Together For Wildlife, Improving Wildlife Stewardship and Habitat Conservation in
British Columbia, an NDP Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and
Rural Development Document August 2020 echoes the sentiments of many British
Columbians: “we asked you to share your concerns and ideas for change. We heard your
calls for sufficient funding, effective legislation, clear objectives and meaningful on the
ground work. And we heard this urgent work needs to start now.”
Nevertheless a careful read of Together For Wildlife describes a slow moving process
dominated by the bureaucracy that will not challenge the science that validates hunting
seasons, bag limits and Limited Entry Hunting (LEH) authorizations: population
estimates, wildlife theory, hunter questionnaire information.
Perspective: The history of B.C. wildlife habitat and access management has been a
long painful journey in which wildlife has lost virtually every fight to competing
stakeholders. Progress at best will be painfully slow. Therefore terminating the failed
hunting opportunity agenda has to be the first step forward and replced with wildlife
management that puts a premium on the resource not the money
2016-2018 Hunting and Trapping Regulation Synopsis: There are some 3500
active trappers in the province, while B.C.’s 100,000 resident hunters, along with guide
outfitters add some $350 million to the economy each year. Steve Thomson, Minister
of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
If Together for Wildlife is a credible document and not driven by the revenue stream
then it is important Minister of Environment, George Heyman publicly announce that
serious wildlife management mistakes have been made and consequently the 2022-
2024 Hunting and Trapping Regulation Synopsis must mandate a dramatic reduction
in hunting seasons, bag limits and LEH authorizations.
Historical Perspective-1991 Mike Harcourt NDP Government
British Columbia’s Environment, Planning for the Future, Managing Wildlife to 2001:
A discussion Paper (1991) a duplication of Together For Wildlife (Aug. 2020).
Managing Wildlife to 2001 confronts the issues jeopardizing wildlife and proposes
major management initiatives to ensure a sound and sustainable resource. Under this
“umbrella” document, the Wildlife Program will release other key planning products,
including regional wildlife plans, provincial species statements and a land management
Introduction-The Challenge of Managing Wildlife in the 1990s
Securing our wildlife heritage and maintaining those values will not be easy. But the
challenge is infinitely worthwhile- one we can meet through strong and responsible
People across this province recognize that our wildlife resource is a treasure to be
cherished and protected. In a 1987 National Survey, for example, 87 percent of British
Columbians stated that maintaining plentiful wildlife was important to them.
The program’s mandate is to manage wildlife for the benefit of all citizens,
present and future.
Conclusion- We in the Wildlife Program are committed to sustaining abundant and
thriving wildlife for all British Columbians now and in the future. The new wildlife
strategy will seek to accomplish that crucial task, while reflecting the concerns which
people throughout B.C. have about wildlife management.
What are the sum of the reasons that explain why managing wildlife to 2001 failed? Is
that the same fate awaiting Together For Wildlife?
I am in the process of talking to credible veteran hunters most of whom I have known
for many years. The roll call will not change: mule deer populations down 80-90%
since the late eighties, early nineties, whitetail deer population down 80-90% since the
mid nineties, elk populations appear to be stable but the quality of the hunt has been
compromised, moose populations are struggling, grouse are seldom seen.
To put the anecdotal information in perspective I am quoting senior bureaucrats
and scientists who describe the thinking that destroyed the North Atlantic Cod stocks:
Who Killed the Grand Banks by Alex Rose 16 years on since July 2, 1992 when Federal
minister of Fisheries, John Cosby implemented a two year moratorium on cod fishing
still in effect to-day.
Chapter 3 Botched Science.
In 1982, the size of both the inshore catch and the individual fish making up the
catch began to decline.
The inshore fishermen became increasingly vocal about the perils of over fishing
and accused the off shore fleet of fishing the stocks too heavily. Essentially the
government was telling the inshore fisherman that they didn’t know what they
were talking about.
In 1986, the Newfoundland Inshore Fisheries Association became more scientific. It
commissioned three biologists to review the government’s stock assessments. Their
review criticized the government’s sources of data, its statistical procedures and its
conclusions about the status of the Northern Cod stock. It charged that the government
systematically interpreting uncertain information in the most optimistic light had
overestimated the fish biomass (total weight of the stock) by as much as 55 percent each
As Ransom Myers noted, bureaucratic and authoritarian control, over scientific
results, results in pseudoscience, not science. Such a system will inevitably fail and
lead to scientific blunders.
Jake Rice, former head of the DFO’s Ground Fish Division admitted that there were
times when political realities prevented him and his colleagues from disclosing the
full scientific truth. I, and no other scientist in the department that I know of have ever
been asked to lie. But we certainly have at various times been discouraged from
revealing the whole truth. Every government has to do that to it’s civil servants.
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.
Two helicopter wildlife counts by provincial biologists 1966 and 2011, bookend
stories that describe a mule deer population in crisis.
Deer count made in Boundary Area-hunting prospects good. The Gazette
Wednesday, April 13, 1966.
A deer count held in the Grand Forks-Christina Lake area was taken recently by
helicopter and road tabulation. It was under the auspices of the Fish and Game Branch
with R. Shepherd, local Game conservation Officer and Dave Spalding, Fish and Game
Branch Biologist of Penticton doing the count.
On March 24 a flight was made from Grand Forks to Christina Lake and there were
254 mule deer and 514 whitetail counted. On March 25 a flight was made from Grand
Forks to Rock Creek and the count was 530 mule deer and 45 whitetail.
On March 16 and 17 a two day road count was taken. This included the north fork of
the Granby River from Grand Forks to Lynch Creek and back down the east side and a
circle to Christina Lake. The count was 55 whitetail and 86 mule deer. The breakdown
of the entire count was 850 mule deer and 1113 whitetail.
The number of deer counted per minute averaged 5 which is higher than any other
area count in the Okanagan.
The count from the helicopter only covered the open slopes and took about two hours
flying time in the morning and two hours in the afternoon.
Also recorded in the counts were one coyote and many hawks, eagles and grouse, a
great deal of blue grouse were rousted by the helicopter.
Shuswap and Boundary Mule Deer Composition Surveys November/December
Local resident hunters and guide outfitters have expressed concerns for several years
now about mule deer numbers and reduced harvest in 8-15 (Grand Forks/Christina Lake)
A sample size of 211 mule deer in MU 8-15 was counted and classified. The total
helicopter survey time was approximately 12.7 hrs.
Low encounter rates during our survey and harvest data support anecdotal information
from residents and guide outfitters that MU 8-15 mule deer populations are low to the
peak in the early 1990s. However, past hunt composition suggest that hunting bucks is
not the cause of low mule deer numbers in the MU.
Mule deer populations province wide were compromised in the 1960s. An intelligent
read of the Boundary Deer Herd by D.J.Spalding puts the story in clear focus, long
mule deer doe seasons and the brutal winter of 1968. Grand Forks pioneers, Gordon and
Howard Bryant and Jim Glanville long gone, told me a number of times “Barry we used
to see mule deer in groups of 30”.
Hunting bucks is not the cause of low mule deer numbers is polar opposite
thinking why 30 plus hunters had a meeting with Region 8 Okanagan wildlife manager,
Steve Willett and senior biologist Fred Harper at the Grand Forks Wildlife Hall Nov. 97.
The preponderance of the anecdotal evidence demanded a reduction in the mule deer
buck rifle season in a last ditch attempt to save the critical mass of the population.
Although Aaron Reid is hardly the reason the province’s wildlife is in crisis, his
words are a reminder money supersedes responsible wildlife management.
Barry Brandow Sr.