Lesley Fox: B.C. wildlife is in crisis, and we’re the problem

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      I must be crazy to think that, in 2015, the government is using gunmen in helicopters to chase down and kill wolves, or that a community on Vancouver Island would be trapping and killing deer in people’s yards. But right now, that’s exactly what’s happening.

      Even worse, it comes with the blessing of our government, which is using our tax dollars to do it.

      Wildlife management in B.C. needs an overhaul

      For years, we’ve killed everything that offended us. Wolves that were competition for “game”, coyotes that frightened our children, deer that disturbed our fancy landscaping—the list goes on and on. Biologists have learned that this cycle of killing is not only useless in terms of preventing conflict, but it can actually lead to greater issues such as trophic cascading, when the entire ecosystem collapses because the top predators were removed.

      But despite the growing body of science—and it is growing quite large—our governments continue to see wildlife as a nuisance and commodity, an expendable asset.

      The truth is that British Columbia does not have a wildlife problem. There is no wolf problem, nor is there a deer problem. There’s a clear people problem.

      For example, the leading cause of the caribou decline in the Selkirk Mountains is habitat loss caused by human activity. If we want to truly save the caribou, we need to restrict human activity in that area. Logging roads and tracks made by snowmobiles create convenient pathways for wolves to travel. It makes it easy for wolves to get to the caribou. Deep snow can slow and discourage wolves. But once again, rather than acknowledging the impact of our activities, we blame the animals.

      And if you didn’t know, wolves are the wild cousins of our domestic dog at home. They have similar behaviours and needs. Wolves are smart and social; they also cry out loud when they are in pain or injured.

      Despite these facts, it’s business as usual. Our political leadership has no interest in making the necessary changes to limit human interference or activity to protect the caribou, or any other wild animal. In fact, B.C. doesn’t even have basic legislation to protect endangered species. That’s right; there is no law on our books to protect endangered wildlife. How sad is that?

      And to those individuals who like to complain to politicians about wildlife, or who truly hate wolves, or who come apart at the seams when a deer eats their flowers, or can’t who can’t stand the sight of a geese poop in the park: you’re living in the wrong province.

      I was born and raised in Ontario and have travelled extensively. I can tell you with all my heart that we live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. B.C. has endless mountains, lush forests, and gorgeous beaches all sitting right next to a specular ocean. Wild animals are a natural and normal part of these landscapes.

      Animals like wolves, deer, coyotes, beavers, raccoons, rabbits, skunks, squirrels, gophers, wolverines, bears, seals, seagulls, and geese all live here. While conflict between people and these animals does occur, much of that conflict could be prevented. We must learn to share the land and be patient with our wild neighbours—after all, they’ve learned to live with us. Shouldn’t we learn to live with them?

      We need a plan, not a “cull”

      It may sound boring to sit and write up laws, construct educational programs, and review science. It probably sounds exceptionally boring compared to flying through the air with a high-powered rifle. But the simple fact is, it works. It all stems from understanding the animals, understanding the ecosystem, and working to find a long-term solution.

      And imagine, instead of killing everything in sight, if our government reallocated that funding to hire more conservation officers, invested in educational programs, created greenways, subsidized electric fencing, secured habitat, and directly helped those specific individuals who are negatively impacted by wildlife behaviour. We would achieve so much more. We might also have money left in the budget to directly support our municipalities with coexistence strategies.

      But when we’re spending all this money on helicopters and high-powered rifles (low-ball estimates are around $150,000 for one year), not to mention the cost of trapping and killing deer in Oak Bay, there is no money left in the budget for important things.

      And because animals will just come back after the killing spree is over, the killing will start again—it will never stops. And the spending will never stop.

      From our attempts to exploit natural resources to our desire to feed wildlife (or not appropriately put away garbage), we’re creating ideal environment for human-wildlife conflicts. If we want to make change, we need to try a new approach.

      Change begins when we decide we want to be compassionate, patient, and respectful of the one-time gift of the environment. It might take some time, and it may cause some headaches. We can do it.

      But, as I started out by saying, I’m clearly crazy. Perhaps the difference between me and our provincial leaders is that I know it.

