and kill entire packs throughout the winter. Ministry officials estimate the program will kill nearly 500 wolves and cost taxpayers approximately $2.2 million. According to M. Hume’s Globe and Mail article, “B.C.’s controversial wolf cull program to save caribou will continue,” officials have admitted they are skeptical it will save the endangered mountain caribou the cull purports to be recovering.
Ministry of Environment briefing notes (brought to light last fall by a freedom of information request filed by Wilderness Committee) suggest the government was prompted by a forest industry opposed to giving up more land to habitat protection. “To date, the province has neglected to protect and restore sufficient habitat for endangered caribou,” said Ian McAllister, executive director of Pacific Wild.
“We are asking the court to review whether, in the absence of sufficient, enforced habitat protection, culling wolves constitutes ‘proper wildlife management’.”
Anticipating that a new permit for the cull in the South Selkirk region will be issued in the coming weeks, Pacific Wild and Valhalla Wilderness Society have filed an application for a judicial review to determine whether the provincial government’s decision to cull wolves reasonably constitutes proper management of wolves if what they are actually doing is killing wolves to avoid protecting critical mountain caribou habitat necessary for their survival and recovery so industry can continue unchecked.
The two groups are pursing the action with the backing of several conservation groups including the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals, the Wilderness Committee, Humane Society International/Canada, and various others who have been advocating for effective caribou habitat protections and, likewise, opposing the wolf cull as unreasonable, unnecessary, and scientifically unfounded.
“The BC government is pandering to industrial interests, endangering the few remaining mountain caribou, and sacrificing wolves in the process,” said Gabriel Wildgen, campaign manager at Humane Society International/Canada. “We hope the court will rule in favour of BC’s wildlife and, in doing so, encourage the province to enact and enforce the habitat protections the caribou really need.” The initial phase of this legal action has been funded by a grant from West Coast Environmental Law’s Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund and funds from a crowd funding campaign Pacific Wild led in early 2015.