Living in a place lauded for its natural beauty and vast wildlife, British Columbians take much pride in their great outdoors. So when it comes to protecting and preserving the wild animals that live in BC, passions can leave people divided.
Take the debate over the cull of wolves – conservationists argue killing wolves helps preserve moose populations, supporting the sustainable killing of wildlife as a tool that promotes biodiversity. Animal welfare scientists rail against this position, focusing instead on the suffering of individual animals and the method of killing.
But the debate over the human threat to wildlife doesn’t have to be polarizing, suggests new research from UBC. Using an anonymous online survey, more than 350 BC residents – including government officials, biologists, conservationists, animal welfare scientists and the general public – were asked to rate the level of harm caused by a variety of human activities that impact wildlife.
The results surprised Sara Dubois, who conducted the survey as part of her doctoral studies in UBC’s Animal Welfare Program. “Both sets of experts, conservationists and animal welfare scientists, along with the public, agreed independently that the biggest harms to wildlife are development, pollution, and agriculture,” she says. “There is agreement that the bigger picture stuff – habitat loss, pollution – is hurting wildlife more than hunting or vehicle collisions.”
Dubois says the results show the potential for common ground to be reached between the experts, who are often pitted against one another. She notes her research will help her in her job as manager of wildlife services for the BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, where she often has to negotiate between the two sides.