NEWSLETTER October 20, 2018

      The following quote appeared on the scroll of CTV News on Sunday Sept. 31: “BC Government blasted for expanding bighorn sheep hunt”.

The subsequent news release stated the British Columbia Government is expanding the bighorn sheep hunt in part of the Caribou region at the same time it targets the animal’s natural predators to protect the herds in a move one conservation group is calling “astounding”.

“For the first time since 1993 open hunting of rams with full curl horns is allowed in the Taseko Lakes area of the caribou. In the neighboring region around Churn Creek Southwest of Williams Lake, the province has contracted the cull of wolves and coyotes to protect two sheep herds in decline.

The statement from the Ministry said the cull was necessary to protect two unique herds one of which has only eight members and is at risk of extinction. The other herd has 29 animals and the goal is to increase the population to 50 sheep with a minimum of 25 to 30 adult ewes.”

I agree with a predator control agenda because the alternative is the complete extirpation/loss of two California Bighorn Sheep herds.

I do not agree with the statistical argument that validates increasing hunting opportunity. The province says even if all rams with full curl were killed enough older rams would remain in the population for breeding purposes.

The statistical argument that validates increased hunting opportunity of California Bighorn rams dominates wildlife management policy in British Columbia.

“Who Killed the Grand Banks” by Alex Rose correctly called the collapse of the North Atlantic Cod population a national disgrace. Two quotes from former St. John’s Newfoundland conservative Member of Parliament, John Crosbie showcase how jobs and the economy dominate political decisions regardless of the consequences!

  1. 13 Mr. Crosbie did not admit that government policy was at fault. Instead he continued to advance the official government line that the collapse of the fishery was attributed to three causes: foreign overfishing outside of our 200 mile limit, a rapid increase in the seal population and oceanographic phenomena such as cold water barriers.
  2. 29 John Crosbie admitted to sharing this tendency towards optimism. “We have opted for the upper end of the scientific advice always striving to get the last pound of fish”.

It is true that virtually all rams older than six years grind/wear down their first year of horn growth and as a consequence are no longer full curl. The horns of the bighorn ram grows every year and as they get older the growth rings are closer together as the mass of the horns get larger at the base with the skull. The first year of growth the lamb tip is virtually gone with rams 9-10 years old.

This year 8 rams were harvested on the Gilpin Grasslands a fact I bitterly resent. In due course I am going to ask for public support to reduce the harvest to five.

I remind all the players who may take exception to my request that the province’s wildlife resource and the future of hunting is grim if the 2019-2020 Hunting Regulations do not dramatically reduce hunting seasons, Limited Entry Hunting authorizations and bag limits.

All of the stories I am hearing with one exception describe a catastrophic collapse of the province’s moose population. With few exceptions hunters blame predators which is primarily the wolf.

Predators are a problem but the first order of business is to mandate a review of hunting opportunity.

The preseason 2017 Ungulate Species Regional Population Estimates for moose in seven of the nine wildlife regions with a significant moose population give no warning of a major population decline.

The moose population in British Columbia is in serious population decline, a point made by three current reports:

  1. Provincial Framework for Moose Management in British Columbia- ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations- Fish & Wildlife Branch Feb. 2015.
  2. A Strategy to Help Restore Moose Populations in British Columbia- prepared for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations July 18, 2016- Al Gorley
  3. Moose Enhancement and Recovery Strategy July 29, 2016 prepared for Guide-Outfitters of BC

My moose story in the East Boundary- Greenwood, Grand Forks and Christina Lake (sub units 8-15, 8-14) does not have a long history. Limited Entry Hunting and the Spike Bull season two or fewer points (tines) on one antler started in the fall of 2000.

Instead of nurturing a small moose population the cumulative effect of predators, an extremely high road density, massive clear cuts in the lodge pole pine forest and liberal hunting opportunity a small moose population is in a slow death spiral.

A moose sighting in the East Boundary was extremely rare when my family moved to Grand Forks June 1978. By the mid nineties a moose sighting was no longer rare especially in the Boundary Creek watershed north of Greenwood (8-14).

A growing moose population resulted in the inevitable presence of the wolf. Although I had seen a few wolf tracks in past years and saw one at 5km on the Burrell Creek logging road in the mid nineties, their permanent presence was obvious early December 2003. One of my old female hounds cranked her tail after sticking her nose in a frozen cougar track but when I examined the adjacent tracks on the top of the hard snow I realized she was trailing a cold wolf track. To-day wolf tracks are easy to find in snow.

The recommendations from the Moose Reports that if implemented would reverse the steady decline of the moose population, is a story for another day. Nevertheless, a quick read of the Moose Hunting Opportunity in the Boundary, the smallest geographic area in the province, Region 8 Okanogan Sub Units 8-12, 814 and 8-15 is one of many examples that showcase how Hunting Opportunity got totally out of control.

Penticton biologists sanctioned a LEH (Limited Entry Hunting Season) on Bull Moose in the Boundary (8-12, 8-14 & 8-15) in 2000 which also included a spike bull season, any bull moose with two or less tines on one antler was fair game.

Subsequently Penticton provincial government Biologist, Brian Harris recommended the spike bull season be terminated because of the negative impact on the mature Bull Moose population. The spike bull season was shortened but subsequently implemented in all wildlife regions with a significant moose population.

The British Columbia Limited Entry Hunting Synopsis 2018-2019 lists 62 group/shared moose hunts in the Boundary. The shared/group hunt is intended to increase the number of people drawn for moose without increasing the number of moose harvested. A group of two will be authorized to take one moose and a group of three or four will be authorized to take two moose.62 Shared Hunts means a minimum of 124 hunters and a maximum of 248 hunters.

Region: 8-12                     Region: 8-14                                   Region:  8-15

Oct.-7 Group Hunts             Oct.- 10 Group Hunts                      Oct.- 4 Group Hunts

Nov.-12 Group Hunts         Nov.-19 Group Hunts                    Nov.- 9 Group Hunts

Although moose mortality is a function of many reasons the only immediate recovery tactic that is going to work is an immediate reduction in the harvest by hunters and First Nations. The future of hunting may well hang on that Declaration.

Barry Brandow Sr.

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