Monday, September 18, 2006

Environmentalists: Kill logging, not wolves

OTTAWA (CP) — Environmentalists are slamming a proposal to protect British Columbia’s dwindling population of mountain caribou by killing wolves and cougars. A report released Friday by B.C.-based Valhallah Wilderness Watch says the caribou are threatened with extinction because clearcut logging is eliminating their habitat, not because of predators. It says the cull, suggested in a background paper by the government’s species at risk co-ordination office, is misguided. The report says there are only 1,900 mountain caribou left, all of them in B.C. forests where they feed on lichen that grows on old-growth trees.

Colleen McCrory, a director of the environmental group, said the population could be extinct within 10 years unless current forestry practices change. "British Columbia has the world’s only mountain caribou and they’re on the verge of extinction," she said. "The populations are crashing, particularly in the southern part of the interior wet belt area." She called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to make protection of the caribou a priority.

Craig Pettitt, a wildlife biologist with Valhalla, said that of 18 mountain caribou herds, two have disappeared and five consist of fewer than 20 animals. All but one herd are in decline, he said. The mountain caribou are listed as threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act, but their habitat is on provincial land, which means the province has the lead in dealing with the issue.

Trish Hayes, a spokesman for the Canadian Wildlife Service, a federal agency, said the federal and B.C. governments are working together on a recovery plan to be completed next year. She said the prediction that the caribou will be extinct within 10 years is highly speculative and depends on precisely which population is being considered. Hayes declined to comment on proposals to protect the caribou by killing wolves and cougars, referring questions to the B.C. government. Provincial officials could not be reached Friday.

Rachel Plotkin of the Sierra Club of Canada said cull approach would drive wolves and cougars into the same predicament as the caribou.

  • The Chronicle Herald