VICTORIA - A conservation organization wants the RCMP to launch a criminal investigation into a "barbaric" wolf-killing contest in British Columbia's northeast.

Pacific Wild spokesman Ian McAllister said Monday he's preparing to send a letter to the Mounties in Fort St. John, asking them to investigate the lottery-like contest that offers a $1,000 prize of the largest wolf killed.

McAllister said Pacific Wild has obtained a legal opinion from West Coast Environmental Law that concludes the hunting contest operates as a lottery and requires a government licence to be legal.

Pacific Wild, based in the province's Great Bear Rainforest, filed a complaint with the B.C. Gaming branch last month, saying the wolf-kill contest requires a licence but was told the hunt was legal, he said.

McAllister said Pacific Wild wants deputy premier Rich Coleman, who is responsible for lotteries, to halt the hunt.

"We're sending a letter today to the RCMP in Fort St. John asking them to launch a criminal investigation based on this legal opinion and we're hoping that if Rich Coleman doesn't step in immediately on this issue as of today, we're hoping that the RCMP will press charges," McAllister said.

But Coleman's office issued a statement saying the Fort St. John wolf contest is legal.

The statement said that for an activity to be considered gaming, three elements must be present: players, chances and prizes.

"If an event or contest is determined by skill, then it does not require a licence," said the statement. "In this instance, the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch has determined that since entrants must present a wolf to be eligible to win a prize, the event is skill based and does not require a licence."

McAllister called the contest barbaric and said he's also appalled that Pacific Wild has always had to obtain lottery licences from the government whenever it held raffles or contests to promote their causes, which included protesting trophy grizzly hunting and preserving the Great Bear Rain Forest on the central coast.

McAllister said the Fort St. John contest allows hunters to kill three wolves, including pups, and permits baiting of wolves where hunters place a carcass in an area frequented by the animals and open fire when the wolves appear.

"You don't even need a licence. There's something wrong with that," he said.

McAllister said the Peace Rod and Gun Club of Fort St. John and others announced the contest with prizes that include $1,000 for the largest wolf killed and $150 for the smallest, with a maximum of three dead wolves per contestant.

He said the B.C. government is turning a blind eye to the contest, which he called a back-door wolf cull.

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