Mike Carter / Alaska Highway News
Charlie Lasser has seen what wolves can do to cattle, and it's not pretty. "A wolf never kills one of my animals," said Lasser, a rancher near Chetwynd. "What it does, it hamstrings them, cuts the muscles in the back so they can't move their back end, and then it eats them alive. "They try to keep them alive as long as possible," he added. "They keep coming back and eating on it. They like good beef and they like fresh beef, they don't want that old rotten stuff."
Faced with an uptick of predators in the South Peace, including wolves and coyotes, the Dawson Creek Sportsman's Club is encouraging its members to head into the bush and bag as many as legally allowed.
The suggestion comes as the B.C. government plans to carry out its own cull of up to 160 wolves in the South Peace.
In a recent newsletter, club president Andy Waddell told his members to "get out there and bag a few (predators) to help our moose, deer, and elk populations recover." "I'm hoping to (bag a few) myself," Waddell told the Alaska Highway News.
Like hunters, ranchers are concerned about the issue.
Large packs of wolves have been reported around the Groundbirch area, Waddell said, even taking down a full-grown Charolais bull in the community pasture—a $6,000 loss for that rancher, he said.
For Waddell, a rancher himself, the predator problem isn't something he can ignore. "A couple of years ago, the Groundbirch community pasture was reporting anywhere from a five to 10 per cent loss of cows, and they found evidence that it was predators," he said. "(Cows) are quite valuable. That's your paycheque every fall and, unless you have a feed lot and are selling so many (cows) per month, that's your one paycheque for the year."
The province announced plans last January to cull between 120 and 160 wolves in the South Peace by shooting them from helicopters, citing the need to preserve caribou herds under threat from wolf predation. "Hunting and trapping of wolves have not effectively reduced populations and may even split up packs and increase predation rates," the government wrote in a press release.
The controversial program drew the ire from conservative groups and celebrities, including Miley Cyrus. Opponents of the cull argue industrial development in the region is reducing caribou populations and forcing the species into closer contact.
But for ranchers, it's a serious issue for their way of life. "In general, there is always a problem here," Lasser said of his 5,200-acre ranch lands. "I would say it's getting worse than in the past because at one time you never saw a wolf and now, they are getting used to humans and they are coming in closer."