Timber Wolf

From a recent article in Counterpunch,Wolf Sterilization Scheme Backfires“, about the BC government’s ill-conceived management prescription for wolves in the Muskwa-Kechika.

I can’t believe that they are still at it with the wolves and the moose in that area. It has been going on for more than 25 years. I don’t remember the year exactly but I think it was in the early part of the 80’s that I worked in a fire camp at Scoop Lake for a short time. Bill Bennett Jr. and the Socreds were in power then.

The Forest Service had started a controlled fire to burn off the underbrush meant to increase food for moose, and it got out of control. It subsequently cost them millions to fight their fire. Everything had to be flown in, from people to food, generators, refrigerators and tents.

By the time I went to work there, the fire was nearly out and there weren’t many people left in the camp. As a first aid attendant, I didn’t have much to do so I spent quite a bit of time riding around with the pilots in the choppers, exploring around the lake, and just talking to people. Many of the people remaining in the camp were natives who lived around the area, probably from Deas Lake.

When I first arrived, the shoreline fairly close to the camp was littered with 10 or 12 nearly decomposed wolf carcasses. One of the natives told me that he’d worked on a wolf kill the winter before. He wasn’t happy about what he did, but there was no jobs up there and they had to take what they could get. They flew around in small planes or choppers shooting the wolves then for some strange reason they picked up the bodies and dumped them onto the middle of the lake. As it was winter, of course when the ice and snow melted the bodies gradually washed ashore. Because it was far north and cold much of the year, it took a long time for them to decompose.

Our drinking water came from the lake, but it really didn’t seem to bother too many of the other people in the camp that dead wolves were laying all over the shore and rotting in the water. Big shots from the forest service and probably some political hacks used to fly into the camp. They’d congregate around the maps which were tacked onto the side of the first aid tent because it had the only wooden walls in the camp. They would stand there swilling coffee, maybe laced with a good shot of whiskey, curse like sailors for awhile then fly out again.

I was really bothered by the whole scene, the dead wolves and the extreme waste of resources. I knew some of the pilots who ferried in the big shots. I’d take them around on walks to see the bones while they were waiting, and tell them of what I’d heard… the goings on with the wolf kill and the politics of the valley. Then all of a sudden one day the bones disappeared. I never found out who moved them. There was no doubt plenty more on the far side of the lake but I wasn’t able to get over there.

I remember all the fuss over the wolf kill the year before. I remember how Greenpeace was trying to get in to the valley and stop it, and nobody would rent them a plane or fly them in. Some of them even attempted to walk in but if you’ve ever flown over that area you would see how futile that idea was. At any rate, they weren’t able to stop it. I don’t know how many wolves were slaughtered, but plenty were dumped into that lake.

The thing that really got me when I was flying around in the choppers was just how many moose there were up there. It was crawling with moose, the whole area was like a big bustling moose city. They were everywhere. The gov’t had also recently airlifted in some elk and they were just getting established, but they were on the far side of the valley at the time and I don’t remember seeing any.

At that time, there were 2 guiding outfits in the valley. One was right next to the fire camp. I was told that he was a great buddy of the Minister of Environment, and that made sense. There was no other reason for the wolf kill, or for the controlled burn. The wolf kill was because the guiding outfits just didn’t want the competition for their $1,000 /day hunts. The burn was so that the underbrush could be cleared out in order to feed the masses of moose that were there. And they had to have some political pull to make that happen.

When I left, there wasn’t much left of the fire camp. As I was flying out, I could see a guy from the guiding outfit closest to the camp hauling tents and other booty away. I have no doubt that everything including the fridges and generators were left for him because it would have cost more to fly it out again than to leave it.

I have lots of pictures that I took of the camp, stuck away in a box somewhere. I also still have a wolf tooth, which was all that was left when they took the rest of the bodies away.



Originally published Friday, July 21, 2006