Photo by Jim Lawrence
Documentary Film Project
The forests of interior BC are home to the world's last herds of deep-snow mountain caribou.
Due to continuous habitat destruction, they are in rapid decline.
The province is undertaking large-scale predator control programs (aka "kill") and maternal penning as caribou recovery strategies, yet simultaneously approving logging cutblocks, and mineral extraction in vital caribou habitat.
In partnership with independent filmmaker, Ramey Newell, we want to expose British Columbia's expanding wolf kill program and caribou conservation failure at the hands of expanding industry.
Help us make this documentary film to tell this complicated and tragic story of extinction-in-progress.
Go to Donate and under "Fund" select "BC Caribou and Wolf Documentary Project" to contribute toward the making of this much-needed film.
BC Caribou and Wolf Documentary Project
LET'S TELL THE WORLD
Together we can tell this complicated and tragic story of extinction-in-progress and misguided wolf kill program.
Recent Timeline of BC Caribou and Wolf Mismanagement
1954 – first records of mountain caribou decline (14).
1961 – wide-scale use of predacides (poisons targeting predators, namely wolves and coyotes, yet still indiscriminate in what species they kill) was ended in BC, becoming more restricted to use in areas with livestock.
1975 – caribou biologists first published concern that southern mountain caribou may be endangered(14). Note that a recovery plan was not implemented for another 38 years….in 2007.
1980's - Aerial hunting of wolves for BC wolf kill program in northern Rockies (Fort Nelson area) during which more than 798 wolves in Northeastern BC were killed before being stopped by intense public outcry. The helicopter killing paused in 1985, only to be revived briefly in 1987. Over four years, about 1,000 wolves were killed.
1983-1996 Between 1983–1996 Compound 1080 killed 1400 wolves, 1024 coyotes, and many non-target animals including more than 900 bears, eagles, and other scavengers. These numbers are bare minimums. Note this was not done for caribou but as part of a province-wide carnivore-killing program, prior to contemporary understanding of ecological benefits of apex predators and compassionate conservation.
1984 – Southern Selkirk mountain caribou herd which straddles the US-Canada border officially declared “endangered” through U.S. Endangered Species Act (14).
1994 – Preliminary caribou recovery plan published but not implemented (14).
2001 – Government suspended use of Compound 1080 (POISON!)
2001-2004 -Radio-collared wolves were tracked in 20 sampling intervals for a total of 71 days within the study area in the Northern Columbia Mountains had NO CONFIRMED MORTALITIES of mountain caribou by wolves based on tracking sessions (all predations were moose)(3)
2002 – The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) lists south Selkirk transboundary population of caribou as “Threatened”.
New (2nd) recovery strategy put forward by new team of biologists (14). During the 8 years between implementing recovery efforts, the South Purcell population was reduced from approximately 90 to 20 caribou, with other herds following a similar trajectory (14).
Quesnel Highland Experimental Wolf Sterilization Project initiated. Wolves collared to assess distribution and identify overlapping territory within mountain caribou habitat (4). Wolf population reduced during this time through sterilization, killing and more accurate data on wolf numbers (4). The project lost funding.
2003 – Province lists southern mountain caribou as “endangered”, (Red list)
-Revelstoke moose reduction experiment initiated by increasing number of hunting permits over area encompassing the Columbia North, Columbia South, and Frisby-Boulder caribou ranges (18)
2005 – New scientific team put together to work on recovery plan (3rd).
2003- 2005 - BC government caught wolves in traps and snares in Quesnel Highlands and West Cariboo Mountains, killing 30 wolves and sterilizing 16 in attempt to eliminate all subdominant wolves and sterilize breeding pair (11).
2005 - Quesnel Highland Wolf Sterilization Project reinitiated due to renewed funding by Forest Investment Accounts, specifically through West Fraser Mills (4)
Northern Columbia Mountain ecoregion in southeastern BC radio-collared 19 wolves from 2 packs. (3)
2006 – Third set of “management options and related actions for mountain caribou” was recommended by government appointed scientific team
Annual moose hunting permits were doubled in the Parsnip Caribou Range (18).
