September 22, 2015 - 9:30 AM
VICTORIA - Miley Cyrus didn't see any wolves, but her visit to British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest convinced her that killing wolves to save endangered caribou is wrong, says the conservation group that hosted the music superstar.
Cyrus and her brother Braison spent the weekend around Klemtu, about 600 kilometres north of Vancouver, meeting with wolf experts and local First Nations.
"She had a dozen grizzly bears wandering the estuary around her as they were feeding on salmon," Pacific Wild director Ian McAllister said Monday. "She got to see humpback whales breaching 20 feet from the boat. It was really a supernatural experience for her in the wilds of B.C."
But the closest Cyrus got to a wolf was seeing tracks, he said.
Cyrus recently asked her 28.8 million Instagram followers to sign a Pacific Wild petition to stop the wolf cull in B.C. The petition has since grown to almost 200,000 signatures.
Premier Christy Clark reacted sharply to Cyrus's call to end the wolf kill earlier this month, saying the singer didn't know enough about B.C.'s environmental plan to be jumping into the debate.
Clark then quipped that if the province needed help on its twerking policy, it may contact Cyrus about her dance moves.
"I think it was the fact the premier was so rude to her that she really started to dig deeper into this issue," McAllister said.
Cyrus was not available for comment Monday, but Pacific Wild released video of her visit to B.C.
She said in the video that she saw grizzly bears and was truly amazed seeing spawning salmon.
"The reason why I'm here is I want to see the wolf cull ended," said Cyrus, who admitted to using her celebrity status for the cause and called her voice a megaphone.
"What I do is really unimportant," Cyrus said. "I'm not a biologist. I'm a pop star. That's ridiculous. But that's given me such a platform."
McAllister said Cyrus was taken to the central coast, and not to the areas of province where two proposed wolf culls will take place, because Pacific Wild was able to introduce her to wolf scientists and First Nations who also oppose the province's grizzly hunt.
The B.C. government plans to increase the number of wolves it kills this winter in the second year of its five-year strategy to save endangered caribou.
Its goal was to shoot about 200 wolves last winter, but a low snow pack and bad weather made the hunt difficult. Sharpshooters in helicopters killed 84 wolves in the northeast and southeast regions.
The South Selkirk caribou herd had just 18 animals in March 2014, down from 46 in 2009, the government said. There are about 950 caribou in seven herds in the northeast, with wolves responsible for 40 per cent of deaths in four of those herds.
Tom Ethier, an assistant deputy minister in the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, which oversees the cull, said the government is faced with deciding between killing wolves in an attempt to save a species or do nothing.
He said science suggests culling wolves gives caribou a fighting chance, but there are no guarantees.
Since 2007, the province's mountain caribou recovery program has protected millions of hectares of habitat in the South Selkirk and the South Peace regions.
McAllister said the government moved too late to protect caribou habitat and has now made wolves the scapegoat.
"At the end of the day when these herds are hanging by a thread, they are shifting the entire blame on these wolves," he said. "It's going to lead to international embarrassment, the mismanagement of habitat in B.C."
News from © The Canadian Press, 2015