Historically, the grey wolf was common throughout most of North America. Healthy ungulate populations, including bison, moose, elk and caribou provided an adequate food source. In turn, wolves limited overgrazing of wild lands by preying on these animals. They hunted weak and older ungulates, which kept herds strong and ensured the overall health of the ecosystem remained intact.
Indigenous nations lived in harmony with wolves and at times hunted on the same plains for bison. Upon contact, this changed for each of the aforementioned.
European settlers landed on the shores of North America with an anthropocentric creed. They clearcut and burned the forests, hunting and trapping numerous species into extinction. Bison were intentionally slaughtered en masse to take away food, clothing, shelter and ceremonial practices from Indigenous people, systematically wiping out their traditional way of living. Wolves were targeted as pests by settlers because of perceived threats to livestock and the belief that their mere existence was a detriment to people.
Intense pressure from hunting resulted in the extermination of wolves throughout most of the United States. Only recently have they begun to recover in the Great Lakes region and the Northern Rockies. In Canada, wolves fared slightly better but were still extirpated in territory that was dense with settlers.
The story of the wolf has changed little over time. Ranching and hunting lobbyists fight tooth and nail to continue extensive predator control. Today, Idaho, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and soon Ontario, are engaging in culling wolves.
Ghost has become a part of this story.
In the South Selkirk mountains of British Columbia, a wolf roams, devastated and alone. He is fitted with a radio collar that transmits a GPS signal to the government to notify his location. His name is ’Ghost’.
Ghost is the “Judas” wolf for a cull program designed by the BC Liberals to slaughter entire packs, including mothers and pups. He is referred to as the “Judas” wolf after the biblical story of the disciple Judas. Just as Judas betrayed Jesus to his enemies, the “Judas” wolf is used as a tool by hunters in helicopters to unintentionally betray the location of his pack. The program has put wolves in the crosshairs because of misinformation regarding the decline in mountain caribou. Habitat fragmentation and loss, mainly through logging in the South Selkirk has decimated critical caribou habitat. Rather than take action to protect habitat, which would limit corporate profits, the government has chosen to instead give the illusion of action via their scapegoating of wolves.
At some point during the cull, Ghost was trapped, collared and released. He unknowingly led Bighorn Helicopters to the location of his pack, who were then gunned down as they ran in panic from the helicopter that tormented them. When the slaughter ceased and blood stained the snow, Ghost was left alive, intentionally. This solitary wolf would be tracked as he instinctively searched for a new family, only to be traumatized yet again as his new pack is slaughtered before his eyes.
The BC Liberals have publicly stated that their wolf cull is being conducted in a humane manner, but the information uncovered during our field campaign contradicts such a claim.
During our time in the field, we tracked Ghost through the mountains and down into river valleys, yet never caught a glimpse of this elusive wolf. Tracks led on winding trails as he followed deer, drank from streams and laid down to rest. On our last morning in the field, just as the sun began to rise over the mountains, we heard Ghost let out a long and deep howl. Who was this call to? One can only guess.
The BC Liberals’ controversial, unethical and unsustainable wolf cull reveals the reality of who is truly betraying who in all of this. It is our own provincial government who has betrayed not only the wolves they scapegoat, but the endangered caribou they fail to protect, the concerned citizens, whose voices fall on the deaf ears of the elected and whose tax dollars are spent in secrecy on a slaughter they oppose.