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Caribou Recovery Wolf Management Summary_2016-17

Date: 10th November 2017

Caribou Recovery Wolf Management Summary_2016-17 final CLICK HERE FOR ORIGINAL REPORT

Copied text from report attached above;
Wolf Management Plan for Caribou Summary Year Three – 2016-17 – FINAL – August 28, 2017

BACKGROUND:
Successful recovery of some endangered caribou populations requires intensive removal of wolves, including shooting from helicopters during the winter season. Consistent with the Province’s Grey Wolf Management Plan and the caribou plans, proactive wolf control was conducted this winter on two critically at peril caribou herd ranges (South Peace, South Selkirk) and to support the maternity penning project near Revelstoke for the Columbia North herd. These herds have the most pressing conservation need, have partner support, are technically sound and are operationally feasible.

DISCUSSION:
The third year of a five year program of aerial wolf removal was conducted in the South Selkirk and South Peace treatment areas. Based on the success observed at the Klinse Za maternity pen arising from wolf removal in that herd area, aerial wolf removal was started for the Revelstoke maternity pen.

Aerial shooting of wolves is essential to achieve government’s recovery goals for caribou. Failure to do so will result in the loss of some caribou herds, reduced effectiveness of certain management trials (e.g., maternity penning), and compromise caribou recovery goals. Failure to continue wolf control will likely jeopardize government/stakeholder partnerships established for the Mountain Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan, Peace Northern Caribou Plan, and other caribou recovery programs across the province. Continued successful implementation of wolf control is seen as an essential step by industrial sectors, since significant habitat has already been set aside to help recover caribou.

RESULTS
South Selkirk
Wolf control was undertaken for a third winter and four wolves were removed from the South Selkirks herd area. This predator control measure was undertaken to try to stop the sharp decline of the herd and maintain a viable presence in the herd area. While there is expected to be a lag time prior to seeing positive response to the treatment, this program is not demonstrating success in terms of increased caribou numbers. A halt in the decline of caribou may be the most positive aspect of this treatment. This same modest benefit was observed in the early phase of the moose reduction trial in Revelstoke.

The program in the South Selkirk will have to run annually until the majority of the early seral in past cutblocks is shaded out by growing conifers. As the logging in caribou habitat was mostly from 1970 – 2000, this process is well underway.

South Peace
A total of 93 wolves were killed within or immediately adjacent to the removal zone, 62 by shooting from the air, and 31 by trapping. Thirteen wolves from different packs were radio-collared to assist in finding the packs that threaten caribou for subsequent removal. There were 57 wolves removed from the Moberly/Scott zone, 11 from Kennedy Siding, and 25 within or on the boundary of the Quintette zone. At the end of the control program in April 2017 there were at least 30 – 40 wolves remaining in the removal zone based on radio-collared packs that were still present. These numbers indicate that prior to the start of the 2017 removal program there were at least 123 – 133 wolves present within the removal zone.

This is approximately 35% fewer wolves than the 201 wolves present in 2016, but still indicates considerable recovery of the wolf population within one year of control. This finding indicates that a very extensive effort will be required every year to continue to keep the wolf population low.

The Moberly zone had a fairly high level of wolf removal which may have been sufficient to allow ongoing caribou population recovery. The level of removal in the Kennedy Siding and Quintette herd ranges was much lower than what occurred in 2016 so a positive population response for those herds is less certain. Overall, it appears that all of the herds within the wolf control area experienced a population increase over the past year in response to the management actions. The estimated caribou population within the wolf control zone increased from 166 to 192 caribou, a 16% increase. Caribou survey results are reported in Seip and Jones, 2017.

Revelstoke Maternity Penning wolf control
Wolves were also removed in the vicinity of the Revelstoke maternity pen for the Columbia North caribou herd. This  change in management, in recognition of the strong positive response seen in the Moberly and Scott herds associated with the Klinse za maternity pen operation and the wolf removal being conducted in that herd area. Eleven wolves were removed in February and March. The total winter wolf population was estimated to be 14-15 animals.

CONCLUSION:
While aerial wolf removal is controversial, it is necessary to meet the conservation objectives for caribou and the associated economic benefits. The two continuing removal projects are technically sound and have strong stakeholder support. There are some very preliminary indications of a positive effect on caribou in the South Peace. On the basis of that positive response, a program was started for the Revelstoke maternity pen. An assessment of results from Revelstoke will be available in winter 2018. Removal activities will restart this winter as soon as field conditions (fresh snow cover) permit efficient operations.

References:
Seip, Dale and Elena Jones. 2017. Population Status of Central Mountain Caribou
Herds in British Columbia and Response to Recovery Management Actions. Unpublished report.

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