PREDATORS -- Eleven wolves were killed in the Southern Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia during a winter effort to reduce predation on endangered woodland caribou that range in Canada as well as in Idaho and Washington.
Another 73 wolves were killed farther north to boost caribou in the South Peace region, the British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations announced last week.
The effort began on Jan. 15 and concluded this month. This is the first year of a five-year project of wolf removal that is being employed in conjunction with ongoing habitat protection efforts, British Columbia officials said.
In the South Selkirks, 11 wolves were removed from packs that range into the USA. Of the wolves targeted, seven to 10 remain and are now being monitored to track their movement. To date these wolves have not ranged into caribou areas, so are not candidates for removal.
In the South Peace, 73 wolves were removed, with the majority being in the vicinity of the Moberly and Quintette caribou herds. In one case, six wolves were removed as they were actively stalking 14 caribou.
Both the South Selkirks and South Peace herds have experienced significant losses to wolf predation.
The South Selkirk herd numbered 46 caribou in 2009, declining to 14 in the most recent survey conducted in March 2015. This is a loss of four caribou since the 2014 census. The cause of these recent losses is not known, but likely occurred prior to wolf removal actions being taken. Predation on caribou is more common in the fall and summer
In the four caribou herds in the South Peace (Quintette, Moberly, Scott and Kennedy-Siding), populations are also decreasing and wolves are a key factor. At least 37% of all adult mortalities have been documented as wolf predation.
Hunting and trapping of wolves has not effectively reduced populations and may even split up packs and increase predation rates on caribou. Habitat recovery continues to be an important part of caribou recovery, but cannot address the critical needs of these herds in the short term.
Quick Facts from B.C. government officials:
- In 2012, the B.C. government endorsed a Peace Northern Caribou implementation plan to increase the population of seven Northern Caribou herds in the south Peace area of B.C.
- Through a combination of measures the Peace Northern Caribou Plan will ultimately protect over 498,000 ha of high elevation winter range caribou habitat out of a total of 553,477 ha available.
- In October 2007, the provincial government endorsed the Mountain Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan
- Included among the Province's commitments to Mountain Caribou recovery implementation are the protection of 2.2 million hectares of habitat, including 95% of high-suitability Mountain Caribou habitat, from logging and road building and managing recreation to reduce human disturbance.
- For the South Selkirk herd, a significant portion of core caribou habitat (61,000 ha.) has been closed to snowmobile use and almost all core caribou habitat (108,000 ha.) has been protected from logging and road building.