Are We “Managing Wildlife to Zero” in British Columbia? by Mark LR Hall | Jan 4, 2018 | “Managing to Zero” is when; Wildlife populations are in a long-term decline, There is no plan to recover the populations to former levels and, The only management action is to continually ratchet hunting seasons down so that hunting is not a cause of the population declines. Are Hunters Contributing to the “Managing to Zero” Approach? The problem with trying to get government committed to science-based wildlife management is compounded when hunters are only advocating for reductions in hunting seasons. More and more I am seeing that the standard “go-to” response from hunters is to advocate for shortening the hunting seasons and ask that government take hunting opportunities away. The most concerning part of this approach to hunter advocacy is there is often no solid evidence showing that hunting regulations are causing the declines in the first place. This is a dangerous approach to advocacy because it is driving hunters, wildlife managers and politicians down the road of endorsing populist wildlife management like we saw with the grizzly hunting ban decision. If all hunters want is less hunting and they hassle and embarrass government to get their way the easiest cost-effective way for government to fix the problem is to take hunting away rather than invest in recovering wildlife populations. If a little bit less hunting is good for wildlife then is a lot less hunting even better? The messages we should be telling politicians are: Declining populations are the problem not hunting and investing in wildlife management is what it will take to recover wildlife populations. Managing to Zero – Case in Point In British Columbia, some wildlife populations and hunter harvest levels have been on a downward trend for many decades. For example, in B.C.’s Region 5 wildlife management unit the moose population suffered significant multiple population crashes over the last several decades. After each successive crash attempts were made to recover the moose population by eliminating antlerless seasons, closing the any bull GOS season, shortening the length of the bull seasons and putting bulls on Limited Entry. None of these changes to the hunting regulations caused the population to rebound. With minimal science and investment in moose management we don’t know exactly what is causing the moose declines or what combinations of factors or conditions are limiting their population recovery. The total moose harvest in Region 5 went from 3000+ moose to a few hundred in a period of 25 years yet there is still no formal science-based management plan to recover moose in Region 5. Research is under way to find out the answers but it’s only been started recently as a result of hunters raising concerns about moose numbers. Region 5 moose harvest trends. Moose are victims of the Managing to Zero approach. In British Columbia’s Region 4 wildlife management unit the mule deer population crashed after the severe winter of 1996/1997 and consequently the hunter harvest crashed. The seasons were shortened in length, mule deer does seasons were closed and bucks were restricted to 4 points. With all these changes to the hunting regulations over the years mule deer have never recovered in Region 4. B.C. has not invested enough in mule deer research to know what factors are preventing the population from rebounding. Consequently we do not know how to recover the deer populations. Mule deer in Region 4 are a victim of the Managing to Zero approach and some hunters continue to advocate for more hunting restrictions on mule deer rather than demanding a science-based recovery plan. Hunters recognized these declines decades ago and they have been demanding that the government take action to rebuild the populations. Hunters, guides and trappers are very in tune with what is going on in the areas they are familiar with. Local knowledge can be the early warning red flags that signal when more intense management is needed. This is why hunter’s field observations need to be documented in a systematic, objective and meaningful way to help verify wildlife monitoring data. Region 4 mule deer harvest trends. Mule deer are a victim of the Managing to Zero approach.