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.