B.C.'s wolf kill program 'unlawful,' court challenge contends
The B.C. government wolf kill program is being challenged in court by environmental group Pacific Wild. PHOTO BY IAN MCALLISTER / Pacific Wild
Animal rights lawyer, Rebeka Breder, contends hunting
A B.C. environmental group will argue it is illegal to kill wolves by shooting them from aircraft during a hearing in the province’s Supreme Court beginning Wednesday.
The environmental group, Pacific Wild, is challenging a provincial program that has led to the deaths of more than 1,400 wolves in B.C. since 2015.
An animal rights lawyer, Rebeka Breder, will argue both the provincial permitting process and the method used to cull wolves violates provincial and federal laws.
Hundreds of wolves are killed every year by hunters, who shoot at the packs while flying in aircraft. The province says it’s necessary to support the recovery of declining caribou herds.
Breder said federal aviation laws do not permit the use of firearms from an aircraft, except for certain individuals under specific conditions.
“The result of these permits not only involve the mass killing of a species but also have a potential impact on the public because you have armed individuals shooting at moving targets from a moving aircraft. How safe is that?”
asks Breder. She said the provincial regulation does not require the shooters to have any training on firing guns from an aircraft.
Animal rights lawyer Rebeka Breder holds petition, challenging the wolf kill program, outside B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. PHOTO BY GEOFF CAMPBELL
Breder said the lack of detail in the regulation is at the heart of the second argument dealing with the B.C. Wildlife Act, which will make before Justice Christopher Giaschi, who is hearing the case over three days.
“What is happening is that there is some government bureaucrat, who doesn’t have any guidelines, who is just issuing permits, but under the wildlife act, regional managers do not have unfettered discretion,” said Breder.
That’s what the Western Wilderness Committee successfully argued in a similar case in 1988.
“In that case, the judge told the government the regulation should be a full guide for the regional managers to know clearly under which circumstances they can issue a permit,” Breder explained. “In this case, we are saying government is not even close to meeting the concerns of the previous judge.”
The B.C. Wildlife Service’s predator reduction program has been the main tool to support the recovery of 13 woodland caribou herds in central B.C., northern B.C. and parts of the Chilcotin. The herds range from as few as 25 to as many as 450 members.
Before the cull, the B.C. Wildlife Service estimated the largest herd, called the Southern Peace, was declining by as much as 15 per cent annually. It says that since the wolf cull started six years ago, its population has increased by 81 per cent.
The B.C. government wolf kill program is being
challenged in court by the environmental group Pacific Wild.
PHOTO BY IAN MCALLISTER
Although the Wildlife Service admits the decline of the caribou is due to resource extraction, it relies on culling as much as 80 per cent of the area’s wolf population every year under its caribou recovery plan.
It contracts private companies to bid on annual culls, which it says is a short-term measure while restoring habitat is a long-term plan. The service wants to extend the program for five more years and is gathering public opinion through a survey on the Ministry of Forests website until Nov. 15.
Pacific Wild, the environmental group that’s financing the judicial review, is concerned that what began as a short term measure six years ago has evolved into one that will have run for more than a decade.
“We say without habitat protection, no amount of killing wolves will protect the caribou,” said Laurie McConnell, the group’s wolf campaigner. “The government has to stop awarding logging cut blocks in endangered caribou herd areas.”
However, even if the court case is won, the province will likely resume the wolf cull after it creates more fulsome and transparent regulations. Nevertheless, Breder said the judicial review is important.
“It really highlights how important it is for regulations to set out what the government can and cannot do and how decisions are made,” she said. “Right now, it is all a big secret.”
Originally Published October 26 2021
By: Lisa Cordasco