Wolf cull to protect Telkwa caribou would be premature: Ministry

Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations says it is too early to tell if a wolf cull is needed to protect Telkwa caribou.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations is investigating the impacts of wolves on the Telkwa caribou herd, but a spokesperson said extending its wolf cull to this region would be premature.

The province announced on Jan. 15 it was starting a cull of up to 160 wolves in the South Peace region to save threatened caribou herds.

Wolves are among the factors being investigated in the decline of a small herd of caribou in the Telkwa region, whose population dropped dramatically between 1965 and 1995.

The ministry said an increased human presence in their habitat, predator populations and an increase in low-elevation habitat were among the potential causes.

Local monitoring of the Telkwa mountain region is focused on the number of caribou, humans and wolves.

Caribou movements are already being tracked with GPS collars and an aerial survey will be conducted in late winter to count the animals and look into calf survival rates.

The ministry wants to expand its monitoring to include wolves.

This would involve putting GPS collars on the predators to learn more about how much time they spend near the caribou or using human-created trails.

The ministry did not rule out a cull in the region but said it would be premature at this time because it was not clear if wolves were the primary cause of the caribou decline.

The number of wolves in the Skeena region is estimated to be about 2,450 but only a small number of these would share habitat with the Telkwa caribou herd.

“We do not have specific data on wolf population levels or pack sizes in the Telkwa area, but this research will help yield that information, as well as their movement patterns relative to the Telkwa caribou herd’s range,” a spokesperson for the ministry said.