The provincial government is considering a wolf cull in the Itcha-Ilgachuz to try and save the local caribou herd from extirpation.
“The Itcha-Ilgachuz herd in the last year decreased from approximately 700 animals in 2018 to 385 in the 2019 survey,” said Tami Kendall from Kamloops, who along with Sean Mitchell of Smithers appeared by telephone conference during the Cariboo Regional District regular board meeting Friday, Oct. 25. “It’s definitely a concern.”
With Caribou numbers in the Itcha-Ilgachuz herd seeing that drastic decline, a ‘predator reduction plan’ is being considered, said Kendall and Mitchell, members of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Caribou Recovery Team.
Asked by Area I director Jim Glassford what has caused the decline in the Itcha-Ilgachuz herd, Kendall said the primary cause is predators.
“Have you got anything in process for culling the predators?” Glassford asked.
“We are in the process of implementing a predator management plan for that herd,” Kendall responded.
Mitchell said they did a targeted consultation of a predator reduction project primarily with wolves and a little bit of cougars in certain areas of the Itchas.
“The targeted consultation was with Indigenous communities, guide outfitters and trappers,” Mitchell said. “That consultation ended in mid-September. We received many comments from those targeted stakeholders as well as 1,000s and 1,000s of templated e-mails from other interest groups.”
Information is being pulled together to develop a plan and if the decision is to move forward, Mitchell said it is hoped it will be implemented some time this winter.
“There has been a drastic decline in the Itchas herd, a fifth or 20 per cent over the last year so we need to act now in reducing the number of predators.”
In the last century caribou declined in B.C. from approximately 40,000 down to 19,000 today, Kendall said.
The federal government is initiating conservation efforts for caribou under the federal species at risk act and the province is expected to reduce the threat to caribou first and critical habitat.
The province is negotiating a bilateral conservation agreement with the federal government to prevent the possibility of a section 80 protection order under the species at risk act and taking the threat very seriously, Kendall said.
If it was put in place, the province would lose its authority to manage the land base or caribou habitat, Kendall said.
“At the same time the province is trying to balance the stewardship for the herd with the needs of all British Columbians,” she added.
Some of the management actions the program has in place include population monitoring, habitat protection, habitat restoration, recreation management, maternal penning, supplemental feeding, predator management and primary prey management and captive breeding augmentation.
Kendall said there are 54 herds in B.C. and each herd will have a draft herd plan developed for review.
“This is a living document so as we get new information we update the document with population surveys, management action and so on. The herd plan will be used to drive the engagement operation of the herd.”
Presently and into the next months, the province will continue work with First Nations, stakeholders, communities and industries to co-operatively develop recommended management action.
“It’s really important to include local knowledge and Indigenous knowledge in these herd plans. Our biologists don’t always get the opportunity to be out on the land base.”
A tentative timeline the province is looking at to complete the Tweedsmuir-Entiako plan is by May 2020 and a Cariboo-Chilcotin Complex plan by June 2020.
The goal of the meeting Friday was to let the CRD board know it has a voice in the caribou recovery program and to schedule an engagement session with board, which was tentatively set for January 2020. It will be up to the CRD if they want to invite other committees to join the session.
“This caribou issue has been a hot topic as you well know across the province,” said CRD chair Margo Wagner. “I think we will definitely be inviting our member municipalities with their councils to come and join us.”
When asked by Area director John Massier if there will be similar planning meetings regarding other herds in the region, such as the Barkerville-Highland herd, Kendall responded, ‘yes,’ probably beginning in 2020.