The mountain caribou likely are doomed but the real problem isn’t snowmobilers but predators such as wolves, according to Association of BC Snowmobile Club president Al Hodgson.
“The snowmobile community in B.C. will continue to do our part on behalf of the Mountain Caribou Recovery Plan because it is the right thing to do and we are honorable people,” he said, “but I am afraid that the last chapter in the mountain caribou story has already pretty much been written and the ending will not be what we had hoped for.”
“The major issue for mountain caribou is predation,” the ABCSC president said. “Five years ago the provincial government promised that they would implement an effective predator strategy to assist in recovery of mountain caribou. To date the government has failed to find the political strength to allow the biologists to proceed.”
Hodgson was commenting on an article in the Mar. 19 issue of the Times titled “Helicopter skiers monitor wildlife.” The article reported on efforts by Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing to protect mountain caribou. It also contained comments by Mike Wiegele critical of the snowmobiling industry.
“There are some serious issues confronting the recovery of mountain caribou in B.C. and it is unfortunate that some parties feel that this represents some sort of opportunity for them to bash snowmobilers,” Hodgson said.
The Mar. 19 article was a response from Wiegele to a letter to the editor from Yellowhead Ecological Association that ran in our Feb. 27 issue titled “Caribou population threatened with decline.”
Association of B.C. Snowmobile Clubs and BC Snowmobile Federation were mentioned in the article and this newspaper invited them to respond as well.
Hodgson said he had discussed the letter with a senior member of BCSF and they decided not to answer the YEA letter at that time.
“Quite frankly, my initial response whenever I see a letter like that is to think that someone’s behind it who is advancing their own interests by bashing snowmobilers,” Hodgson said.
Both province-wide snowmobile clubs are volunteer-based, the ABCSC president said.
They both have been involved in the caribou recovery program for many years and work hard with their members to ensure compliance with the regulations.
“There is no such thing as 100 per cent compliance,” he said, “but I know we have over 99 per cent ... from Ministry of Environment overflights.”
According to Hodgson, government studies have shown that nearly all mountain caribou deaths occur during the summer and early fall - when there is no snow on the ground.
“For someone to say snowmobiling is having a negative effect on mountain caribou is ludicrous. There are real issues on mountain caribou recovery but they involve predation,” he said.
“The wolf population in the North Thompson is at record levels. If we don’t control then we won’t have mountain caribou.”
Hodgson lives in Kamloops but formerly logged in the North Thompson and is familiar with many local residents.
“The snowmobilers in Clearwater are solid people,” he said. “That’s the way most snowmobilers are. We’re really talking about less than five per cent who go past signs and who shouldn’t be out there.”