Editor, The Times:
My father, Ralph Ritcey, has asked me to respond to the editorial you recently ran in your paper concerning the issue surrounding the decline of caribou in our province. Some of the original research into the needs of the caribou was carried out in Wells Gray Provincial Park during his time there and father has been a proponent for the caribou ever since.
His analysis is as follows:
The focus on predators as the critical part of the decline in caribou numbers ignores the fact that with, or without, predators – caribou still need to eat to survive. The bottom line is that caribou need the arboreal lichens found in old-growth stands of timber.
This preoccupation with depredation is evidenced in Fletcher’s erroneous assertion that “Newfoundland’s herds are many times bigger than B.C.’s total population, and decline there as well as here is attributed to climate shifts, resurgence of wolves and grizzly bears and their access to prey via roads and snowmobile tracks.” As Newfoundland has neither wolves nor grizzly bears I wonder where Fletcher is getting his facts.
Fletcher again oversimplifies the situation when he points out that the caribou numbers are declining in Wells Gray Park “with no industrial activity.” Caribou are highly mobile animals and require vast tracts of land to survive. Because the lichens they feed on are slow-growing, they need to be able to feed in an area and then leave it for an extended period while the lichens grow back. The logging outside of Wells Gray Park is what is having a direct impact on the Wells Gray caribou.
The science is clear on the subject – if you want to have sustainable numbers of caribou you have to give up some of the economic benefits that are associated with our logging industry.
We can’t “have our cake and eat it too!”