2005 - 2007: A collared and sterile male from the Crooked Lake pack (Quesnel Highland Wolf Project) was shot by a hunter Nov. 2006, returning pack to fertile status (4)
The Mountain Caribou Recovery Project states “Recovery can only be accomplished by protecting, restoring, and reconnecting critical mountain caribou habitat, and by establishing enforceable standards for motorized recreation and commercial recreation tenures. Smaller herds may need to be bolstered with animals transplanted from healthier herds. Finally, predator management, a very controversial activity, should only occur where adequate habitat is protected and then only with full consideration of all impacts”. (8)
2007 – Mountain Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan (4th) released by provincial government, announcing goal to restore Mountain Caribou populations to pre-1995 levels (25,000) within 20 years (14, 15). Given the lack of adequate habitat and the slow capacity which caribou to reproduce, this goal is unrealistic and puts more pressure on killing predators.
Ministry of Environment liberalizes hunting seasons for wolves and cougars over Mountain Caribou ranges (14, 16), and in regions 3 and 5 for black bears (15).
Forest Investment Accounts contributes more funding to Quesnel Highland Wolf Project for helicopter costs during aerial darting of wolves (4).
Recommendations from the Quesnel experiment include:
Attempt to identify, capture, & sterilize dominant wolf pairs in all 13 wolf packs (within 5 caribou census blocks) (15)
Eliminate sub-dominant wolves
Attempt to locate den sites, trap dominants, and kill pups from high threat packs (April-May yearly)
2007 - The Government announces plan to set aside 2.2 million hectares of habitat for mountain caribou protection, HOWEVER only 380,000 hectares of this would be NEW protection, and of those only 77,000 falls within the timber harvesting land base (THLB) (14). In fact, 64% of the 2.2 million hectares announced was already under some form of protection and included National and provincial parks (14). Furthermore, much of the additional habitat that would be protected is only high elevation or had been previously harvested and thus is of no value for timber harvest (12). Mid and low elevation forests, full of biodiversity and old growth trees and lichen, do not fall under protection from timber harvest. Mountain Caribou use ALL elevations and change altitudes with seasons over the period of a year, adjusting to follow and obtain the best food sources, avoid natural predators, avoid insects, and give birth.
BC Mountain Caribou Recovery Plan released Oct 16, 2007; has 6 plan objectives:
Protect mountain caribou habitat from logging and roads (good plan)
Ensure effectiveness of protected habitat by managing human use (good plan)
Manage predator populations where needed (can cause undesired changes to entire ecosystem and ethically wrong, ends do not justify the means)
Manage primary prey of caribou predators (ends do not justify the means, especially if habitat continues to be altered to accommodate primary prey and their natural predators)
Augment critically low herds (sounds great)
Support adaptive management and research
In the recovery plan, habitat loss is identified as the number one cause of declining caribou populations, with predators as a proximate cause. Despite this…
Plans include killing wolves in areas where there will be no change in land use regulations (ie. commercial recreation)
Mineral exploration has been exempted from meeting scientific rigour where habitat requirements of mountain caribou are considered
Over an 8-month period 4 wolves are trapped on behalf of MOE in the Quesnel area, 2 of which died
A mature male wolf was killed by another pack while “trapped”, unable to defend himself or escape (4) pg. 24
An alpha female of the Sellars Creek pack was “destroyed” after she broke her leg in trap. She was in heat at the time of capture (4)
2008 - As of March 31st, 18 wolves have been radio-collared in Parsnip study area by MOE (5)
In the Winter Carnivore Surveys in the Kootenay's Mountain Caribou Recovery Areas Winter 2007/2008, researchers note that caribou from the South Selkirk and South Purcell herds rarely occupy habitat below 1400 meters (elevation), providing evidence there is little overlap among wolves, cougars, and mountain caribou.
Investigation by Vancouver Sun reveals BC government killed 24 wolves under the guise of Mountain Caribou recovery this year alone (10)
Predator Management Activities, as reported in the Mountain Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan Newsletter, Volume 4 May 2008, include:
Extensive radio-collaring and tracking of wolves and cougars to learn more and facilitate killing these predators
Changes in hunting seasons for wolves and cougars to allow for more predators killed
Continuation of the wolf reduction program in Quesnel Highlands
Trapping wolves in Narrow Lake and the South Purcells
Planning for the removal of 2 wolf packs (families) at den sites in Revelstoke
Between 2007-2008 MOE invested $700,000 to pay for (6) (note discrepancy in numbers from Vancouver Sun investigation).
22 wolf packs collared
10 wolves killed in mountain caribou recovery areas within 6 months (Nov. 2007 - May 2008)
6 males and 6 females sterilized (ie. organs altered or removed) in the Quesnel Highlands, totaling 5 packs being sterilized in this region.
