While B.C.’s ranching industry is calling for a cull on what it believes is a spreading wolf population, conservation officers already target animals under a predator program.
According to the latest numbers available, 146 predators were killed provincewide in 9 1/2 months, to the end of 2011. That included 60 wolves. In the Thompson region, 21 wolves were killed.
Ranchers say years of tranquility can be quickly lost if a wolf pack moves in.
Terry Inskip’s family has ranched the area just north of Westsyde for decades without incident, until April of this year.
“(Wolves) killed six yearlings in four days,” he said.
“They were here off and on all winter. They hadn’t bothered with anything but at the end of April, they started killing stuff.”
B.C. Cattlemen’s association is calling for a provincewide cull of wolves, arguing numbers are rising and their losses mounting.
According to recent reports the last widespread wolf culls were done in the 1980s. But more recently, wolves have been killed by trappers given bounties in order to protect endangered mountain cariboo.
Inskip said prior to this year, the last time a wolf was spotted on his property, which has been in the family for generations, was 1948.
“Since then there’s never been a wolf,” said the rancher.
Ranchers will learn more over the next month about how this year’s losses to predators stack up.
“They won’t know until they do round up,” said Barriere-area rancher and former B.C. Cattlemen’s president Ed Salle.
“My experience is…at times they’ll take four, five, 10 without disruption.”
Under the provincial predator program, ranchers are given 70 per cent of the value of livestock killed by predators. It must be verified by conservation officers, who then attempt to kill the animal responsible.
Sadie Parr, of conservation group Western Wolf Pact, said hunting and sterilization programs could make matters worse because it upsets stable family units among wolves. Packs splinter and young wolves may not be able to learn hunting techniques needed to kill large ungulates, including moose.
“There is no evidence to show that indiscriminately killing wolves works as a long-term solution. Depredations occur in areas that have been practicing lethal control for decades,” the group said in a statement.
In the case of Inskip’s losses, conservation officers found and killed one male wolf. There have been no losses since, but Inskip said he might learn more this month when cattle return home from the late summer range.
Salle said he lives on the “wolf side of the North Thompson” where wolves have roamed for decades.
“Guys around us are on pins and needles. You won’t know what you lost until you know. (Wolves) get good at picking animals and not running the herd out of the country.”