Opinion

COLUMN: Province forsakes our natural world

One of the highlights of my life took place several years ago in central Ontario.

I let my border collie Trio out of the yard at my parents’ semi-rural home to go for a walk in a forested area behind the house.

We descended into a small ravine full of tall grass and some apple trees before making a small climb back up the other side, a part of the forest we called the pine corridor.

As Trio and I walked, I fumbled with my camera, preparing it to capture whatever presented itself.

A few steps down the corridor, Trio pressed himself against my leg. I looked down to see him looking at me with concern.

At that moment I looked up to see a ghostly white creature emerge from the woods about three metres in front of us on a deer trail. It was a grey wolf. We knew they were around, but we never expected one here, in broad daylight, so close to houses.

We stopped dead in our tracks. So did the wolf. For that suspended moment in time, I held my breath as our eyes met. Somehow, in that moment, we formed a mutual understanding – we would let each other pass.

He carried on down his trail, and so did we. My heart was beating double-time. I didn’t snap a single photo.

I’d never felt so honoured, so privileged to have that moment. I’ve never forgotten it.

So it has been with extreme sadness that I discovered in mid-November, the provincial government unveiled its Draft Wolf Management Plan, a plan that outlines a barbaric and grim future for wolves in B.C. that is nothing more than a government sponsored kill of grey wolves.

Clearly the result of lobbying by B.C. ranchers eliminating any competition for their precious beef cattle, the plan calls for wolf management policy split into two zones.

One zone, where livestock predation has been an issue, is to encourage the extermination of wolves by all means available and includes year-round open season and no bag limits and, in some cases, targeted removal of individuals or packs. In other cases, there are no age or sex limits, meaning pups and pregnant females are fair game and without mandatory reporting.

In this case, livestock kills cannot be considered a reason – only 78 of every 150,000 cattle are taken by wolves in B.C. annually, a miniscule percentage.

Overall, the province is set to allow the deaths of a third of the province’s wolf population, with death resulting from leg hold traps, and bait stations laced with poison. Hunting from a helicopter is considered one of the more humane ways to “harvest” these creatures and is encouraged.

According to Ian McAllister, writing at www.pacificwild.org, B.C. has the most relaxed policies when it comes to the killing of wolves.

He writes that hunting seasons for wolves are already long and there is no species licence required to hunt wolves, but there is for deer and geese.

From my understanding, these slaughters result from scientific formulas that determine if there are too many prey or predators, and provincial wildlife officials feel compelled to keep nature in balance through human intervention.

Surely by now we understand there is an impact that must be seen beyond some numbers.

These formulas ignore the social importance wolves rely on for pack survival. They are intelligent, sentient creatures that deserve more than to be open to barbaric harvesting practices for undefined reasons.

I can’t bring myself to believe that any politician in the year 2012 would be so detached from the natural world and the value it holds that he or she would be able to sign off on such a plan.

Then again, as I see our natural world being eroded around us due to economic pressures, I am also constantly reminded of the shortsightedness and destructive habits our elected leaders are prone to condone and, in this case, encourage.

Whenever I tell my story of my wolf encounter, people ask me if I was afraid. Not at all, I reply. What frightens me are these policies that are accepted because that’s always the way we’ve done them.

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