To our members and supporters,

Do you remember the grizzly bear hunt consultation process that took place during the fall of 2017?  78% of those consulted wanted the grizzly bear hunt stopped.  That consultation process netted a scant 4,200 written responses. That means just 924 people voiced their support for the hunt. That told us one thing; many of the approximately 100,000 hunter conservationists in BC are disengaged.

Our provincial government has recently offered us another big opportunity to steer the direction of wildlife management in BC into the future. Its fairly common knowledge that wildlife and their habitat in BC are in trouble, populations continue to decline as their habitat is reduced, fragmented and degraded. If you are going to do one thing for wildlife this year, this is it! Wildlife needs your voice!

The first consultation process is taking place now until July 31, 2018 and concerns “Wildlife and Habitat”.  The BC Government is taking written submissions at WildlifeAndHabitat@gov.bc.ca .for which we’ve prepared a template here.

They’re also taking online comments on the following page: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/wildlifeandhabitat/.  We’ve prepared suggested responses here.

It is very important that comments and written submissions are made in a respectful and thoughtful manner. These comments and submissions are public and it is crucial that we present ourselves in a manner that cultivates public trust. Thank you for taking the time to be a voice in for wildlife in BC.

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The Wild Sheep Society of BC hosts the annual Spences Bridge Sheep Count in early April of each year, volunteers dust off their binoculars and spotters and make the journey to Spences Bridge to locate, identify and record bighorn sheep. This ground-based population inventory provides an estimate of total abundance and an index of the sex and age composition of the population for the bighorn sheep located between Lytton and Cache Creek, British Columbia.

Long-term bighorn sheep population trends can effectively be monitored using ground-based inventories. The ground-based inventory represents the number of animals observed under a given set of conditions, climatic conditions and observers biases/detection rates can change from year to year. Trend analyses are based on years with similar conditions, and survey effort, population numbers are corroborated with aerial surveys and population models.

On April 7th, 2018 over 70 passionate sheep hunters and conservationists descended on the Lytton-Cache Creek corridor to glass for the elusive bighorn sheep for the annual Spences Bridge Sheep Counts. Prior to the count, volunteers and team leaders were assigned one of the 13 survey zones and team leaders were issued the maps, data sheet and instructional information. Volunteers made the journey from all over the province to take part; volunteers from Golden, Quesnel, and as far as Vancouver Island made the long journey to take part in the counts. The bulk of the volunteers travelled up from the Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland.

Groups were provided all the information they needed to start locating and recording sheep on the morning of the count. Several groups were on location for first light, to take advantage of those early morning movements. The weather conditions in the morning hours were sub-optimal, with rain and low-lying fog in the valley. Conditions would improve throughout the day as the fog lifted and the rain subsided. Spotting bighorn sheep was particularly difficult in the morning due to the weather and the limited mobility of the sheep. Volunteers were forced to pick apart the landscape in search of bedded sheep, not an easy task in the cliffs and treed landscape.

Spotting scope, binoculars and a sturdy chair are the essential gear needed for the sheep counts. All are welcome at the sheep counts and volunteers brought the optics they had, however, the volunteer who brought out the Swarovski BTX seemed to make the most friends, with undoubtedly the most advanced sheep counting optic ever made. Some groups were set up with a full-on tailgating setup, with fresh French-pressed coffee in the morning, the barbeque grilling up lunch and a cooler full of cold drinks. Groups dealt with the rain using various approaches, some threw on the raingear and toughed it out, others were glassing out the windows of their parked vehicles and the most prepared groups had pop-up shelters to hunker down under to avoid the liquid sunshine.

 

A total of 70 rams were identified, including 4 mature (Class IV) rams. A total of 250 bighorn sheep were identified during the survey, which included 137 ewes, 37 lambs and 6 unclassified adults. The lamb: ewe ratio was 27:100. The adult sex ratio was 51 rams per 100 ewes. The difficult conditions resulted in fewer sheep spotted compared to the previous year, however, the total number of sheep appears to be consistent with previous years.

After the counting was finished the volunteers met up at the Log Cabin Pub in Spences Bridge for refreshments, food and to swap stories about what they saw on the landscape and how their past hunting season went. Tall tales, tips, and tricks were exchanged as the veteran sheep hunters shared their knowledge over a cold one. After an hour of socializing, people slowly started to trickle out, heading for home.

An important topic of discussion at the pub revolved around who found the big rams or located the most rams, which is always important for bragging rights. However, it is the ewes and lambs which are the important factors in determining the health and vitality of the sheep population. While the overall population numbers give a snapshot of the population size at the moment, the lambs per 100 ewes ratio and the lamb survivability are the most important factors for predicting how the population dynamics will change in the future. The scientific data suggests that while genetics play a role in the size of rams, nutrition and health of the mother play a larger role in how big a ram can grow. Strong mothers produce the largest sons. The conservation goals should focus on healthy ewes to produce more mature rams.

Poor lamb survival appears to be a common factor in the declines of bighorn sheep herds throughout their range. In many cases the underlying causes of low recruitment are unclear. The long-term data set from these counts for population trends, sex-age class ratios, and survivability are incredibly valuable for informing sustainable wildlife management strategies.

By all accounts, the volunteers had a good time, and only a few groups were unable to locate sheep. Next year’s counts are tentatively scheduled for April 6, 2019. Thanks to all the volunteers, many of which travelled long distances, for braving the elements and providing valuable information on the bighorn sheep population. A special thanks to Brady Woods for once again co-organizing the event, with over 70 volunteers we had double the volunteers compared to last year’s event.

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The Wild Sheep Society of BC (WSSBC) is a registered non-profit wildlife conservation organization and our Mission is “To promote and enhance wild sheep and wild sheep habitat throughout British Columbia.”

The WSSBC was formed in 1998 by a group of dedicated sportsmen and women that recognized the challenges wild sheep face, and decided to take action. Since then, the Society has grown to hundreds of members provincially and internationally whose crucial funds and volunteer time are funnelled into projects around BC with the goal of “Putting More Sheep On The Mountains”. Through our collective efforts, the WSSBC funds wild sheep science and research projects, habitat enhancement and protection initiatives, and transplants of sheep into unoccupied or historically occupied areas. During our annual Fundraiser and Convention, we engage our membership and the public with updates on the status of our wild sheep populations throughout the province, the latest on our projects and research, awareness of wild sheep health and disease issues, and other educational events related to wild sheep and sheep hunting.

The WSSBC is looking to hire a part time to full time staff member. We believe this position will help us with the next step as a fundraising and volunteer organization. Our goal is to double our membership and our gross revenue in the next 5 years to further our conservation cause. We also hope to improve our accountability and communication to our membership.

WSSBC Executive Assistant Position

Please review the Position requirements and if you are interested submit your application to kstelter@wildsheepsociety.com prior to May 1st, 2108

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