      Comments

      13 Comments

      Cathy

      Feb 3, 2015 at 11:28am

      You are not crazy Lesley, you are right. I get so sickened by people killing any being that crosses their path. This government has certainly shirked their ethical responsibility in wildlife protection and management. I guess we should not be surprised, Christy Clark does not even care about protecting and truly helping the destitute children in our province, why would she care about some poor creature? Both are our most vulnerable, so they don’t really matter in her eyes.

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      @Cathy

      Feb 3, 2015 at 12:35pm

      It is amazing how you can mention two important issues, not get it. Every dollar spent on "teh amnimals" is one that cannot be spent on poor children.

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      @@Cathy

      Feb 3, 2015 at 1:16pm

      yeah, as if crusty botox is "gunna" spend it on poor kids. get real.

      Cathy

      Feb 3, 2015 at 1:23pm

      Perhaps you don't realize that money is not being spent on the children anyway. The clawback by the Liberal government to the tune of 16 million or so is money NOT going to the poorest children in BC. Money that rightfully belongs to them from the separated parent. So, you see money is not being spent on the children at all, their own money is lining the government coffers. There is no priority for this government. As the writer mentions the money spent on killing is futile and short-sighted - the animals just keep coming back, so money is wasted over and over again. Seems to just be how the Liberals choose to operate with our money.

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      Thank-you

      Feb 3, 2015 at 3:15pm

      for stating the truth. We will look back at culling methods in the future and be embarrassed about how that could have happened.

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      Silent majority

      Feb 3, 2015 at 6:00pm

      It's good that the majority of people side with the biologists on this issue.

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      @@@Cathy

      Feb 4, 2015 at 7:26am

      Well, what would be look like if we had a sort of hierarchy of values? Poverty comes first, environmental protection comes down the list somewhere. If we have to choose between employing conservation officers and providing the poor with adequate nutrition, we provide the poor with adequate nutrition.

      But let's face it: most government employment is a post-WWII makework project for people who, absent our particular style of socialism and its regulatory bureaucracies, would be unemployed. So we do have a welfare program designed to give some people adequate nutrition---and enough for a vacation, a big TV, a cell phone, etc.

      If organized on a proper economic basis, Canada would provide everything that northern european states like denmark and worway do. Unfortunately, Canadians are not the smartest people in the world. Big on talk about how great Canada is, little response to things like poverty.

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      Marion

      Feb 4, 2015 at 8:39am

      Cathy...ever dollar spent on animals is not being spent on poor children??? FIrst off I will say.....animals were there for me when I needed peace and distractions beccause people were destroying my life...ie WCB for a decaade...s....people weren't there. Animals gave me absolute joy and peace during a very stressful time. So I have a loyalty to our wildlife that nobody is going to take away or denigrate. They were there and people weren't. So just stuff it that people first and all the time BS.

      As for poor children...I suggest people start taking having children seriously. Plan, don't have kids you can't afford to look after yourself. And don't drink...one child born with FAS costs us 1 million dollars in our lifetime. If we had to spend all our money on the pathetic state of humans it would all go and we still would have needs. This idea every dollar has to go to the poor and starving is for the birds. We put animals into the bad situations they are in...we have some responsibility ethically and morally to treat them decently.

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      Marion

      Feb 4, 2015 at 8:53am

      And lets also remember...since lots of people likely don't know....our Canada geese did not naturally even live and breed in BC. There were planted all over the place by 'conservation' groups like Ducks Unlimited so hunters had geese to kill. . So there is that aspect...the poor birds didn't have a choice.

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      Marion

      Feb 4, 2015 at 9:43am

      And a couple of quotes from someone with endless credentials:

      "It’s critical to avow that sentience matters. Science tells us animals have feelings, emotions, and preferences and individuals care about and worry about what happens to them and to their families and friends. We need to consider what we know about animal sentience when we intrude into their lives, even if it is on their behalf."

      ...Marc Bekoff, Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado and a former Guggenheim Fellow

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaeltobias/2013/05/09/compassionate-conse...

      Using the word “euthanasia” in one form or ANOTHER IS A WAY TO SANITIZE what is really happening. LET'S GET THE WORDS STRAIGHT and then perhaps people who are passive about the unnecessary killing of urban wildlife, because we don't take easy measures to coexist, will take action to stop this horrific practice."

      - Marc Bekoff, former Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado and a former Guggenheim Fellow

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