BC’s Wolf Hunting Program ‘Illegal’, Court Challenge Holds

Animal rights lawyer argues hunting from airplanes is illegal under federal law

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A British Columbia environmental group will argue that it is illegal to kill wolves by shooting them from airplanes during a hearing in the province’s Supreme Court beginning Wednesday.


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Environmental group Pacific Wild challenges a provincial program that has killed more than 1,400 wolves in British Columbia since 2015.

An animal rights attorney, Rebeka Breder, will argue that both the provincial permitting process and the method used to euthanize wolves violate provincial and federal laws.

Hundreds of wolves are killed each year by hunters, who shoot packs while flying in airplanes. The province says it is necessary to support the recovery of declining caribou herds.

Breder said federal aviation laws do not allow the use of firearms from an airplane, except for certain people under specific conditions.

“The result of these permits not only implies the mass killing of a species, but also has a potential impact on the public because there are armed individuals shooting at moving targets from a moving plane. How safe is that? Breder asks. She said provincial regulation does not require shooters to have any training to fire weapons from an airplane.


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Animal rights lawyer Rebeka Breder holds a petition, challenging the wolf killing program, outside the British Columbia Supreme Court in Vancouver.
Animal rights lawyer Rebeka Breder holds a petition, challenging the wolf killing program, outside the British Columbia Supreme Court in Vancouver. Photo by Geoff Campbell /PNG

Breder said the lack of detail in the rulebook is at the heart of the second argument dealing with the BC Wildlife Act, which he will present to Judge Christopher Giaschi, who is hearing the case for three days.

“What is happening is that there is a government bureaucrat, who has no guidelines, who is only issuing permits, but under the wildlife law, regional managers do not have unlimited discretion,” said Breder.

That’s what the Western Wilderness Committee successfully argued in a similar case in 1988.

“In that case, the judge told the government that the regulation should be a comprehensive guide so that regional managers clearly know under what circumstances they can issue a permit,” Breder explained. “In this case, we are saying that the government is not even close to satisfying the concerns of the previous judge.”


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The BC Wildlife Service’s predator reduction program has been the primary tool in supporting the recovery of 13 herds of forest caribou in central BC, northern BC, and parts of Chilcotin. Herds range from 25 to 450 members.

Before slaughter, the British Columbia Wildlife Service estimated that the largest herd, called Southern Peace, was declining by as much as 15 percent annually. It says that since the wolf slaughter began six years ago, its population has increased by 81 percent.

The British Columbia government's wolf hunting program is being challenged in court by the environmental group Pacific Wild.
The British Columbia government’s wolf hunting program is being challenged in court by the environmental group Pacific Wild. Photo by IAN McALLISTER. /PNG

Although the Wildlife Service admits that the caribou decline is due to resource extraction, it relies on killing up to 80 percent of the area’s wolf population each year as part of its caribou recovery plan.

It hires private companies to bid on the annual culls, which it says is a short-term measure, while restoring habitat is a long-term plan. The service wants to extend the program for another five years and is gathering public opinion through a poll on the website of the Ministry of Forests until November 15.


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Pacific Wild, the environmental group that is funding the judicial review, worries that what began as a short-term measure six years ago has turned into one that will have lasted more than a decade.

“We say that without habitat protection, no amount of wolves that they kill will protect the caribou,” said Laurie McConnell, the group’s wolf activist. “The government has to stop awarding logging blocks in areas of endangered caribou herds.”

However, even if the court case is won, the province is likely to resume killing wolves after it creates more comprehensive and transparent regulations. However, Breder said judicial review is important.

“It really highlights how important it is for regulations to establish what the government can and cannot do and how decisions are made,” he said. “Right now, everything is a big secret.”



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