Relax Yukon's wolf hunting rules, committee told

Rural Yukon hunters and trappers say they want loosened wolf harvesting regulations, since they say the animals are killing too many moose, caribou and sheep.

Rural Yukon hunters and trappers say they want loosened wolf harvesting regulations, since they say the animals are killing too many moose, caribou and sheep.

This wolf was spotted on the Teslin River by Whitehorse resident Adam Skrutkowski on April 22. There are upwards of 5,000 wolves in Yukon, according to government estimates. (Adam Skrutkowski)

Hunters and trappers discussed the issue Thursday night at a public meeting hosted by a government committee reviewing the territory's Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

Some of those who attended the meeting said wolves are taking too big of a share of moose, caribou and sheep, so there should be more control on the wolf population.

"I think there's going to be a balance. If we want moose, caribou, sheep for our future generations, we got to do something about those wolves," Sandy Smarch of Teslin told the committee at the meeting.

There are upwards of about 5,000 wolves in Yukon, spread throughout the territory from the British Columbia border to the North Slope, according to the committee.

The government currently regulates how many wolves can be killed each year. It says an average of 80 wolves are trapped and 50 wolves are hunted each year, accounting for about three per cent of the population.

Small-scale control programs

Committee members said few people want a return to the large-scale, government-sponsored wolf culls of the past, but they said rural Yukoners are calling for small-scale wolf control programs in their communities.

People also want the government to offer financial incentives to local hunters and trappers to carry out those small-scale programs, the committee heard.

Dave Dickson of the Beaver Creek area agreed that government-sponsored wolf kills are a thing of the past, but he told the committee that bag limits and other barriers to hunting and trapping wolves should be relaxed.

"You're never going to take them all unless you're using extreme measures like aircraft and poison, and we don't use that anymore, so don't worry about that," Dickson said.

"But lift those barriers for a guy that's out on the land, trying to make a living with a trap."

The Whitehorse meeting was the last of 12 public hearings for the six-person committee, which is tasked with reviewing the 19-year-old wolf management plan.

Caution urged on culling wolves

The management plan was put in place in 1992, around the time that the Yukon government conducted a wolf cull in the Aishihik Lake area.

The Yukon government conducted broad-scale wolf culls in the 1980s and '90s, in an effort to help moose and caribou population grow again.

But Joe Tetlichi, head of the Porcupine Caribou Management Board, urged caution when it comes to culling wolves.

"We kind of have to try to stay away from culling and really going after the wolves," he said. "The wolves are here for a reason, and we have to respect that."

Some at Thursday night's meeting also raised concerns about trap lines being set up near communities, posing a safety risk to people and dogs.

Sylvie Binnette of Whitehorse told the committee that she found a caribou carcass tied to a tree at Fish Lake this past winter. The carcass had been placed there as bait by a wolf hunter, she said.

"To me, such a practice close to town, where there is people, comes [out] of the Dark Age," Binnette said.

The review committee's report and recommendations are expected sometime this summer.