To the editor;
We would like to convey our gratitude for the work done by our Conservation Officers in the Kamloops and Clearwater districts. We have had a very difficult year of predators harassing our cattle at home and on range.
This spring 2011, we had a calf killed near our home in our pasture. We called the Conservation Officer Service on the Saturday of the May long weekend to report what we believed to be a wolf kill. We reported this directly to our local Conservation officer, as well as the Report-a-Poacher toll free line.
The next morning, Kevin Van Damme, Conservation Officer of Clearwater, arrived to verify that the kill was wolf caused and set traps in the area that the carcass was found. By Tuesday morning, we had caught our wolf. Tuesday morning, the Report-a-Poacher response arrived but it was obviously taken care of. Kevin’s willingness to be available at all times was a crucial part of this success and we are grateful.
We had a similar situation during the spring of 2010, when a wolf killed a calf at the end of May in our pasture. We called BC Cattlemen’s Association as they were in charge of the Predator Loss Program at the time. We had preserved the carcass to avoid losing what was left of the carcass before it could be verified.
Three or four days later, the kill was verified but it was too late to put out traps etc, though that was not really an option offered to us at the time. From what we were told, it would take several days, possibly weeks, to get someone there to track the wolves, making that possibility somewhat futile.
In July 2011, we had a yearling heifer come home with part of her tail missing and definite wolf markings all around her back end. Kevin was here again within 24 hours to check and verify that it was wolf, though due to the fact that she came home on her own and we were unsure of which part of the range she was on when she was attacked, it was decided that there was not enough evidence to go on to set traps. Thankfully this cow survived.
During August and September, we had two cows and a calf that disappeared on range. We found one cow carcass that was a fresh kill. We reported again to the Report-a-Poacher line as well as directly to our local conservation Officer. Once again, within 24 hours, Kevin was with us to verify the kill and create a game plan on how to eliminate the problem wolves.
Kevin and his co-worker, Tobe Sprado, set twelve traps and a number of snares. We worked closely with Conservation Officers, helping by checking the traps. Within the next ten days we trapped a total of six wolves on the cow carcass. It was very successful. There have been sightings since this trapping of at least seven more wolves in the immediate area.
The second cow that went missing was found by hunters in October. Though there was not enough left of the carcass to verify this kill, we can fairly safely assume it was wolves as she was a young healthy cow unlikely to die of natural causes, and the carcass was surrounded by wolf sign and the carcass had definitely been eaten by wolves. Conservation Officer Van Damme found that there was enough evidence to set a line of traps, in which we trapped one more wolf.
Throughout the summer, we observed our cattle being very jumpy and always running, even at the slightest noise. There was fresh wolf scat, and lots of it, everywhere that we went to check our cows.
There are serious implications to our operation from the stress on our cows of being hunted by the wolves. Our cows breeding cycle will undoubtedly be affected, making our calving season very trying and long. It has also had a major impact on our calf weight gain. Upon selling our calves this fall, our animals are at least 50 to 100 pounds lighter than last year. Conservatively, 50 pounds over 100 calves at $1.50 per pound is $7500 which is a huge loss we will never be compensated for. If we can stop this excessive wolf population from hunting our cattle, we will be able to have a much more successful year in 2012.
We do not oppose a small population of wolves, they are a natural animal who deserve a natural environment to live in, provided they are eating natural prey. We do, however, feel that there has to be more management of the population in the majority of British Columbia.
We have been working mostly with Conservation Officer Kevin Van Damme and he has been very supportive. We feel strongly that the Ministry in charge of Conservation Officers Service is on the right track putting the Conservation Officers in charge of these issues and they have the ability to be very successful.
We did witness how very busy these Conservation Officers are and that they are required to cover a very large area due to staffing levels and funding restraints. These issues need to be addressed as expediently as possible.
We were of the initial opinion that government involvement could make things more difficult, but we were at a loss for what to do.
That first phone call to Conservation Officer Kevin Van Damme changed everything for us. Now he is the first person we call when we have an issue with predation. We value his knowledge and we do not move forward without his input.
We can not stress enough how crucial a role availability played in our ability to have some success.
We are very grateful to the Conservation Officer Service for their support in this manner and though our hope is to not need their services in the future, it is a very reassuring to know that the Conservation Officer Service is there if we need them.
Ian and Brenda Jones
Louis Creek, B.C.