Wolf management plan ‘realistic’

Differing views | Some see wolves as a heritage species but producers say they threaten livelihoods

A new wolf management plan in British Columbia hopes to strike the right balance between conservation and control.

The plan, which was released in April, tries to create a “realistic and pragmatic” program that balances the need for conservation in some areas and a recognition that wolves can cause serious problems for livestock producers and threatened wildlife species, said Tom Ethier, assistant deputy minister for the provincial forest, lands and natural resource operations ministry.

“Wolves can be very problematic for ranchers and wildlife populations,” said Ethier.

The new plan creates two zones:

  • Areas where livestock are threatened by wolves will have lengthy and open hunting seasons with no bag limits.
  • In the rest of the province, the government will implement a more sustainable, specified hunt and trapping season with a bag limit.

Wolves are elusive and difficult to count, but officials believe the province has a stable population between 5,300 and 11,600.

Wolf predations on livestock happen mostly in the province’s Caribou and Peace regions.

Kevin Boon, general manager of the British Columbia Cattlemen’s Association, said the plan is a positive step in managing wolves and livestock.

“They’ve done a lot of consultation, and it’s a contentious and emotional issue,” said Boon.

“Wolves have been elevated to be the crown jewel of wildlife.”

Landowners can hunt or trap the wolves on their property if they are harassing livestock.

Boon said the greatest conflict arises when cattle are turned out onto summer range where they may not be seen every day.

He said livestock producers want to be able to co-exist with wolves.

The report stressed that government officials need to work with livestock producers to help them reduce the chances of conflict by ensuring dead stock are buried and not an enticement to wolves.

Wolves used to be the most widely distributed mammal but have become extinct in many parts of the world. They have the ability to adjust their diet depending on local conditions.

Ethier said there was no tipping point that pushed the government to update its management plan. In-stead, a combination of new science about wolves and a number of issues across the province led to the review.