Wolf killing from the air needs to stop: Wek’èezhìi Renewable Resources Board

Wolf populationswill need to be reduced by 60 to 80 per cent, if caribou herd are to recover. (Supplied by Pexels.)
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An Indigenous resources board has recommended the GNWT stop shooting wolves from the air, according to a new report.

Wek’èezhìi Renewable Resources Board said more effort should instead be made to kill wolves using ground-based techniques.

The culling of wolves was started on a trial basis in 2020 by the GNWT in collaboration with the Tłı̨chǫ government, and is part of a five-year programme of monitoring wolf predation on local caribou populations. 

The Kǫ̀ k’èetı̀ and Sahtì Ekwǫ̀, Bathurst and Bluenose-East caribou herds are being protected by the measures.

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The Bathurst herd declined from approximately 472,000 in 1986 to about 8,200 in 2018, and the Bluenose-East caribou herd declined from 103,000 in 2010 to about 19,300 in 2018.

Since the culling program began, 36 wolves were shot and killed from the air while 130 were killed by harvesters on the ground.

But because of COVID-19, a ground survey scheduled for June was not conducted, meaning there is no data available to determine what impact the culling has had on the caribou populations.

The report submitted by the resources board said that culling needs to continue further. According to past instances, the wolf population needs to be reduced by 60-80 per cent of their pre-control abundance levels and maintained at those lower levels before researchers will be able to notice a rebound in the caribou population.

Ultimately, the resource board is calling on the GNWT to ramp up its ground-based culling techniques, because “restrictions on harvest have not been enough despite the hardships borne by harvesters,” the Wek’èezhìi Renewable Resources Board said in a statement. 

“The WRRB concluded, based on current evidence, that a serious conservation concern for both the Kǫ̀ k’èetı̀and Sahtì ekwǫ̀ herds exists and, as such, increased management and monitoring actions are warranted,” a statement from the board read.

The resources board ultimately does not have final say over the decision. That lies with environment minister Shane Thompson, who has 42 days to accept, amend or reject the proposals.

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