BC Responding to Fears, Not Statistics
There is nothing pretty about finding the remains of a cow or sheep attacked by wolves. British Columbia livestock breeders are understandably concerned when their already slim margins are narrowed by predation. Ranchers say attacks are increasing. So do First Nations hunters, who say moose and caribou are falling prey to wolves. In Cariboo, the province’s primary cattle country, those groups welcome the decision to allow open season on wolves that stray too near livestock.
However, B.C. Ministry of Agriculture statistics provided to the Vancouver Sun point to an emotional decision not based on statistics. In 2010, “there were 78 verified livestock losses to predators on Crown land across the province last year – the lowest in four years – for which the government paid out $32,931 in compensation.” To put that in perspective, those 78 deaths represent a tiny fraction, .052 percent, of the estimated 150,000 grazing on Crown Land.
Stephen Hume estimates 55 of the 78 deaths could be attributed to wolves. With approximately 525,000 cattle on B.C. farms and ranches (not just those on Crown Land), wolf-caused losses represent slightly over 0.01 percent, about half the number that die on the way to the slaughterhouse or are injured and have to be euthanized. Hume also cites a Canadian study of mortality in beef cattle that put disease as the top livestock killer, statistics similar to those found in the U.S.
He continues, “Meanwhile, a rancher from the Williams Lake area was charged following an SPCA investigation which found 40 of his cattle had starved to death and 130 were severely emaciated – that’s about 0.03 per cent of B.C.’s cattle herd.
“Unfair to blame all ranchers for the behaviour of one individual, ranchers reasonably argue. Exactly. And it’s equally unfair to blame wolves for livestock mortalities on the basis of unverified claims, anecdotal evidence and generalizations which arise from old prejudices.”
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