The Tahltan Nation in northern B.C. is urging its citizens to hunt more bears and wolves, saying doing so will help increase the populations of other species that First Nations rely on.
In a news release on Tuesday, the Tahltan Central Government (TCG) says provincial wildlife counts show "dwindling" numbers of prey species such as caribou, moose and salmon in the area, and a "growing imbalance of wildlife populations."
It says a newly-adopted TCG policy is meant to fix that.
"[The Tahltan Predator Management Policy] encourages and incentivizes Tahltan members to exercise their constitutionally-protected Aboriginal hunting rights to harvest predatory species, including black bears, grizzly bears, and wolves," the release says.
The First Nation also says the "proliferating" predatory species are posing a threat to people, with increased conflict between community members and wildlife.
"There's just more than ever, that we are seeing in our communities, that we see in the back country. We see their behaviour changing, and they're becoming a lot more troublesome around our people and our communities," said TCG President Chad Norman Day.
"So we felt like we had to take matters into our own hands … it's not a decision that we came to lightly, and we stand behind it, 110 per cent."
The First Nation says its new policy will require citizens to harvest animals in compliance with Tahltan cultural practices and B.C. regulations, if those regulations do not conflict with Tahltan laws and rights.
Day says the B.C. government has failed to deal with what he feels is an urgent issue. He says most people in B.C. are out of touch with the reality of living in the remote North.
"We understand that there's been a 'Disney-fication' of predators like wolves, black bears, grizzly bears, and that the average person really doesn't understand the reality of how dangerous these predators are and the impact that it can have on Tahltan rights, when it comes to hunting," he said.
"At the end of the day, we have to act. And that's what we're doing."
Day says the First Nation will record harvest numbers from Tahltan citizens.
CBC requested an interview with someone from B.C.'s Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, but no one was available on Wednesday.
In an email to CBC, ministry spokesperson Tyler Hooper said wildlife populations naturally fluctuate and there are "many factors that can affect distribution and abundance."
"Generally, wildlife populations in the Northwest are stable; however, there are areas where declines of some species are observed or documented," Hooper's email reads.
He said the province has been working on a number of initiatives with the Tahltan Nation since 2017 to better assess and manage wildlife populations and reduce conflicts, and will continue to work with the First Nation "on shared objectives for wildlife management."
"The province recognizes, respects, and supports the rights of the Tahltan people to exercise and practice cultural wildlife management practices," Hooper said.
With files from Leonard Linklater
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