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By Justine Hunter
Takaya, the lone wolf, in Victoria on Feb 7, 2016. Cheryl Alexander /WILD AWAKE IMAGES/
The B.C. government will change its regulations for trapping wolves after conservationists raised the alarm about a trophy hunter who announced, through social media, her intent to remove a wolf pack.
Katrine Conroy, the Minister for Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, said in an interview Thursday that she was unaware until this week that there are no limits on trapping wolves in the province.
“I’m going to work with the B.C. Wildlife Federation to change the regulations, to close the loophole, because I think it’s a loophole,” Ms. Conroy said.
Jacine Jadresko, who promotes herself on social media as the InkedHuntress, recently posted photos on her Instagram account showing her holding the bodies of two wolves. In her post, she stated she was trapping the wolves in response to a “problem wolf pack” that was threatening pets. “Full pack removal is always the goal,” she wrote.
Ms. Jadresko is a Victoria-based hunter who has garnered international media attention, including a Netflix documentary called The Women Who Kill Lions, and a large social-media following for her big game kills that she documents on her Instagram account. The account is now listed as private.
In an e-mailed response to an interview request, she said she is not hunting an entire pack of wolves, but legally trapping with the permission of private landowners. “This is not trophy hunting,” she wrote. “My partner is of Métis heritage, and trapping and using pelts is a part of his cultural traditions.”
Ms. Conroy however said the posts on Instagram were troubling. “What I’ve seen is she tends to be more focused on increasing her social-media ‘likes,’ ” Ms. Conroy said. “I have many hunters in my family, and I talk to hunters and trappers – that’s something that most hunters and trappers would find offensive.”
Ms. Jadresko’s posting caught the attention of Cheryl Alexander, a wildlife conservationist who has also generated international attention – by documenting the life of the lone wolf Takaya. The wolf, known to the local Indigenous people as Staqeya, had lived on an archipelago near Ms. Alexander’s home in Victoria. Through her photographs, Takaya gained celebrity status but was relocated by conservation officers in early 2020, after he turned up in the city. He was killed by a hunter some weeks later.
Ms. Alexander said the trapping appears to be taking place near the coastal community of Sooke, a 45-minute drive from Victoria. She said she was alarmed because wolves in B.C. are offered very little protection from hunting and trapping.
“It’s a Wild West, free-for-all,” she said. “How does one person get to appoint themselves to take out a pack? It’s vigilante conservation.”
On Wednesday, Premier John Horgan said the reaction to Takaya’s death demonstrated there is little public support for targeting the small population of Vancouver Island’s grey wolves. There are an estimated 250 wolves on the island.
“It would be certainly be counter to the sentiment in the community,” Mr. Horgan told reporters. “When one lone wolf was relocated to the western part of my constituency and then shot by a hunter, the groundswell of frustration and anger at that single wolf kill was significant.”
Ms. Conroy said she was briefed on the regulations after the Premier’s remarks. She said she believes most trappers follow sustainable practices, and said wolf hunting will continue in B.C. – particularly where it is supported by Indigenous communities – because the population is not at risk. “They are really resilient. As we say on the farm, they breed like rabbits. There are no conservation concerns.”
Jesse Zeman, director of fish and wildlife restoration for the B.C. Wildlife Federation, expressed concern that the province now intends to impose regulation because of a single outlier.
In the 2017 documentary on the CBC’s The Fifth Estate, Ms. Jadresko said she is spurred on by the hate mail she receives. “The more you hate, the more I kill,” she posted on her Instagram account cited in the show.
Mr. Zeman said that sentiment is antithetical to most hunters. “This behaviour is not consistent with a hunter’s ethics, and it is not condoned,” he said. “So now we are going to regulate one person’s behaviour?”
He said wolf populations do need to be managed because B.C. has allowed unsustainable logging practices that have decimated the population of black-tailed deer on Vancouver Island. Predators are more efficient because of the ever-shrinking amount of old-growth forests needed by the deer for winter foraging.
“What we’ve experienced since the 60s is a 95-per-cent decline in the licensed deer harvest,” he said. “That red meat would be food security for over 20,000 people on the island, if we had the deer now like we had back then.”
Wildlife expert Chris Darimont, a University of Victoria professor and Raincoast Research Chair in Applied Conservation Science, recently published a study that concluded trophy killing of predators such as wolves, grizzly bears and cougars can harm the interests of hunters. The study notes that the B.C. government maintained that the province’s grizzly hunt was sustainable, but Mr. Horgan cancelled it because of persistent public pressure.
Dr. Darimont said hunters face “reputational damage” when the public sees big game hunters killing for status or notoriety. “It’s a provocative activity … It makes me, and other hunters I know, feel uncomfortable. Not many hunters are interested in doing this. Why kill, if it’s not to eat it?”