Andy Ackerman, regional manager for British Columbia's Fish and Wildlife Allocation Branch, tells us the cut and the new harvest restriction are preemptive measures based upon recent observations and harvest statistics in the region. He is quick to say that stone sheep are not in trouble, and that the Ministry is not trying to stop sheep hunting.
"There are plenty of stone sheep in British Columbia," he says. "The species is not in crisis."
Other steps the Ministry is taking is the creation of a multi-disciplinary Peace Sheep Management Committee consisting of outfitters/guides, biologists, indigenous people and other interested parties. Their charge is to recommend research projects and methods to determine exactly where the population stands and what is causing its decline, while also implementing short-term initiatives to prevent any further decline and long-term initiatives to fix the problem and re-bolster the population. The research projects are expected to require a couple of years to complete. During that time, the 17 percent cut and three-year harvest restriction are expected to remain in place.
When asked for statistics on declining numbers and harvest information, Ackerman told us it was too early to throw out any figures. He did tell us that the outfitter allocation last year for the Peace Region was 162 sheep and only 101 rams were taken by clients. Residents took 70 rams. Also, the age of the rams taken seems to have fallen as well.
Possible reasons for the decline include: predation; habitat disturbance; wildlife disturbance by aircraft, gas and oil exploration and recreational users; and, of course, weather. Predation by wolves........(continued)