An investigation by the Vancouver Sun obtains Ministry report with figures: 20 wolves killed through snaring and trapping across mountain caribou range, including 2 wolves within range of the South Purcells herd, 5 within Columbia South herd, 2 within Narrow lake area, and 11 within the Quesnel Highlands (10).
Mountain Caribou Recovery Program Science Team recommends that government close areas to snowmobiling, but government opted for “Steward Management Agreements” with snowmobile clubs instead. These agreements have no “teeth” and cannot be enforced.
Open letter from the Mountain Caribou Project urging government to fulfil its commitment to: (7)
i) augment smaller herds between 10 - 50 animals (government funding has been secured to construct maternity pens) nor
ii) reach agreements with snowmobile clubs for area closures or restrictions.
Late fiscal 07/08 and Early 08/09 tally of predator “reductions” included (15):
Death by trapping of 2 wolf packs in Narrow Lake region
Sterilization of breeding pair and sub-dominants in 4 packs in North Cariboo Mountains
Sterilization of breeding pair and sub-dominants in 3 packs in Barkerville area
Sterilization of breeding pair and sub-dominants in 6 packs in Wells Gray North, and killing of wolves trapped that are not candidates for collaring/fertility control
Death by trapping of 2 wolf packs in the South Purcells
2009 - Between March 2007 and March 2009, "intensive capture, sterilization and removal (AKA killing) work was accomplished" (13). During this time. 40 wolves were radio-collared and 34 wolves were killed (13).
During the fiscal year of 2008/09, 10 out of 13 targeted wolf packs had been sterilized. (13)
Mountain Caribou Project (MCP) member groups make it clear they “have NOT endorsed the killing of wolves” because they have not seen evidence that wolves are significantly threatening small herds and “because identified critical habitat has not been adequately protected for caribou recovery” (9). “MCP is not supporting a government wolf kill with the information presently available” (9).
MCP states its immediate concern is in regard to current hunting and trapping policies which are extremely unregulated. Random killing of wolves can increase predation pressure on caribou by causing stable packs to splinter, reproduce, spread out, and thus have more wolves in more places. (9).
Recommendations for Predator-Prey Management to Benefit the Recovery of Mountain Caribou in British Columbia presented by scientist to MOE. Included in proposal is a plan to continue to kill and/or sterilize wolves, kill cougars, reduce moose populations, and limit white tailed deer from expanding their territory.
Ongoing practices in critical habitat for mountain caribou include mineral exploration and commercial recreational activities such as cat skiing, snowmobiling, glading planning and construction of snow trails. These practices involve tree clearing and road building. In other words, humans are still creating snow pack in caribou territory and leading predators through easy accessibility into areas where in the past caribou would have been safe through avoidance. Previous timber harvesting in and around mountain caribou critical habitat has led to an increased moose and deer population, through changes in vegetation to early stage forests from old growth. BC government is still issuing and authorizing new helicopter recreation tenures within fragile alpine habitats.
The Government has failed to INSTITUTE any AREA-BASED CLOSURES to commercial recreational activity, regardless how critical to caribou.
Radio-collaring and monitoring of wolves in the Parsnip area indicates that wolves here spend very little time at elevations used by mountain caribou, and GPS-point clusters give evidence that wolf predation on caribou is low in this region.(5). The study suggests that even when elevation overlap occurs wolves may still be hunting moose.
2010 - Between Dec. 2005 and March 2010 $670,420 was spent by BC government on the Quesnel Highland wolf sterilization and removal program. The goal of the program was to remove the reproductive organs of the dominant breeders and kill subdominant wolves, including pups. Between 2007-2010 50 wolves were killed on behalf of the government in the Quesnel Highland region, and more were killed through public hunting and trapping (13).
Numbers of wolves killed and sterilized in the Quesnel Highland Experiment
2010 - 11 14 5
2009 / 10 14 4
2008 / 09 21 12
2007 / 08 12 19
2007 / 07 2 1
2005 / 06 0 0
2004 / 05 0 0
2001 - 2004 30 16
2001-2010 93 57
An additional $73,740 was spent on caribou inventories in the Quesnel Highland area. An extra $96,650 was spent on moose inventories as part of the alternated prey reduction strategy. Combined, this totals $840,810.
