Monday, November 18, 2013

Wolf Population Booming In The Nicola Valley

The following column has been previously published in the Merritt Herald in response to the wolf attack on a forestry worker near Merritt.

© Othmar Vohringer

Merritt has been in the international headlines again. This time it had nothing to do with feral cats or bobcats roaming in our city. This time it was much more serious. The headlines read: “Aggressive wolf pack attack near Merritt prompts warning”. The encounter was serious enough for the BC Forestry Safety Council to issue a warning to all their employees and people living in the Merritt area. As much as some try to convince us that this is just a singular case it happens more frequently each passing year. The provincial government has stated that the wolf population in our province is growing each year and in some areas has reached the point of over-population.

The regular readers of this column may remember my article about the peril of the BC mountain caribou. Part of the problem is a growing wolf population killing off these endangered animals at a rate that puts the survival of the entire herd in jeopardy. There are government reports that elk and moose population in some areas are facing similar pressure from wolves. With a growing wolf population the danger to humans increase dramatically too. Once the wolves have decimated their natural prey they quickly learn that human inhabited areas within their range are an easily accessible food source. Each year there are reports of farmers and ranchers that loose cattle and horses to packs of wolves. In one case it was reported that two wolves in a single night killed over 170 sheep. Wolf advocates try to convince us that wolves only kill what they need for food. Not quite true. Research has shown time and again that in areas where wildlife and livestock exist in large numbers wolves, for reasons not fully understood yet, will indiscriminately kill every animal they can catch. Humans in these areas are also attacked more frequently.

Where wolves can become a real danger to humans is when they come close to our towns. I discovered this year that they are closer to Merritt than I would ever have imagined. At the start of the hunting season I noticed that the deer in my favourite hunting spot just outside Merritt appeared to be more skittish than in previous years and kept wondering why that might be. I got the answer when I shot a bear in mid-October and went back in the evening to retrieve one of my treestands. Passing about a hundred meters by the field where I took the bear I noticed crows and eagles feasting on the intestines and organs I left behind. I also noticed what I thought at first were two big coyotes nearby; they were unusually large so I had to have a closer look at them. To my astonishment I saw that they were in fact wolves.

Now if we are to believe the pro-wolf advocates we all should learn to co-exist with wolves. Of course such talk emanates mostly from people that live in cities where no one has to co-exist with any wildlife and certainly not with wolves. On the other hand we have researched expertise from wildlife authorities such as wildlife biologist Dr. Valerius Geist who has studied wolves to a great extent and concluded that wolves indeed can be a tremendous menace on wildlife populations and livestock, and have no hesitation whatsoever to take on humans too if their populations are not strictly managed. Wolves live in large packs of up to 30 and 40 animals strong, but they do not run together at all times, they split up in small groups in search of prey. Meaning, if you see one or two wolves there are twenty or more you don’t see. Our government has recognized the problem of an ever growing wolf population throughout region 3 and is considering lifting all remaining wolf harvest restrictions.

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