The West Kootenay Outdoorsmen Club is distancing itself from a pair of contests meant to encourage wolf hunting.
The club was included Monday in a statement by the Wildlife Protection Coalition that denounced monetary awards for killing wolves and other predators such as coyotes and cougars by Chilcotin Guns in Williams Lake as well as the Creston Valley Rod and Gun Club.
The statement, addressed to Forestry Minister Doug Donaldson, highlighted the terms “wolf-whacking” and “predator tournament” used by the Williams Lake and Creston clubs.
The West Kootenay Outdoorsmen, which includes nine fish and game clubs in the region, has offered $500 for each West Kootenay wolf trapped.
But Richard Green, the club’s secretary-treasurer, says the offer was not made to encourage wolf hunting, which he pointed out is difficult to do.
“We’re not anticipating eliminating wolves. That is not our plan, that is not our intention,” said Green. “What we’re interested in is working toward some sort of balance between the prey that is available, living and present, and the number of predators busy eating those animals.”
A five-year provincial wolf cull has killed 527 wolves since it began in 2015. WildSafeBC estimates a population of approximately 8,500 wolves in the B.C. There is currently no limit on the number of wolves that can be killed during hunting season.
Green said a wolf pelt is worth about $200. Costs such as transportation and supplies, Green said, make the total expense of trapping a wolf in the range of $500.
Local prey include sheep, moose and deers. It no longer includes caribou, after the last of the South Selkirk herd was relocated to a maternity pen in Revelstoke in January.
“Any true conservationist knows the importance of predator-prey balance,” said Nelson and District Rod and Gun Club president Howie Grant. “You can’t have one without the other. You don’t want to eliminate anything. I can honestly say that all hunters are conservationists. We respect all wildlife.”
Charlotte Dawe, conservation and policy campaigner for the Wilderness Committee, said she is concerned by the act of killing some species to save others.
“Governments are choosing to kill predators rather than address the actual problem, which is habitat destruction. Wolves get killed so that governments don’t have to deal with the burden of protecting and restoring habitat,” she said.
Wally Kampen, the Outdoorsmen Club’s president, acknowledged wolves aren’t the only reason for uneven predator-prey populations. Deforestation, human encroachment and climate change, he said, also have to be considered.
“There’s multiple factors impacting our wildlife populations. We need to address all of them,” said Kampen.
— With files from Williams Lake Tribune reporters Monica Lamb-Yorski and Angie Mindus.