The legal debate over a wolf hunting contest operating out of Fort St. John continues despite repeated responses from the Gambling Policy and Enforcement Branch saying the contest is completely within its rights to operate.
Starting from an article published by the Vancouver Sun about the contest, this issue has now spanned internationally and has many humans very upset, some even boycotting tourism to the northeast.
The campaign is being spearheaded by Pacific Wild, a non-profit organization focused on protecting wild animals and the environment in BC. Ian MacAllister from Pacific Wild says, “The contest is illegal by nature of how it’s structured. It’s actually a criminal offense. We’ve asked the RCMP to investigate. It’s quite clear that the contest is illegal. The fact that they [the BC government] are continuing to ignore issues of this nature is disturbing because wolves are being potentially killed illegally under the guise of this contest.”
The contest flyer states there is a $50 entrance fee, cash prizes for the biggest four wolves and for the smallest wolf and a few other prizes donated by local sponsors. The contest states explicitly that only three wolves can be entered per participant, in line with the hunting and bag limit laws for the Peace Region. The contest is running from November 15, 2012 to March 31, 2013.
A letter sent from Andrew Gage, Staff Lawyer for West Coast Law, the initial firm that gave Pacific Wild a legal opinion about the contest states, “…draw your attention to certain features of the contest which in our opinion are in violation of the gaming provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada, and which therefore would require a gaming event license under the Gaming Control Act to be legal. Absent of such a license, we submit that the contest, as currently structured, constitutes a violation of the Criminal Code of Canada.”
Pacific Wild is using the angle that this contest requires a gaming license, however the BC Gaming Commission states because hunting a wolf requires a high degree of skill, the event is within its legal right to operate.
A spokesman for the branch states, “In the context of gaming legislation (Criminal Code of Canada and BC’s Gaming Control Act and Gaming Control Regulation), for an activity to be considered gaming, it must involve three elements: consideration (participants must pay a fee or make a purchase to be eligible), chance, and the opportunity to win a prize. While this contest involves the elements of consideration and prize, we are satisfied that hunting is a skill-based activity. To be eligible for winning a prize, contest participants must present a wolf.”
MacAllister says, “The whole issue is that it’s ethically and morally wrong to be offering cash prizes and incentives to kill highly intelligent, social animals such as wolves. It doesn’t make scientific sense. It’s just giving BC a black eye internationally when people find out contests of this nature are not only happening, but sponsored and sanctioned by the BC government.”
Even though it is the contest being targeted, the bottom line is many people don’t want to see wolves hunted, period. MacAllister says, “We have issues with hunting wolves in general. They’re not killed for food. No one is eating wolf meat, so they are being killed for trophy or sport. There is no scientific rational to support the ongoing killing of wolves as some sort of ungulate enhancement technique.”
The North Peace Rod and Gun Club, who are one of the sponsors of the contest, said in a letter to the media, “This contest operates within rules of provincial legislation and regulations for hunting and gaming. All contestants must have a valid hunting license of which a portion of the fees goes to the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation for Wildlife habitat restoration and enhancement.”
The letter goes on to state, “The contest has prizes for the largest and smallest wolf as well as a ‘hidden category’ to encourage contestants to bring in all animals to provide an accurate total of wolves taken under this initiative. The greatest number of wolves taken under the contest in the past has been 13 animals from 45 contestants. This contest does not jeopardize the sustainability of wolf populations. The objective is to reduce their numbers and predation impacts on domestic and wild animals in our region.”
The contest surfaced around the same time the government released its Wolf Management Plan for BC. Wolves are being targeted as being abundant and responsible for an enormous loss of livestock and wildlife.
The wolves are benefitting from industrial and recreational development, making them more efficient hunters. The wolves have also been seen travelling in abnormally large packs of 15-25 members.
Pacific Wild is pressing forward and through a grant provided by West Coast Law, continues their fight to gethe contest stopped. MacAllister says, “The RCMP is waiting for a response from the second legal opinion by the BC Gaming Commission. I hope the organizers and sponsors of this contest would see why people are so upset about it, not just in BC but internationally. This is not the way we should be treating wildlife, especially wolves.”
Though the contest may get halted, the hunting of wolves will not stop, as for some hunters, it is not a game they will give up. The hunting laws for the Peace Region state the bag limit for wolves is three provincially, which would apply to a single hunting season (so annually, but not the calendar year). The exceptions are the Omineca Region, specific areas in the Cariboo region or areas within the range of threatened Mountain Caribou where there is no bag limit.
Hunters are not required to have a wolf tag, but are required to report any wolves harvested from the Vancouver Island, Lower Mainland, Kootenay or Okanagan regions, or requested to report their harvest if they receive a hunter sample questionnaire from the Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Management Branch.
According to the Wolf Management Plan, in the Peace Region trapping season is from Oct 15 to May 31 and hunting season is from Aug 1 to June 15. There is no closed season below 1100 metres for livestock protection.