Predation program still operating

Despite changes in personnel, the Conservation Officer Service’s provincial predation co-ordinator position will remain in place.

Despite changes in personnel, the Conservation Officer Service’s provincial predation co-ordinator position will remain in place, Chief Conservation Officer Doug Forsdick said Wednesday.

For the last few years Darryl Ashworth has held the position, however, a few weeks ago he was moved back into the COS office in Williams Lake to be an additional officer.

A senior inspector, Mark West, out of Prince George who oversees the Omineca region, is now the new provincial co-ordinator.

“It’s a bit more streamlined so that co-ordination role will be done by someone who is on our provincial leadership team,” Forsdick said.

“That position has been in place for about three years,” Forsdick said.

“The intent was to get predator conflict committees up and running in different parts of the province.”

Six hundred ranchers have been engaged so far and that’s not going to stop.” Forsdick insisted.

“Delivery on the ground on the front end is going to be exactly the same. Our conservation officers will still attend and verify livestock losses and when it fits into the appropriate criteria will also do the mitigation work.”

The highest concentration of livestock predator conflicts happen in the Cariboo region so Ashworth will be able to enhance the COS service’s ability to deal with those issues out on the ground, he added.

“I think there was a misconception that the program was over,” Forsdick said.

“We are going to continue to do the work, to do the mitigation and continue to train producers so they can do self-verification.”

He described the staff changes as an internal “tweak” to the program by putting a different person in the co-ordinator role while “enhancing” Williams Lake with an additional position.

West hasn’t started meeting with ranchers to date, but will begin the transition period soon with Ashworth, Forsdick said.

“Again, that co-ordinator position is for that person to set up and initiate relationships in the province and then it’s up to the local COs to continue to build those relationships with the producers.”

Echoing Forsdick, Sgt. Len Butler said the whole idea of the predator control program is to assist producers to help themselves.

“We have the highest number of producers in the province in our area,” Butler said. “With our number of guys, we looked at how best can we help and decided the best way is to get them to help themselves, get the BC Trappers involved, get everyone to the table.”

Butler said the COS does the best it can with limited resources, gaining in some places and in other places still struggling.

Having Ashworth back on his team is a bonus, Butler said.

“It’s boots on the ground to do more work,” he said.