Kevin van Damme from the Conservation Officer Service appeared before the membership of the Central North Thompson Rod and Gun Club at their regular meeting on Jan 15. He opened the floor to topics of interest from the members, but the main topic centered on the increasing impacts of the local wolves on the game populations.
The local gray wolf populations seem to be on the increase, as indicated by an increase in the livestock kills and the apparent decrease in large game numbers. The loss of a calf will cost the rancher about $1,000 in net income.
The CO Service’s role in dealing with these predators is to attend to wolves of concern when it comes to public safety or those with specific learned behaviour to target on livestock. A wildlife biologist with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources deals with population issues including hunting seasons and inter-species impacts.
Wolves will work in packs to kill large animals such as moose, elk, caribou, mountain goats, mountain sheep and deer. One adult wolf will consume the equivalent of eight moose in a year. This carnivore will also eat mice, squirrels, beaver, coyotes and black bears. They not only impact these species directly, but also compete with other carnivores for prey.
Hair sample analysis indicates what an animal has been eating for the past year. Samples taken from wolves near Blue River show that they have been eating mountain goats. The impact is such that there soon may not be a hunting season for goat in that area.
There is a concern for local mountain caribou. Some intervention may be required to protect them. Local wolf packs are usually about 10 animals, but may be as high as 17 or more. They are certainly capable of impacting the survival of these indigenous populations.
Then, as the wildlife populations decline, being opportunistic hunters, they start hitting livestock harder. Local fur trappers also feel this pinch as do sports hunters.
Controlling wolf populations is not easy. Prior to 1996 the government used poison but that practice has been discontinued. Hunting from aircraft is effective, but expensive. There are local hunting seasons but generally hunters don’t target them. The local rod and gun clubs can become involved by offering training for hunters.
But any kind of population management also comes with moral and ethical issues.
It is not normal for wolves to pursue or attack humans; they usually tend to avoid them. If you encounter a wolf, do not approach any closer than 100 metres, raise your arms and wave them in the air to make yourself look larger and back away slowly. Do not turn your back on a wolf.