Cariboo ranchers urge public to be on the lookout for cattle on area roads

Two Cariboo ranching families hope a little bit of education will prevent livestock being hit by drivers

Two Cariboo ranching families are asking drivers to be on the lookout for cows and calf pairs that might be on the road.

Every year they lose two or three calves that are hit by a vehicle, said Monica Altwasser who along with her husband Michael have managed the Fraser River Ranch on the West Fraser Road for the last 10 years.

Drivers can expect the livestock to be there night and day for a certain period of time, she added.

“It’s not like we are asking year round that people crawl through, it’s just that the calves are young right now. It’s their first time on open range so it’s a little bit confusing for them and they just don’t know where to be and have no road awareness, obviously.”

As for the moms, they are in bawling range of the calves, she said.

At the Fraser River Ranch there are cattle guards to drive over and there is a huge white sign letting the public know they are driving on a ranch.

“There are so many indications, we don’t know what else to do,” Altwasser said.

Joining Altwasswer in the hope of getting the word out is Shauna Jacobsen. Shauna, along with her husband Jace and his family, own the Jacobsen Ranch at the north end of Tyee Lake.

Jacobsen said they had one calf hit so hard its hooves were left behind on the road while it was still alive in the ditch.

Another calf was hit and left suffering for 12 hours on the side of the road.

“I think the problem is that people don’t know who to contact when they do hit something and they don’t know what to do,” Jacobsen said.

Ranchers’ cows and calves all have ear tags. The colour of the tag and which ear it’s in provides a lot of information.

Altwasswer said it’s a good idea to take a photograph because most likely the person will be out of cell phone range when they do hit an animal.

“It’s not up to the public to shoot the animal,” Jacobsen added. “It is up to us, but the faster we know the better and then they don’t pay out of pocket.”

Contacting the rancher is the best option, but when it is not apparent which ranch the calf or cow comes from then people can contact the BC Livestock Producers Co-op Association in Williams Lake and be put in touch with a brand inspector.

“They can always put a photograph on Facebook too and maybe we will see it there,” Altwasser suggested.

Ranchers pay for grass to centre line of a road in their crown range lease, Jacobsen explained.

The Beaver Lake Road which runs from McLeese Lake to the Likely Road is in the middle of their open range.

“Under the range act we are required to use all our range and move cattle,” she said. “We don’t want the cattle on the road but we cannot be there 24/7.”

The Jacobsens even contacted Taseko Gibraltar Mines Ltd. and Mount Polley Mine safety co-ordinators asking them to encourage workers to watch when driving on the Beaver Lake Road.

“They are 80 km/hour roads but people are doing 120 or more and then they cannot stop,” she said.

Cows eventually learn to stay away from the road, so it’s mostly calves that get hit, she added.

Every once in a while a person will stop to let a rancher know a calf has been struck, Altwasser said.

While most of the public does care enough to slow down and watch for cattle, there are incidents where Jacobsen said they’ve encountered campers with guns and dogs that have no patience if they come upon cattle.

“We use the roads and the lands just the same as recreators, loggers and miners,” she said. “Crown land is multi-use and we are trying to go about educating people the best we can. Monica even went to ICBC and asked them to provide information to drivers that the cattle have the right to be there.”

Ultimately, Altwasser and Jacobsen said they want to stress the safety of both the travelling public and the animals.