The Quesnel Highland Wolf Project Progress report (Nov. 2005 - March 2010) states that in regards to wolves "it is likely that additional and/or alternate factors were responsible for the low calf survival observed in 2010" (pg. 18), and "...appears to indicate that wolf predation is NOT the main or sole cause of low calf recruitment in 2010" (pg. 20). HOWEVER, the budget estimate for 2010/11 is another $107,400 to pay for more wolf removal, sterilization, and caribou inventories (pg. 31).
bait stations were set for trapping wolves to collar, sterilize or kill them. Wolves were sterilized at the Williams Lake Veterinary Hospital before being flown back and released where they were captured.
GPS collar data used to locate den sites for trapping and for killing pups
when collaring wolves, sub-dominants were often killed
2010 was a warm winter not conducive to trapping wolves. 4 wolves were sterilized, radio-collared and released in the Quesnel highlands, another 14 were killed. 4 out of the 7 wolves collared dispersed out of the area. Another 2 of the sterilized wolves died, likely killed by other wolves after losing their status. (Note: between 2004 - 2007, all dominant sterile wolves were "eliminated"; cause undetermined), leaving a void where viable wolves could move in.
Although the 2010 Quesnel progress report (13) provided evidence that collared and sterile male wolves were leaving the area, and/or being killed and replaced by viable wolves, the report recommends plans to expand the sterilization of wolves to include 2 packs that reside in Wells Grey Provincial Park.
2012 – Translocation of 19 northern mountain ecotype caribou into South Purcell herd (18). This was a complete failure as most animals released were dead within one year and translocated animals failed to join up with any Purcell resident caribou (18).
BC unveils its Draft Wolf Management Plan in November which receives massive opposition during the short 3-week public comment period. Unfortunately, these comments go ignored. The public comment period saw 1,614 comments AGAINST this barbaric plan, and less than one third of this number (558) commented in support of it. Another 403 comments were deemed as unclear or "not relevant". The plan is heavy on management but lacking in conservation, ecology, and ethics. Read the Press Release put out by several concerned ENGOs.
2014 - BC government releases its Wolf Management plan, systematically legitimizing the killing of wolves for various reasons, including under the guise of Mountain Caribou Recovery. The release of this plan ignores 66% of public comments made during the 3-week comment period, where people from all backgrounds urged for more humane treatment f wolves. Wolf Awareness updates the public on what has transpired, and alerts members of Wolf Awareness. Part of the plan recommends killing wolves wherever caribou herds number less than 50 animals.
South Peace: 93 wolves killed; 62 shot from helicopter and 31 trapped
South Selkirks: : 4 wolves killed
Revelstoke-Shuswap: 11 wolves killed
2018 - 151 wolves killed under the guise of caribou conservation in 2018 (25).
South Peace: 129 wolves killed (expanded to Narraway transboundary herd)
South Selkirks: : 4 wolves killed
Revelstoke-Shuswap: 18 wolves killed
2019 - 133 wolves killed under the guise of caribou conservation in 2018 (26).
South Peace: 115 wolves killed (expanded to Narraway transboundary herd)
South Selkirks: wolves killed (Nelson)
Revelstoke-Shuswap: 16 wolves killed
A minimum of 686 wolves now killed in this program since 2015.
Maternal pens come into operation for mountain caribou in 2 areas; 1 in Revelstoke area and 1 in South Peace (18).
2015 January - BC government announces aerial shooting of wolves will begin this winter around the South Selkirk and South Peace Caribou herds. Wolf Awareness takes a firm position against this.
2015 April - BC Government announces winter death tally: 84 wolves in 2015 reportedly shot from helicopters. Wolf Awareness reminds public this is a 5 year plan (minimum).
South Peace: 73 wolves killed (19)
South Selkirks: 11 wolves killed (19, 20)
2016 - 210 wolves killed in i2016 in South Peace and South Selkirk caribou recovery planning units, methods include aerial gunning and killing snares, neither of which are accepted under Canada’s guidelines on Approved Animal Care due to the prolonged and severe suffering experienced by victims.
South Peace 201 wolves killed; (21, 22, 23)
South Selkirks: 9 wolves killed (21, 22).
2017 – Wolf kill program expanded to Coumbia-Shuswap (Revelstoke area). 108 wolves killed in 2017 between South Peace, Selkirks, and Columbia Shuswap. under the guise of caribou conservation (24).
