B.C.'s Ministry of Forestry, Lands and Natural Resource Operations wants to remove limits how many wolves hunters can kill in the Peace Region and when.

The changes were proposed on Nov. 30 on a ministry website that accepts public feedback on changes to regulations.

The proposed changes would also remove the time limits on the hunting season.

As it stands, hunters can only kill three wolves each year in the Peace Region between Aug. 15 and June 15.

Radio West attempted to reach the ministry for comment on the proposed changes, but staff have declined interview requests since Tuesday.

According to the ministry, approximately 275 wolves in the Peace were killed by hunters annually from 2000 to 2010, equating to 14 per cent of the local population.

The ministry believes the current population could support double the current amount of hunting.

Changes proposed for grizzly limits as well

The ministry is also proposing to triple the number of grizzly bears that can be killed in part of the Peace Region called MU 7-52, from 50 to 150.

MU 7-52 is a remote area of Northern B.C., bordered approximately by the Kechika River, Turnagain River, Highway 37 and the Yukon border. The nearest community is the First Nations community of Good Hope Lake, with less than 50 people.

According to the ministry, the area has an estimated population of 459 grizzlies, the highest in the Peace. Annually, about eight grizzlies are killed by hunters each year in MU 7-52.

"MU 7-52 is remote with limited hunter access, and most grizzly bear hunting by residents occurs opportunistically while hunting other big game species (i.e., ungulates)," the ministry notes on its website.

An average of 297 grizzlies are killed provincewide each year.

Professor and activist questions rationale

Under the "rationale" section of the bear hunting proposal, the ministry notes it based its proposal on population estimates.

Science director for Raincoast Conservation Foundation and University of Victoria professor Chris Darimont said that set off alarm bells for him.

He said population estimates are just "best guesses," and that there are a lot of unknowns about grizzlies, their population rates, how fast they reproduce and what kills them.

"The fear here is with these increased authorizations, hunters will be taking more bears than are produced," he told Radio West host Rebecca Zandbergen.

He said the lack of notice about the consultation period is fairly typical, and shows the government has "preferred constituents" on these matters — especially those involved in the trophy hunting business.

Under the "rationale" section of the wolf hunting proposal, the ministry notes that "verbal reports from many stakeholders and First Nations" suggest high populations, and wolves can threaten cattle.

Darimont says that's not a very satisfying explanation.

"As a hunter and naturalist myself, I know that what we see in the bush can not necessarily reflect reality," he said. "To get good measures of abundance of animals requires lots of money and lots of time, and that due diligence has not been done by the province."

The public can provide feedback on the proposed changes to wolf hunting and grizzly hunting online.

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: B.C. proposes removing limits on wolf hunting in Peace Region