A predator associated with declining caribou populations in the Chilcotin will be culled.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development says 90 wolves will be targeted for removal beginning early this year by using aerial tactics when there is sufficient snow around the core habitat of the Itcha-Ilgachuz herd.

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett calls it great news.

(supplied by Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development)

“This is a process that needs to happen to protect the caribou, and what they are doing with the caribou issue hopefully they are going to have public meetings so the public can be made aware of what is actually going on because there haven’t been public meetings,” Barnett says. “They’ve had meetings with certain groups but the public really wants to know what’s happening.”

Consisting of 2,800 animals in 2003, only 385 caribou in the Itcha-Ilgachuz herd remain.

The Ministry says the operational plan of the Chilcotin wolf reduction program that was developed by local ministry biologists is based on the successful predator reduction that occurred in the central group of Southern mountain caribou.

The initial approval of the wolf reduction program was specified for two years to prevent further population losses until a long-term management plan is developed through the ongoing herd planning process. Additional caribou recovery efforts include habitat protection, habitat restoration, maternity penning, and supplemental feeding programs.

“Based on five years of research on wolf management in the central group, we know that wolf populations can rebound quickly,” a Ministry spokesperson said. “It is imperative to implement a predator control plan to ensure the last remaining caribou in the Itcha-Ilgachuz have a chance to survive.”

Predator reduction will likely continue in the area for a total of five years. The program is funded and managed by the provincial caribou recovery program with a budgeted cost of $300,000.

“Through the reduction of wolves in areas where caribou are known to frequent, an average annual population growth of 15% has been realized, which doubles the caribou population every five years,” the Ministry spokesperson said. “Similar benefits to caribou populations are expected in the Chilcotin.”