Predator management in B.C.

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Predators are an integral part of all ecosystems and are often associated with increased biodiversity.  As an example, large predators can limit ungulate abundance and reduce ungulate impacts to plants and soil. With the subsequent increase in shrub cover the diversity and abundance of birds and other species may also increase. The population of smaller competitor species, such as coyotes or bobcats, may also decline where wolf and cougar populations are present, which may allow increased abundance of smaller carnivore species like fox.

B.C.’s broad management objective for predators is to ensure that populations are self-sustaining and fulfilling their ecosystem role. Occasionally large predators threaten the recovery of a species at risk or become a significant risk to public safety or livestock. In these instances, the management objective may be to reduce predator populations (e.g., to support the recovery of the population of another species) or to remove individuals (e.g., a food conditioned grizzly bear).

Decisions to control predators rely heavily on existing science or well-established management techniques. When there is uncertainty about the effectiveness of predator control, predator and prey populations are monitored to ensure the goals of management are being achieved. Predator control is not used to increase the abundance of hunted species in B.C.

Hunting and trapping of many predator species is managed through regulations under the Wildlife Act. These opportunities are provided where there are no conservation concerns and the food, social and ceremonial needs of First Nations are met. This type of regulated hunting and trapping is typically not a sufficient technique to control predator populations nor address risks to public safety or livestock.

There are several management plans and policies that guide the province’s approach to predator management, and these are discussed below.

Provincial wolf management

Wolf management decisions are guided by the Management Plan for the Grey Wolf (Canis lupus) in British Columbia (PDF, 1.3MB)

The objectives of wolf management are:

  • to ensure a self-sustaining population throughout the species’ range that fulfills the role of wolves as a top predator in B.C.’s diverse ecosystems;
  • to provide opportunities for economic, cultural, and recreational uses of wolves consistent with Ministry program plans;
  • to minimize impacts on livestock caused by wolves in a manner that does not jeopardize conservation objectives; and,
  • to manage specific packs or individuals where predation is likely preventing the recovery of wildlife populations threatened by wolf predation.

Provincial Wolf Management Plan recommends:

  • Improving harvest data
  • Initiating monitoring and inventory to refine density estimates and indicators of population size/trend
  • A two-zone management strategy: wolf reductions for livestock and recovery of wildlife population threatened by wolf predation (primarily caribou), while managing wolves elsewhere to maintain naturally regulated predator-prey systems
  • Current policy does not support predator control for enhancing ungulate populations for hunting (but could maintain liberal hunting and trapping seasons)
  • No support for poisoning

Grizzly Bear Strategy

For information and updates on Grizzly Bear management in B.C., visit Grizzly Bear Strategy

Livestock Protection Program

B.C's Livestock Protection Program identifies the following goals:

  • Raise awareness of Best Management Practices to minimize predation;
  • Deliver services that mitigate problem predators;
  • Reduce the economic impact of predation on livestock owners;
  • Generate data, information and learning opportunities to enable effective management of all resources and continuous improvement, and
  • Assist with the compensation of verified livestock losses caused by predators.

To mitigate problem predators, wolves (and coyotes) may be removed by contracted Wildlife Specialists in areas with verified livestock losses.

Control methods

Individual predators can be removed with conventional hunting or trapping methods but hunting and trapping are rarely able to reduce predator populations across broad areas. Targeted removal of individual animals is often done by trained wildlife officers or professional trappers. The most effective method to reduce wolf populations over large areas is aerial shooting. Intensive ground-based methods can be successful in certain terrains and across smaller areas.

Only Conservation Officers remove conflict bears based on the response guidelines in the Control of Species Policy.

Professional hunters with trained dogs are regularly used to remove individual cougars that have come into conflict with people or livestock. This method is also used to reduce cougar populations across large areas.

Caribou recovery

The “Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou, Southern Mountain population (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Canada” (Environment Canada 2014) sets objectives related to wolves. The plan states that for caribou in the Kootenay Region, type 1 and 2 matrix habitat should be managed to provide “for an overall ecological condition that will allow for low predation risk, defined as wolf population densities less than 3 wolves/1000 km2”. The plan also includes the following recovery approaches:

  • Where necessary, apply predator management as a management tool coordinated with other management approaches (e.g., habitat restoration and management, management of primary prey populations), to achieve southern mountain caribou population growth.
  • Focus predator management on wolves for all population units, and on cougars for population units where cougar predation is a significant mortality factor.

BC’s Mountain Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan (MAL 2007) includes a recovery action to manage predator populations of wolf and cougar where they threaten caribou recovery. The plan states that “Although habitat loss was identified by the Science Team as the underlying cause of mountain caribou population declines, high predator populations and unsustainable predation rates on mountain caribou are secondary contributors to mountain caribou population decline. Habitat protection alone won’t reverse negative population trends. The plan commits government to a variety of measures addressing unsustainable predation rates on caribou. These include changes to hunting regulations increasing cougar and wolf harvests, supporting non-lethal control measures such as wolf sterilization, and the targeted removal of individuals or packs where there is a scientific determination of immediate threat to recovery of mountain caribou herds.”

For more information on Caribou recovery, visit Projects and Management Activities.

Control of Species Policy

Policy 4-7-04.01.3 Control of Species (PDF, 3.7MB), effective February 12, 2006, supports control of native species, including wolves, only where:

  • They represent a significant risk to property or human safety, provided reasonable preventative measures have been take to avoid such conflicts; or
  • There is sufficient evidence or reason to believe that they represent a threat to the viability or recovery of threatened or endangered species, provided that control measures are included in an accepted Recovery Strategy