Tsilhqot'in Chief Joe Alphonse said even the hunt is not enough and the
government should go further. He'd like to see the province contract trappers
and put a bounty on wolves on the plateau west of the Fraser River in central
B.C. "As First Nations people we have great respect for wolves but you have to
keep things in balance," Alphonse said in a recent interview.
"Eventually things will balance out," but in the meantime caribou, cattle
and wild horses will pay the price, he said.
This summer, the Ministry of Forests and Lands eliminated any bag limit and
ordered the wolf hunt season to stay open indefinitely in the area - an approach
already in place in several other areas of the province. Provincial officials
are adamant it is not a cull and say the wolf population is at a historic high,
and both ranchers and area First Nations support the open hunt.
Alphonse said low prices for wolf pelts means an open hunt won't be enough
to entice hunters and trappers to reduce the numbers of the pack.
Members of his band have noticed increased wolf predation on the wild horse
population of the Chilcotin, as well as predation on caribou and cattle.
"I think, in the long run, if we don't intervene, the animals themselves are
going to suffer.... The animals will end up starving to death."
Joe Scott, international program co-ordinator for the group Conservation
Northwest, said wolves have a key role to play in a balanced ecosystem, and he
was surprised that anyone would advocate a bounty hunt.
In some isolated cases where small herds of mountain caribou are at
immediate risk, his group supported targeted culls of wolves known to prey on
the herds. The technique has been used in B.C. and Alberta on a case-by-case
basis and is under consideration by the federal Environment Ministry to protect
threatened mountain caribou. But even then, it's a short-term solution, he
"You can't just kill wolves. You have to deal with the ultimate causes that
put these animals in danger in the first place," Scott said, citing habitat
damage from human activity.
David Williams, president of the group Friends of Nemaiah Valley, which
advocated for a wild horse sanctuary and continues to monitor the herd, said
there is wolf predation but "it's not a bad thing, ecologically speaking."
Williams said there is a built-in bias against wolves, which were hunted to
extinction throughout most of the United States and near extinction in much of
Canada by the 1950s before measures were put in place to protect these top-tier
"What effects them much more than predation are changes in the ecosystem due
to pine beetle and wildfires," Williams said.
In the end, however, Williams believes it's up to the area First Nations to
decide how to manage the wildlife and resources of the region.
Alphonse said the issue of the wolf hunt has put some traditional allies on
opposite sides of the debate.
"We don't want to see wolves killed off."