01/15/2015 14:57 EST | Updated 03/17/2015 05:59 EDT

Wolf cull will see animals shot from helicopter to save B.C. caribou

Up to 184 wolves in British Columbia will be culled as part of an "immediate action" ordered by the provincial government to save dwindling caribou herds in the region.

The predators will be shot from helicopters in two specific areas of B.C. — the South Selkirk Mountains and the South Peace.

According to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources, the South Selkirk caribou herd is in danger of local extinction, with a population that has declined from 46 in 2009, to just 18 as of March 2014.

The ministry says that two of the remaining herd have been killed by wolves in the past two months, and that up to 24 of the predators will be culled before snow melt.

The four caribou herds across the South Peace have also seen decreasing populations, with wolf predation the cause of at least 37 per cent of adult deaths, says the ministry.

Up to 140-160 wolves in the region are expected to be shot from helicopters, a method, the ministry hopes will be effective where hunting and trapping has failed.

The cull will be handled in partnership with Treaty 8 First Nations and the operational plans have been fully peer-reviewed, the ministry says.

The government's wolf management plan for the province was attacked by conservation groups when it was first released in April 2014.

At that time, Ian McAllister, with the advocacy group Pacific Wild, said the plan didn't recognize the profound ecological role the animals play in B.C.

"It makes things worse, because this is actually now a formal plan and this is what is going to direct wildlife management officials in British Columbia for years to come," he said. "It's a plan to kill as many wolves as possible."