Endangered caribou herds in the Kootenays and South Peace region have continued to decline as the B.C. government assesses the second year of its wolf removal project.
Nine wolves were killed by hunting and trapping in the South Selkirk Mountains this winter, while wolves took two caribou out of a herd that was down to 18 animals at last count.
Forests ministry staff will try to shoot 24 wolves from helicopters before the snow melts in the South Selkirks. Six of the remaining caribou have been fitted with radio collars to track them.
Four northern caribou groups in the South Peace targeted for wolf control have also declined, to about 170 animals in the Quintette, Moberley, Scott and Kennedy Siding herds. Ministry staff have documented that about one third of losses in the South Peace are from wolves, where there are seven herds, one down to a single bull.
Working with Treaty 8 First Nations, the ministry’s goal is to shoot from 120 to 160 wolves in the South Peace this year. The Graham herd, the largest in the South Peace and the province at about 700 animals, is being monitored for its survival without protection from wolves.
Forests Minister Steve Thomson said the program will continue next winter, along with a project to capture and pen pregnant female caribou in the Kootenay region to keep newborn calves from being killed by wolves.
“They’re getting increased survival rates for the calves from the maternal penning, with lots of partners in support of that program,” Thomson said.
The recovery plan for the South Selkirk population includes protecting 2.2 million hectares or 95 per cent of the best caribou habitat from logging and road-building.
The South Peace recovery plan includes 400,000 hectares, about 90 per cent of the high-elevation winter caribou habitat in the region.