Open season could be declared on wolves in the Thompson region starting next year in order to control attacks on livestock and caribou.
A B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations document proposes that hunting rules be changed to allow unlimited wolf killing year round.
The proposal is in its infancy but is already triggering the polarization seen in other parts of the province where the same measures have been adopted.
"Wolves have been persecuted in this province for decades. Re-declaring the war on wolves is in no way a solution to the perceived issue," said Mel Rothenburger, who in his capacity as former president of the International Wildlife Preservation Association has long denounced such sweeping solutions.
Hunters in the Thompson region are currently allowed three wolf-kills from September to June.
"This proposal intends to provide more hunting opportunity for wolves in the Thompson region while assisting the (Conservation Officer Service) and landowners in addressing wolf conflicts on private property," states the ministry staff rationale for an open season.
The document states that the conservation service "currently invests significant resources (at times, all COs in the region) in addressing wolf/livestock issues."
During the 2011 season, 21 wolves were killed in the Thompson. In 2012, hunters killed 47 wolves, including one in a guided hunt, and 13 more were killed by COs.
Anecdotal observations determined that the wolf population is increasing and "can sustain a higher harvest," states the document.
The ministry states that anywhere between 330 and 500 wolves live in the Thompson region.
Rothenburger argues that reducing animals to what's "harvestable" only benefits the sport hunter and interfering in the natural balance of animal populations becomes an unending effort.
"This approach to conservation and wildlife management will go on forever."
The ministry is floating the idea to Kamloops Fish and Game Club members but local wildlife biologists proposing the changes refused to speak to media because it's still too early in the process, according to ministry public affairs officer Logan Wenham.
"It would be premature to discuss them in detail," stated Wenham in an email. "Should this proposal move forward, public consultation on the merits of the proposal would occur."
The Kamloops-based B.C. Cattlemen's Association said it was aware of the proposal and supported the changes.
"Since the CO Service took over the predation file, they've become a lot more aware of the numbers and the severity of the regions that are most harshly impacted by (wolves)," said Kevin Boon, association general manager.
It will allow landowners to kill problem wolves without fear they're breaking the law, said Boon. He added that ranchers aren't interested in wiping out the population since non-problem packs keep problem wolves away.
But when wolves get a taste of livestock there's no turning back.
"They come for the deer and stay for the beef," said Boon.
However, he said, expanded hunting "doesn't help us that much" because the animal is so elusive that few can hunt them down.
Other measures are more helpful, he said, like the current conservation officer service's practice of tracking and killing wolf packs after determining that they've been attacking livestock.
Rothenburger contends that culling wolves is no solution at all.
"There's no question that ranching is an important part of our economy," he said. "But killing off wolves is not the answer and neither is opening up the hunting of wolves the answer to reducing ungulates losses."
The public in B.C.'s Cariboo region also had strong opinions about the issue when the province announced the same measures in August 2011.
At the time, independent biologists strongly disagreed with the provincial wolf-kill program.
The province also stated that wolves are extremely difficult to hunt and trap and their population growth and dispersal rates are higher than those of other carnivores.
But Paul Paquet, who has extensively studied wolves on the B.C. coast, described the ministry's rationale as "woefully ignorant" and said wolves are easily trapped and hunted by those experienced at it.