Cattle producers in the Williams Lake area are losing more calves than usual to black bears this year.
Conservation Officer Sgt. Len Butler says black bears were responsible for 47 to 50 per cent of all predator attacks on cattle in the Cariboo region this year.
After the light winter and early spring, he suspects bears came out of their dens earlier this year, and that may have led to the increase in the number of attacks.
Usually, attacks by coyotes, cougars and wolves are more prevalent, Butler adds.
However, this doesn’t seem to be as big of a problem in the South Cariboo.
Noting there are a lot of bears around this year, Marvin Monical, who operates the Club Ranch in Lac la Hache, says he hasn’t heard of any abnormal increase in bear encounters with livestock in the South Cariboo.
“I have been in touch with other producers recently and they never mentioned anything. If it was a big issue down here, I think I would have heard about it.”
Monical notes that any black bear encounters he has seen in the past have been incidental kills.
“A calf will walk up to a black bear just being curious and he gets a swat, and depending where the bear hits him, it could do him in.”
However, he adds that if a black bear does get the taste of beef, he won’t stop.
“That’s just his target from then on and then you have to deal with the issue at that time.”
Under the British Columbia Wildlife Act, ranchers are allowed to kill a bear that is on their property and is being a menace to domestic animals, but they must report it to the Conservation Officer Service.
Monical notes black bear issues don’t happen very often. “To kill a great number of animals belonging to one producer doesn’t happen very often.”
Noting it’s been more than two decades since he has personally experienced a bear/cattle conflict, the rancher says when producers lose cattle, it hurts them in the pocket book.
Monical says the big issue for producers in this area is the increase in the wolf population.
“There are a lot of wolves around; there is a lot of wolf sign. It just depends on whether that wolf pack likes eating beef or not.”
However, he adds there is also an abundance of deer, so there is a lot for the wolves to eat.
“But again, if they start eating beef, they don’t quit.”
Noting there are incidences of wolves taking down cattle all of the time, Monical says he hasn’t heard that it has been excessive.
Now, the cattle are out on the range and the producers won’t know their losses until they gather them up in the fall, Monical explains.
“We won’t know until we get them home and count them up to see how many we lost. It’s always a concern when our cattle are away from home. You always wonder how many are going to get back.
With files from Monica Lamb-Yorski – Williams Lake Tribune.