Wolves hunted by helicopter to save caribou
Land fragmented by forestry, and roads have created recent landscape changes that enable wolves to have free reign over a wild caribou herd located in the South Peace region, which is located in British Columbia, Canada, in the South Selkirk region that borders Washington state and Idaho.
The herd, which was 46 strong in 2009, dwindled to 18 by March last year and, according to wildlife officials, wolves are the leading cause of their decline.
This is the only spot in the U.S. where caribou are found. The caribou are listed as endangered species in both the U.S. and British Columbia.
Due to the link between wolves and the decline of the caribou herd, Canadian officials plan to use helicopters to gun down up to 24 wolves north of the Idaho border this winter in an effort to save the 18 remaining southern Selkirk Mountains woodland caribou from extinction. The plan, which has been evolving for more than a year, will take place this winter. Officials hope it will save the herd.
According to The Greenfield Reporter, Canada’s Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources has been working on the wolf-removal plan for over a year. Wildlife officials within Idaho and Washington state as well as First Nations, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were all consulted prior to the final plan, which was announced this week.
Tom Ethier, an assistant deputy minister with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, told the Globe and Mail that “a wolf cull is the only way to have an immediate impact on the caribou population.”
Canadian officials stress that the hunting and trapping of wolves in British Columbia have not effectively reduced wolf populations or decreased predation rates on caribou. Short term recovery of these caribou herds rely on proper wolf management, which means helicopter culls on the Canadian side of the wolves’ territory.
While conscious of the long-term effects of human proximity to the caribou herds, Ethier supports the decision to remove the major predator from the equation, stating, “We think by hiring experienced pilots and experienced sharp shooters that this is the most humane way to remove wolves.” Both U.S. and Canadian officials believe that this cull is quite possibly one of the only ways to save this caribou herd.