KNOX – Why the provincial government wants to expand wolf-trapping program

(Image: Parks Canada)

THE PROVINCIAL government wants to extend the wolf-trapping season on Vancouver Island.

To which you reply: We trap wolves here?

Yes, we do, which some people think is terrible.

“Trapping is abhorrent,” says Trish Boyum.

The Royston woman and her husband own Ocean Adventures, which offers boat-based tours of the Great Bear Rainforest on the central mainland coast.

“The biggest draws for our clients are large carnivores,” she says. That means bears and wolves, the latter being the more elusive of the two.

Boyum spent 20 years in the trenches of the fight to end B.C.’s grizzly bear hunt, a struggle her side finally won last month. Her euphoria after that victory was dampened by the wolf-trapping news.

The government’s proposal is contained in the angling, hunting and trapping regulations that come up for renewal every two years. It recommends adding 51 days to Vancouver Island’s wolf-trapping season, which currently goes from Nov. 1 to June 30. The new start date would be Sept. 10.

The proposal says that while the province doesn’t have a firm handle on the wolf population on the north Island, anecdotal evidence indicates it is increasing. At the same time, deer numbers are dropping.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development also says wolf trapping is needed to protect Island elk, whose numbers are too low to allow hunting and are not increasing.

That said, there was no record of any wolves being trapped on Vancouver Island last year. The average for the past five years has been seven animals, the ministry said. It estimates the Island’s wolf population at 250 and rising. (That compares to the 250-to-400 estimate in a 1987 report.) Trapping will be done by First Nations or licensed commercial trappers, mostly on the north and central Island.

This all fits with a 2014 B.C. wolf-management plan that, while stating the government wasn’t sure how many of the animals are in the province (estimates ranged from 5,300 to 11,000), said there was no evidence of serious conservation concerns.

Among the plan’s goals was maintaining a self-sustaining population while also minimizing wolf attacks on livestock and “managing specific packs or individuals where predation is likely preventing the recovery of wildlife populations threatened by wolf predation.”

Here’s what else that 2014 report said: The whole wolf-control debate is “highly polarized.”

No kidding. Trapping proponents often characterize opponents as soft-handed city folk who get all worked up about back-country realities they don’t understand, allowing passion and populism to trump reason. (In announcing last March that the B.C. Liberals would outsource wildlife management to a new, arm’s-length group, then-Kootenay MLA Bill Bennett said: “Government is afraid to manage wolves, for example, or afraid to manage grizzly bears in some cases because of the politics of that.” Note that the Liberals’ idea disappeared after the NDP took power.)

Trapping opponents reply that bureaucrats, in trying to surgically slice away at one species to save others, risk meddling to the point that they cut off Mother Nature’s leg. Opponents don’t trust either the science or motivation behind wildlife-management decisions, arguing that hunting interests carry too much weight.

Boyum suspects the Island proposal has to do with leaving more deer for hunters in areas where both they and the wolves are after the same prey. “When wolves encroach on that, wolves pay the price.”

The grizzly bear campaign also left her dubious about the numbers government uses when estimating wildlife populations.

“The government doesn’t know,” she says. “They’re using various antiquated models to guesstimate.”

Having grown up on Interior cattle ranches, she is familiar with wolves being cast as villains, thinks it’s a rap they don’t deserve.

Jack Knox is a born-and-raised Kamloops lad who once worked at the Kamloops Daily News. He is now a columnist with the Victoria Times Colonist. Since joining the Times Colonist in 1988, Jack has worked as a copy editor, city editor, editorial writer and editorial page editor. Prior to that he was an editor and reporter at newspapers in Campbell River, Regina and Kamloops. He won the Jack Webster Foundation’s City Mike Award for Commentator of the Year in 2015.

About Mel Rothenburger (6311 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on KNOX – Why the provincial government wants to expand wolf-trapping program

  1. It has always been the stance of gov’t that they would rather guess at populations than actually count the wild life in an area. This extrapolation is junk science and if the numbers of any population are simply guessed at then they risk the destruction or exterpolation of that spiecie.The population of carnivorous megafauna will rise and fall on it own natural rytheme according to the pray species available .The conditions that have been studied on Isle Royal in Lake Superior whereby the wolf population naturally follows the moose population will exist in most ecosystems.If the wolf population is increasing then the population of their prey species must also be increasing.This balance must be the ecological priority not he satisfaction of the hunter .
    The gov’t must stop blaming the wolf for every ecological anomaly. It is usually us that causes the imbalance. Killing a wolf or any other animal for it’s pelt is just trophy hunting and BC has already stated it’s opinion on that subject.

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