A draft plan to more effectively manage grey wolves in B.C. is getting a first-glance thumbs-up from the B.C. Cattlemen's Association.
The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations posted the draft plan online (env.gov.bc.ca/fw/public-consultation/grey-wolf/) on Wednesday, allowing for public input until Dec. 5.
In general terms, the plan proposes a balanced approach to ensure a self-sustaining wolf population based on consultation with ranchers and First Nations. It also envisions a two-zone management strategy to balance wolf conservation with livestock depredation and species at risk.
The question invariably asked: Is there a cull planned?
Yet the plan makes no specific reference to any cull, only to the continued practice of "direct removal" of individuals and packs to address management objectives.
Moreover, Kevin Boon, general manager of the B.C. Cattlemen's Association, said they were not asking for one.
"In no way have we ever asked for a cull," Boon said. "We have asked for management of the population. We understand the importance of having a healthy population of wolves out there for the ecosystem."
Boon hadn't fully read the plan on Wednesday, but he personally agreed with much of what is proposed.
"No. 1, we take it as a positive that they've come up with a plan, and it's a draft plan, so there is opportunity for input," he said. "I think there'll be an opportunity to work at modifying the plan to accommodate some of our needs."
Environment Minister Terry Lake said a balanced approach to management is essential. Wolf populations have climbed in step with rises in the ungulate population, he noted.
"What (the plan) does, it recognizes the challenge of management," Lake said. "Obviously it's a highly charged emotional debate at times."
The proposed zones would apply to areas where specific control measures are required, for example, for protection of caribou populations, he said.
Conservation officers are directly involved — wolf management is their second highest priority after human safety, Lake said. They work with input from local stakeholder committees and train trappers in predation verification techniques.
Wolf predation of livestock has increased in recent years north of Kamloops, and in some areas of the Kootenays and Okanagan. In the Cariboo, Bulkley and Peace River regions, ranchers are losing the battle, Boon said.
Coming up with a comprehensive plan, based on consultations with stakeholders, is crucial if extreme fluctuations in wolf populations are to be moderated. Boon suggested ranchers could work with trappers to allow for a wolf-pelt harvest rather than wasting animals that are killed for management purposes.
Wolf populations are "likely" stable or increasing across B.C. and wolves are not considered an at-risk species, the plan notes. The current population is estimated to be 8,500 animals, similar to an estimate 20 years ago.
However, the plan also points to the need for more research and data to guide the development of a management framework.