The Species at Risk Act (COSEWIC) and many other scientific groups have identified that the number one cause on the loss of wildlife is due to habitat loss and fragmentation. In British Columbia we heavily rely on natural resource extraction. This benefit has come at a significant cost to our wildlife’s home. We have heavily fragmented migration patterns, critical habitats, old growth forests, calving areas, etc. The past decades have literally changed the landscape so dramatically some species will never recover such as the Selkirk herds of Mountain Caribou. However, it doesn’t stop there…presently our existing ungulate species are also being affected on various levels by habitat fragmentation.
Social Policy vs Wildlife Management
Everyone within the hunting community knows of the grizzly closure for the purpose of hunting. We also know that this was a politically motivated decision and had nothing to do with the science or the proper management of the species. Welcome to the area of social policy wildlife management. All major pieces of legislation are backed by one major understanding when pertaining to wildlife management. The understanding that all decisions are to be based on the best available science for the betterment of the species and if unknown then you err on the side of conservation. The true danger of the grizzly decision is straying from science and relying on social policy, this is a practise that needs to be legally accounted for.
There is currently 600,000 km's of resource roads in British Columbia with an estimated 10,000 km of resource roads to be built every year. B.C is losing vast amounts of wildlife habitat due to resource exploration and extraction. The loss of habitat far surpasses mediation being done to put these areas back to a wild state. Access to wildland and wildlife has reached a critical tipping point with very little being done by our Government and Big Industry to repair the damages. A road closure stops Hunters. A deactivated road stops all hunting pressure and back country use allowing Habitat and Wildlife to rejuvenate.
Declining Ungulate Populations in B.C.
Although this issue has recently been brought to light by the BC Government, this is not an issue that is “new”. The declines have been in the making for the past 30-years. Political pushes for increased hunter opportunity, upsetting the balance between predator and prey, increased access, improper wildlife management and the list goes on has created a consistent downward slide for the past decades. It is only now that we have hit a critical mass that the Government has reacted. We need to shift gears from a reactive management regime to a proactive management regime here in British Columbia when it comes to our wildlife. All of our ungulates are in a dire state and for different reasons.
Firstly, we want to state that predator and prey relationships have been here longer than any of us. These relationships have always mimicked each other from highs to lows. The issue isn’t the predators but instead the fact that we as humans have modified the landscape to tip the favour to that of the predators. We also have to remember that we are also a part of that predator group. Yes, predator control is a part of the issue but it is not the only “ISSUE”. There are no silver bullets in wildlife management. We strive to create a balanced environment and that includes having predators on the landscape to do the job they were assigned to do.
Finance Related to Conservation & Management
If you want to know what is priority to our BC Government simply flip through the annual budgets and see where they are allocating money. Guess what, wildlife management is one of the lowest amounts within the fiscal budgets, cause plain and simple…our wildlife is NOT a priority. Our wildlife receives as little as 0.06% of the provincial budget. When you compare that with some USA States with a land mass 3-4 times smaller, our provincial budget of $35M dollars per year pales in comparison to State level budgets of $71M+ per year in the USA. Our wildlife generates more revenue for our Government versus what they put back into it, this is wrong.
Redefining Hunter Image
As short as 50-years ago, hunters were highly revered within mainstream society. However, this was mainly due to an evenly distributed population of both rural and urban citizens. Presently, almost 80% of our population lives within urban settings. Hunting is now an activity which is mostly viewed via social media, TV and mainstream media. Over the past 25-years the hunting image has been reduced to a non-favorable aspect of human society. Honestly, we as a hunting community have a lot to blame for that as well. Our goal is to redefine and re-educate the mainstream population on the true benefits and hunting heritage of this home we call Canada.
Our group 110% supports all research whether on-going or past studies. We also fully support the application of research results to create responsible management strategies and harvest regimes. However, we have noticed a disturbing trend of using current research studies to delay immediate conservation measures to protect our existing, declining ungulate populations. Conservation is just that…to conserve. Everyone has admitted that our ungulate populations are in trouble, therefore our government should put in immediate conservative measures to protect the remaining populations and then adjust accordingly once the results are available in 4-6 years. This type of practise happens all over Canada, but in BC we react very little and wait for results. This can have catastrophic effects on our declining populations.
The hunting regulations in British Columbia have remained somewhat unchanged for the past 50-years. Some general seasons have been replaced with Limited Entry Draws, some shortened and some expanded. However, the one thing that has changed is the amount of access, the increase in the human population and the fast advancement in technology (trail cams, GPS, quads, riverboats, etc.). Our existing season lengths and generous bag limits cannot be sustained. This is something very unique to British Columbia as the rest of North America has shorter seasons, most animals on a draw system and bag limits that are manageable. Everyone but us has shifted to the mentality of herd quality vs. hunter opportunity.
The BC Government has identified both whitetail deer and Merriam turkey as an invasive species and has basically employed a management strategy to zero. Although we acknowledge that some interspecific competition exists between whitetail deer and mule deer, the reality is the rest of North America has learned to assign value to both of these species. They have also developed many management strategies that can accommodate both species on the landscape. We are not the only place in North America that has whitetail deer and mule deer overlapping. We are definitely not the only place either that has had an introduced population of wild turkeys. Both are resilient species and can be manage to create a great economic gain and hunting opportunity for all to benefit from.
Herd Quality vs Hunter Opportunity
This is mainly a mentality shift that needs to be done by both our Government Wildlife Managers and our Hunters within the Province of British Columbia. The push in the past by government and some conservation organizations was to increase hunter opportunity without taking into consideration the status of our land’s carrying capacity and our wildlife population’s health. This is basically putting the cart before the horse. Proper wildlife management is ensuring that our wildlife herds meet the carrying capacity of the land, thereby creating a harvestable surplus which in return establishes hunter opportunity and success. We plan on driving an education-based agenda to join the rest of North America on establishing a mandate of herd quality first and hunter opportunity second.
Plain and simple, BC’s ecosystems are designed to burn. It is mother natures way of restocking the grocery store shelves. Prior to the 1960’s our forests in BC burned almost every 25-years on a massive scale. Then along came Smokey the Bear and fire suppression. This has drastically changed the make-up of our forest’s landscapes. The stems per hectare have increased, the litterfall has deepened, our fires are smaller and the carrying capacity of our lands for wildlife has declined. Simply put we have deteriorated our forests so they simply cannot sustain large wildlife populations like they use to decades before. We need FIRES and big ones.