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Caribou Recovery – Major Wolf Cull

Ever since I was a university student studying to get my bachelor’s degree in wildlife and fisheries biology, I’ve been amazed at the lack of common sense and on the ground knowledge of some biologists and the general public when it comes to the topic of predator and land management. I recall doing my first research paper on mule deer management, where we reviewed a peer-reviewed paper for a report. I chose one that dealt with overwinter fawn survival and the “ground breaking” conclusion the researcher found from two years of study was that coyotes and other predators had a drastic effect on overwinter fawn survival.

I was shocked that this was shocking to the researcher. Two years of research and resources all to find out that predators have a negative effect on fawn survival. Unbelievable. I brought this up to my professor and was lambasted for criticising a researcher. I quickly learned where I stood and that in order to go far in the wildlife management world you had to keep your mouth shut and do as you’re told and often-times ignore facts. Well, that’s not me and 20 years later I read articles like this from the CBC and see that the trend continues.

British Columbia (or B.C.) has been utilizing cull efforts to help control wolf populations and their decimation of northern caribou herds. Again, the fact that predators left unchecked have  devastating effect on ungulates and other wildlife isn’t earth shattering news, but the rebuttal from the wolf-lover-community continues to blow my mind with the lack of attention to on-the-ground knowledge and results of this effective effort from the province. From the article we read, “Critics have argued that habitat loss and human encroachment are to blame for the decline of the caribou, and say there is little evidence to back up the theory that wolves are the problem.”

Are you kidding me?! Have these “critics” even been to the North Country? Loss of habitat?! Really?! One of the struggles wildlife managers have always had in managing caribou herds is the vast expanses of habitat that make it difficult for humans to tag along with caribou herds to effectively monitor their populations on a long-term basis. It isn’t cost-effective and is sometimes impossible for us to go where they live in certain times of the year. No…loss of habitat isn’t the problem.

Having hunted caribou and/or moose in Quebec, B.C., and Alaska, I can assure you of the travel challenges and expenses that exist for human beings to even get to many of the regions these critters call home. The financial expense is especially noticeable for poorly funded wildlife agencies, especially when they are having to defend themselves from the litigation of those trying to protect apex predators, further draining their budgets and skewing the well-rounded wildlife management principles instituted and further developed by wildlife management legends such as Aldo Leopld and Valerius Geist.

Current University of Alberta biologist Stan Boutin even states, “The sad part of it all is that if we’re going to do a wolf cull to keep caribou populations around, we’re in this for the long haul,” said Boutin. “As soon as you stop the cull, wolf numbers come right back up to what they were before, and caribou populations decline again.”

We keep seeing that once predators are established and left unchecked, disaster to the rest of the wildlife management structure and ecosystem ensues. Further, wildlife management budgets are slashed due to reduced revenue provided by sportsmen. We are the #1 funding source for the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Statistically there is no argument on this. Our great President Theodore Roosevelt and others saw to it that sportsmen be responsible for sound wildlife management. Here in the 21st century, we’ve lost our way and the model that is the envy of the world is crashing down around us with lower hunter recruitment and retention because opportunity is lost to pursue those resources that our system of wildlife management was built on.

We need to stop pretending we can return wildlife management principles to pre-European settlement. It can’t happen. We need to live in the here and now and manage populations of both big game animals and predators accordingly. Hopefully B.C.’s officials can continue to fight the good fight and manage their wolf populations so that these delicate caribou herds can recover. Time, and politics, will tell.

About Brandon Mason

Brandon Mason

11 comments

  1. Dad was a true hillbilly, as was his family. Wanted to eat or make money in the 20s and 30s you hunted. He had a few simple sayings… gleaned from wisdom of living life in the outdoors. “Predators kill what we hunt.” This would usually be proceeded by him showing me deer hair in the scat from coyotes etc.
    Pappy was no PHD, but he was right! (You too!)

  2. Wolf lovers don’t care they just don’t want guns. No animals to hunt no guns. No death, no mass shootings. Pro wolf or the Sierra Club, HSUS are true eco-terrorists using wolves to kill all the animals of the planet? They are the true wolves in sheep’s clothing!

  3. Wolf tags could be included in any biggame tag you purchase for a low additional cost. That
    would be the most easily effective way to control wolf pops. .. They are too smart, to wary and
    can turn nocturnal to easily to ever harm their pops by hunting.
    Hunters are the true animal lovers . I dont want wolves to disappear entirely. Love knowing
    I am in country where they live. Their population peaks have to be reduced !

    • Up here in BC there is no tag, you buy your license you can shoot wolves. 3 years in a row we’ve called wolves in to a cow call.

  4. The Rocklickers want to bring wolves to Colorado. I say return ALL the rocklickers to the big cities and then turn all the wolves loose there.

  5. Absolute wonderful message Sir!!!!! Excited to see a (‘hunter/writer) speak up! Absolutely great message again Sir!

  6. The Bitterroot Valley Montana has this same problem with Biologist. Sportsmen and RMEF have invested thousand on elk and lion studies here. Researchers produced positive results as to what needed to be done to get us out of the hole the flourishing predator populations had caused the hunting public. Scientific results did not matter to management- they continued on with protections for the predators. Montana Region 2 wildlife managers love their predators.

  7. The Idaho Fish and Game Department did a study in the southeastern part of the state regarding the effects of culling coyotes and its effect on mule deer populations. On one side of the road, coyotes were hunted and trapped extensively. On the other side, no coyotes were specifically targeted. As to be expected, mule deer survival was higher on the side where the coyotes were targeted, but not in such high numbers as to have everyone shouting Eureka! As I recall, the bottom-line was that if you’re going to kill predators to help ungulates, you need to keep at it on a long-term, steady, basis. If not, the void is simply refilled. Wow!

  8. Everyone please help keep the wolves out of Colorado…and where they are proposing them Utah’s infamous Book Cliffs, San Juan, South Slope Diamond even Henry’s wont be far behind having established Wolf populations.

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