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Trappers Warn of Inhumane BC Wolf Killing Plans

Association worried about policy that would allow trapping of mothers with pups, docs show.

By Andrew MacLeod 27 Mar 2014 |

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative bureau chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

The government of British Columbia's plans for killing wolves don't meet international standards for humane trapping, according to an email the president of the BC Trappers Association sent last summer to the minister responsible for the plan.

"Catching lactating females, with pups, is contrary to the Humane Trap Standards," wrote Brian Dack in an Aug. 21, 2013 email to Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson, Agriculture Minister Pat Pimm and chief conservation officer Kelly Larkin.

"The last thing that all interested parties need is for the public to come across one of these lactating females with pups in a trap," Dack wrote in the email, released to The Tyee in response to freedom of information request.

Dack, who is based in Prince George, said a speaker from the Conservation Officer Service had told the BC Trappers Association that government officials "are attempting to mandate a 12-month season for trapping wolves on Crown Land."

The BCTA was "strongly opposed" to the move since they saw it as their members' responsibility to manage traplines on Crown land, but also because the plan would break the standards for humane trapping, he said.

Report not received

Dack appears to be referring to the Agreement on Humane Trapping Standards, signed by Canada in 1997. The agreement with the European Union and Russia covers standards for trapping 19 species, including wolves, that allow them to be exported to the E.U.

Dack could not be reached for an interview by publication time. A message on the BCTA phone line March 25 said the office was closed due to illness.

In his email, Dack also expressed frustration over the difficulty he said his association faced getting information from the ministry. The organization had been told "we would receive a report on the number and location of wolves trapped by the CO Service and ranchers last year," he wrote. "The BCTA has not received this report."

In an interview in his B.C. Legislature office, Minister Thomson declined to say whether the 12-month wolf trapping season opposed by the BCTA is still under consideration. Asked specifically about it, he said the final wolf management plan will be released "in the near future."

In Nov. 2012 the government published a 60-page draft management plan for the grey wolf in B.C. and engaged in a three-week public consultation. Government officials have continued to discuss options behind the scenes, but the ministry is yet to release a finalized plan.

A Tyee FOI request for the most recent version of the plan was denied on the grounds that advice to cabinet or a public body may be kept secret.

Plan won't specify methods

The final plan will provide guidelines for managing wolf numbers, but won't recommend any particular methods of killing wolves, Thomson said.

Determining those methods "will be done in consultation with the impacted parties, with caribou recovery processes, with First Nations, with the livestock industry, with the Cattlemen," he said.

The plan will say that decisions need to be based on science and that they should not put the populations of species at risk, he said. "The plan will only set the foundation for those considerations, then we'll look [at] an area-by-area process of what would be the most appropriate approaches."

In much of B.C., wolf numbers will be managed through hunting and trapping regulations, such as bag limits, season lengths and season timing, he said. Elsewhere, there will be "more concentrated approaches where there is endangered species at risk, caribou recovery and significant impacts and livestock impacts and damages."

Those areas would include places where wolves are known to be hampering the recovery of mountain caribou, such as the Cariboo region, the Peace River and the Kootenays, he said. "We certainly recognize we need to maintain a healthy predator-prey relationship," he said. "We also know that the predator component is having a significant negative impact on recovery efforts."

Thomson said the province won't return to baiting and poisoning wolves. "We've listened to the public, and I've made a clear response that is not one of the options that we're considering. We know the concerns about that."

The minister has said there are an estimated 8,500 wolves in B.C., of which between 1,300 and 1,400 are killed each year. The wolf population is not considered threatened in the province. "We're well below the sustainable levels of harvest with respect to the population, so it's not a conservation concern," Thomson said in the past.

Sadie Parr, coordinator of the Just Beings wolf conservation group in Golden, has argued the government should release its management plan so it can be peer-reviewed by scientists who can determine whether it's in line with current thinking on wolves and the role of large predators in an ecosystem.  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics, Environment

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