The chief of Saulteau First Nations says he supports the B.C. government's controversial wolf cull, saying the program is needed to shore up declining moose and caribou populations.
The cull, which enters its second season this winter, will see around 200 wolves shot from helicopters in hopes of preserving dwindling caribou populations.
"Moose, caribou, everything is getting hammered by (wolves)," Saulteau Chief Nathan Parenteau told the Alaska Highway News at a signing ceremony with provincial government ministers Nov. 22.
Forestry and oil and gas development in the South Peace have opened up the backcountry with roads and clearings, making ideal hunting grounds for wolves. Right-of-ways and roads built for the Site C dam are expected to put even more pressures on ungulate populations in the region.
"Site C isn't even done yet," Parenteau said. "Oil and gas and forestry, and the access that's created for wolves, creating new roads and pathways for them to follow, it's allowed their populations to skyrocket.
"It's a matter of balance," he said. "We've put it into an area where it's unbalanced, now we have to bring that balance back. Part of that may be a cull."
Seventy-three wolves were killed in the first season, well below the target of 200. A ministry spokesperson said unseasonably light snow last year made it difficult to track the predators.
Critics say the cull doesn't address habitat loss, which they believe is the root of the problem. Singer Miley Cyrus emerged as one of the most visible opponents of the cull in September, when she made a well-publicized trip to the Great Bear Rain Forest. While there are no culls planned in that region, the conservation group that arranged the trip said the singer met with local First Nations opposed to the grizzly bear hunt.
At the event in Saulteau earlier this month, Forests Minister Steve Thomson called the cull one of his "more difficult decisions" as minister.
"We've had one year of the program, it's obviously a program you need to do over a long time period to fully assess it, and we're going to continue to do that," he said.
"It will be carrying on, supported by First Nations in the communities here," Thomson said. "They understand the importance of caribou to the landscape, and we needed to, as one of the tools in the tool box, to take that step."
Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Rustad added that a new relationship and reconciliation agreement with Saulteau gives the nation more power over habitat management.
At 1,000 members, Saulteau is the largest nation in the Treaty 8 Tribal Association.