No Justification for Changes to Bighorn Sheep Regulations in Region 4

Please take a few minutes to watch the video below to hear our Executive Director, Jesse Zeman, discuss the various factors at play in the update to the proposed LEH draw for bighorn sheep hunting in the Kootenays.

If you support that there is no science-based rationale in favour of moving from a General Open Season to Limited Entry Hunting for bighorn sheep in the Kootenay region, please consider copying and pasting the letter below and sending it to your local Member of the Legislative Assembly.

Click here for our Conservation Series Webinar: When does selective hunting lead to evolutionary change and what (if anything) should we do about it?

Click here for the BC government’s Kootenay Region Bighorn Sheep Management Plan

Click here to find contact information for your local MLA

To Whom It May Concern,
I do not support moving from a General Open Season to Limited Entry Hunting (LEH) season for bighorn sheep in the Kootenay region because the government has failed to demonstrate a science-based rationale and, more importantly, has failed to identify how moving to LEH will help recover bighorn sheep.

When suggesting regulation changes the government should be able to establish:
1) The need to change hunting regulations, supported by science-based rationale
2) The specific population level measurable objectives or threshold needed to ensure hunting is sustainable
3) The hunting regulation options which could result in achieving the specific measurable objectives
4) The expected response and timeframe to recovery for that wildlife population

To date, the province has failed to address those four steps. Furthermore, the rationale the province currently has does not appear to be supported by sheep experts.

The B.C. Wildlife Federation recently hosted a webinar with Dr. Marco Festa-Bianchet, one of the world leading research scientists in the area of bighorn sheep ecology, particularly the effects of hunting on sheep. Dr. Festa-Bianchet analyzed data from hunter harvest in the Kootenay region, and preliminary analysis suggests that hunting regulations are not having a negative impact on sheep horn growth. Dr. Festa-Bianchet also did not indicate a concern with the current management regime being used in the Kootenay region. This tends to suggest the factors limiting bighorn sheep are not related to hunting.
Dr. Festa-Bianchet suggested three tools to restore sheep population. They were:

1) Ensure wild sheep do not have diseases transmitted by domestic sheep including mycoplasma ovipneumoniae
2) Ensure individual cougars are not causing population declines through predation
3) Restore habitat

While cougar harvest is relatively high in the region, disease surveillance and restoring habitat are not happening at a meaningful scale. The decline in sheep happened in 2012/13, nearly a decade ago. The province needs to get on with actions to restore populations. The Kootenay region has a long history of singularly focusing on hunting regulations, which have never resulted in restored wildlife populations. In fact, wildlife in the region has been declining for decades and the government has not done anything meaningful to reverse the trend.

If the province is able to demonstrate a science-based biological need to reduce hunter harvest, there are several tools which would reduce harvest that do not involve moving straight to LEH.

I expect the government to make decisions based on science. In this case the government has failed to provide rationale that either demonstrates an effect due to hunting or how changing the hunting regulations will result in restored sheep populations. Even the government’s own Kootenay Bighorn Sheep Management Plan states, “current hunting seasons are not believed to be affecting population trends.” It is time to start focusing in on meaningful actions which will restore our wildlife resources rather than doing things that are easy and look good.


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