Another tax-funded wolf and carnivore kill-program discovered: Documents received through B.C.’s Freedom of Information Process (FNR-2018-83661) revealed a second tax-funded carnivore-kill program underway targeting wolves, cougars and coyotes. The province’s Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations issued a contract and special permit to establish a “Predator removal zone” within BC’s Churn Creek area of the Cariboo region. Carnivores were to be killed using traps, snares, and cougar hounds.
The program was initiated December 1st 2017, ostensibly for the recovery of a declining California Bighorn sheep population in Wildlife Management Unit 5 -3. Incongruously, human hunting of this small metapopulation of sheep, classified as a Big Game Species, opened September 10th, 2018 in the adjacent Wildlife Management Units (5-2 and 5-4), with an increase in number of tags available for hunters to kill mature Bighorns with a full curl.
Tony Hamilton, RPBio, MSc. (For.), Large Carnivore Specialist Ecosystems Branch, Ministry of Environment, Personal communication June 7 2009.
Chris Ritchie, Ministry of Environment, personal communication February 18, 2010.
Stotyn, S., Serrouya, R., and McLellan, B., April 30, 2005. The Predator Prey Dynamics of wolves and moose in the northern Columbia Mountains: spatial and functional patterns in relation to mountain caribou decline. Prepared for the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program and the British Columbia Forest Science Program
Roorda, L., and R. Wright, April 2007. Quesnel Highland Wolf Project Progress Report August 2006 – March 31, 2007. Prepared for the Ministry of Environment Wildlife Branch Cariboo Region April 2007.
Steenweg, R.W., D.C. Heard, and M.P. Gillingham, April 2009. Parsnip Caribou Recovery Trial – Report on activities during 2008-2009. PWFWCP Report No. 332.
Mountain Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan Newsletter, Volume 4 May 2008.
Open Letter from the Mountain Caribou Project, February 11, 2008
http://www.wildsight.ca/caribou/caribou_060927.html Accessed 02/12/2006
Letter from Mountain Caribou Project to BC Nature March 29, 2010.
Wolves Killed to protect caribou. Land has been promised, but not delivered, to protect habitat of endangered species, Larry Pynn, Vancouver Sun, Dec.15, 2008.
B.C.’s quiet war on wolves, Mark Hume. Globe and Mail, Dec. 15, 2008.
Wolf Slaughter and Greenwashing, Update on the BC Government’s Mountain Caribou Recovery Plan, Jan. 12, 2009. Accessed from http://community.netidea.com/wildernesswatch
Roorda, L. and R. Wright (2010). Quesnel Highland Wolf Project Progress Report Nov. 2005-March 2010.
SciWrite Environmental Sciences Ltd. 2008. Southern Mountain Caribou Interim Review of Recovery Plan Process, report.
BC Ministry of Environment. (2009) Interim Strategy for Predator/Prey Management Actions in Support of Mountain Caribou Recovery: Fiscal 07/08 and early fiscal 08/09. Retrieved June 13, 2017 from http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/speciesconservation/mc/files/interim_predator_prey_strategy_20080512.pdf
BC Ministry of Environment Species At Risk Coordination. (2009). A Review of Management Actions to Recover Mountain Caribou in British Columbia.
Boutin, S. (2014). Review of: Experimental Wolf Reduction to Enhance the Recovery of the Threatened Quintette Caribou Herd in the South Peace and South Selkirk Mountain Caribou Wolf Management Plan
Boutin, S. and E. Merrill. 2016. A Review of population-based management of Southern Mountain caribou in BC.
Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. (2015). Government acting to save endangered caribou. [Retrieved from British Columbia Government News website: https://news.gov.bc.ca/stories/government-acting-to-save-endangered-caribou-1]. Accessed February 9, 2017.
Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. April 5, 2015. APPENDIX C, RECORD OF WILDLIFE HUNTED, TRAPPED OR KILLED PERMIT CB15-165032
R.S. McNay, L. Giguere, B. Pate, and E. Dubman. May 05, 2016 (Revised July 25, 2016). Annual Report: Enhancing Calf Survival to Help Avert Extirpation of the Klinse-Za Caribou Herd. FWCP Project No. PF16-W22 EC Project No. 2015AFSAR2597
Seip, D. and E. Jones. (2017). Population Status of Central Mountain Caribou Herds in British Columbia and Response to Recovery Management Actions. (From FOIP FNR-2017-72303 RR)
Province of British Columbia. 2018 Report: Wolf Management for Caribou: 2017/2018 Yearly Summary 4 pp.