It’s Year Two of British Columbia's controversial wolf cull and questions have been raise regarding the techniques used by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO).
The tactic in question is something the BC-based conservation organization, Wildlife Defence League (WDF) is calling a “Judas Wolf”.
According to a press release from the WDF, the Ministry uses these Judas wolves to track down and kill entire packs, and by leaving the specific wolf alive each year, they are able to follow the collared animal as it finds a new pack and the process is repeated again.
“Sources connected to the slaughter disclosed that all pack members, with the exception of a “Judas” wolf, have been gunned down by helicopter,” said Tommy Knowles, Campaign Director for Wildlife Defence League.
“Until now, it was understood that “Judas” wolves are collared in the spring and tracked in the winter, when the Judas wolf and his or her family were killed.”
“We were shocked to learn the Judas wolf is kept alive year after year. He or she is left to pack up with a new family, who are deliberately baited into the territory. The next spring, the Judas wolf’s new pack is slaughtered,” he continued.
However, the Ministry has explicitly denied the use of such a tactic, saying that there is no such thing as a Judas wolf, and the WDF release has several “factual errors”.
“Wolves have been radio-collared, and wolves whose territory does not include caribou habitat and are not posing a risk to caribou have not been removed. There was not a lone collared wolf left behind last year as a “Judas” wolf”,' said a representative for the FLNRO.
The Wolf Cull began operating last year in an effort to maintain and increase population numbers in the South Selkirk caribou herd.
The Ministry said that according to their studies, wolf attacks are a leading cause of death for the caribou, and the cull was initiated in order to prevent devastation of the herd.
“Evidence points to wolves as being the leading cause of mortality in this herd, which is why government made the difficult decision to remove wolves in this area,” said a Ministry representative.
The WDF claims that their source for information, specifically regarding the Judas wolf tactic, is an individual who identifies as part of the Caribou Recovery Plan.
The WDF said they cannot elaborate on the identity of the source, but are “encouraging media to ask the government specifically about the tactic described by the individual.”
Knowles also points to a sentence from Page 3 of the South Peace Wolf Cull Plan which says, "The efficacy of the program may be improved by first collaring some wolves in each pack to help locate the packs for removal later in the year," as further evidence of this tactic, despite nothing outright saying so.
“While this information doesn't identify a "Judas" wolf, it hints that they're using one,” Knowles said.
The WDF release also claims that members of their organization have witnessed active logging operations in the protected area, but the Ministry has denied this.
“There is no active logging within core mountain caribou habitat within the South Selkirk,” said a Ministry representative.
Areas in which the WDF have claimed to witness active logging are Dodge Creek and Topaz Creek. As of the time of this article, the Ministry has not responded to these claims, but clarification will be added upon receiving confirmation or denial from the FLNRO.
Regarding Topaz Creek and Dodge Creek, the Ministry has said that it is very unlikely that mountain caribou would be found in the lower Topaz or Dodge creek areas, currently or prior to the protection plan.
Also, those areas are “not part of designated mountain caribou ungulate winter range (areas protected from logging).”
The FLNRO points to the following map which shows where logging is prohibited.
For more information on the relationship between wolves and the South Selkirk caribou, go to https://news.gov.bc.ca/factsheets/mountain-caribou-and-wolves.