Wildlife Mismanaged in B.C. Says Cariboo Rancher
Quesnel, B.C. – One Cariboo rancher says he is being thrown to the wolves when it comes to wildlife management in British Columbia.
Mike Gilson operates a ranch in the Gravelle Ferry area southeast of Quesnel and says wolf predation is taking its toll on his business.
“Last year the wolf predation of our cattle started around the middle of July,” he says. “When the grazing season was over and the cattle were back home the losses came in at 28 calves, 11 yearlings and three cows. The monetary loss of these cattle was roughly $65,000” with “no compensation.”
This year he says the predation started in June and notes four calves have been killed by wolves, 13 have been treated for wounds and at least another 15 cows have been seen that no longer have a calf.
Gilson considers the loss of three to six calves the cost of doing business but says his losses forced him to hire a private, professional, predator mitigation specialist.
He attributes the problem to wildlife mismanagement.
“Wolves and bears, with the help of man, have drastically reduced ungulate populations in recent years, forcing wolves to find alternative food sources, such as cattle,” says Gilson.
“When a pack of wolves is targeting cattle as prey the only way to end the predation is through removal of the entire pack. In recent years, due to being underfunded and lack of man power/ability to carry out the mitigation work, whole pack removal is rarely achieved.
“Instead what has happened in many instances is the removal of a small portion of the pack causing the breakup of the pack structure. The fragmented pack will then reassemble into two or three new groups of livestock eating wolves, compounding the problem.”
He says the solution is to deal with the wolves.
“The management of predators needs to be done by an organization made up of stakeholders. Government needs to be at the table but not solely running the show. Predator management decisions can not be based on the beliefs of the uneducated voter, as done in the past and therefore contributing to the mess we have today.”
250News contacted the Conservation Officer Service for reaction but were told they no longer investigate or mitigate wolf depredation on cattle or sheep. All such calls are no forwarded to the Livestock Predator Program run by the BC Cattlemen’s Association.
We reached general manager Kevin Boon who says the Cariboo is the hardest hit region in the province (other affected areas include the Peace, the north Okanagan and the Kootenays). He also sympathizes with Gilson’s concerns.
“Mike is quite right in his concerns. We certainly have to have a better system in place for wildlife management and part of that certainly comes with the wolf population,” he says.
“There is work being done by government to bring in multiple stakeholders to talk all aspects of wildlife management. Right now there are some programs that we do have available for producers if criteria are met to bring them in. Some producers are choosing to do their own.”
He says a lot of the issue comes down to the public wanting to see wolves and wanting to see wildlife.
“There has to be an understanding that there has to be a balance and right now it’s out of balance and it’s costing our livestock.”
Is a wolf cull the answer?
“I keep hearing culls but really it’s not a matter of culls, it’s a matter of bringing a balance in. A cull insinuates you’re going to wipe them out – nobody wants that. It’s a matter of getting them back into balance and how we do that.
“We have multiple stakeholders that are willing to manage these and want to manage them and it’s not just the understanding that the wolves are eating everything else – it’s making sure that you’re protecting the others as well.”