The BC Cattlemen’s Association has reclaimed responsibility for livestock predation control in the province. The work has been bounced back and forth between the BC Cattlemen’s Association and the Conservation Officer Service for years with wolf numbers gaining the upper hand. It is hoped the program will alleviate some of the pressures faced by ranchers in dealing with the problem.

The BC Cattlemen’s Association has reclaimed responsibility for livestock predation control in the province. The work has been bounced back and forth between the BC Cattlemen’s Association and the Conservation Officer Service for years with wolf numbers gaining the upper hand. It is hoped the program will alleviate some of the pressures faced by ranchers in dealing with the problem.

BC Cattlemen’s to tackle wolf predation again

A livestock protection program is back in the hands of the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association in partnership with the B.C. Government.

A livestock protection program is back in the hands of the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association in partnership with the B.C. Government.

“It’s a co-ordinated effort and goes deeper and further than the issue of livestock predation,” said Kevin Boon, general manager of the BC Cattlemen’s Association. “It’s not just about hunting and trapping, it’s also about mitigation and will involve education and putting out information on best management practices.”

The program will only target coyotes and wolves that have preyed on livestock, said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture.

“As the B.C. government is responsible for wildlife management, including wolves, in the province, we also have a role to play in programs that mitigate the damage or impact they have on British Columbians,” the spokesperson said.

For wolf activist Sadie Parr the words “mitigation” and “education” give her a sense of cautionary hope.

“I am glad the province is stepping up to do some education, as long as they are educating about prevention with non-lethal practices,” Parr said Thursday, noting she hopes the scientific community will be engaged.

“I do understand removing problem wolves, but once people see the light they will understand the two can co-exist, it’s all about educating the wolves. They are smart,” Parr said.

Boon said the best management practice guide will include suggestions such as proper disposal of dead livestock, how to discourage predators during calving season and the importance of establishing a human presence on the range.

Range riders are common in the U.S. and being used by two ranchers Parr has worked with in Alberta.

“In 12 years there hasn’t been a single incident. The alpha female and all her pups know the cattle are off limits,” Part said of one of the Alberta ranches.

Since 2011 the Conservation Officer Service was delivering the predator control program, but part of the problem is the lack of resources made it difficult for conservation officers to cover the province in an adequate manner,  Boon said.

“They made that very clear when they took it over in 2011 that they weren’t going to be able to get to some of the places.”

In the Anahim Lake area, wolf predation has increased and predation control has been left on the ranchers’ shoulders, he added.

The intent of the program is not to kill a bunch of wolves, Boon emphasized, noting research shows when too many wolves are eliminated, it splits packs and creates a bigger problem.

In the B.C. Government’s Grey Wolf Management Plan it is estimated there are about 8,500 wolves in the province.

Boon anticipates through the program they will remove approximately two per cent in a year of the total wolf population.

Only trained and registered trappers, hired by the association, for  a “yet- to- be determined cost-recovery fee,” will carry out the program Boon said, noting  so far 23 people have been hired throughout the province and twice as many have applied.

Some of the operators won’t necessarily trap, and others won’t hunt, but all of them must have the ability to trap, identify and verify what type of predator has caused the problem, Boon said.  If it is determined bears or cougars are the predators, then those cases will be handled by the Conservation Officer Service.

“Bears and cougars are more random and we don’t see them as much,” Boon said, adding with the COS they have the ability to relocate or do different things than trapping and hunting.