Gateway to one of the neighboring ranches. I was over helping to brand and vaccinate new stock and couldn't help snapping a a few shots.
Here is the basis of a letter I've written to our local MLA.
No one is paying me to write this, no “show your support” button will appear with a link to PayPal, and I don’t have a degree. I simply have the pride and devotion of being a third generation rancher in this area, and the common sense that comes from a lifetime of hands on work in the outdoors.
Being in the area for nearly 100 years is not that long in the scheme of things, but my family has seen many changes in their time here in the West Chilcotin. The information stored in these pragmatic and practical people is interesting to listen to, if attention could be pulled away from social media long enough to hear them. Most choose not to do so; especially since the information is not what they want to hear. Of course this information that comes from years upon years of hands on experience can only be called “anecdotal” since no one confirmed their degrees or paid them thousands of taxpayers dollars to write a report.
It’s been said many times (although not always so directly) that rural dwellers are “asking” for predator problems as they take in more and more of the land and a squeeze is put on predators by over harvesting natural food sources.
How can that be, I ask, when in our area, there are less people, less cattle, less horses, less tourists, less trapping and very definitely less hunting (for sustenance or commercially) than there was even 30 years ago. And, I might point out, a whole lot more predators. Maybe that’s anecdotal knowledge. But we also used to have 30 or 40 head of moose in our hay yards every single morning. Now we are lucky to have 2 or 3 ‘resident’ moose around the ranch all winter. And that is a plain fact.
Should I move to the city? Because that would have less environmental impact and be more beneficial for the predator populations? Really? When ranchers and farmers themselves become extinct due to lack of support, perhaps all these well loved predators will be so kind as to fill our supermarkets. Interesting to think that once Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto and Quebec City were ‘wild’ areas where animals roamed freely. But no one would dare suggest those places are ‘encroaching’, even as they expand exponentially every year. When one lives in a glass house, apparently one must open the door and throw the rocks at the neighbor, whose is too busy working to defend himself in time.
At our fall Cattlemens Meeting, the discussion of predators was brought up yet again. Of course some will roll their eyes at this and think “oh, I can just imagine…” Of course we are concerned about the welfare of our cattle, there is no doubt. But just as clear are the discussions regarding the alarming moose and caribou decreases, and the astounding increase in wolves (and bears) over the last 10 years or so. Remember, these are people that are out on the land every single day. Not doing a study for a month or two or even a year, but just making a living, day after day, year after year.
There was a comment brought up about the First Nations harvesting cow moose, and certainly this is not the idyllic situation. Road access obviously makes a large impact and there is no doubt that industry in general has created huge changes on the land, and most of those changes are less than ideal. Although I have not personally dealt with mining companies, I certainly feel they need to be accountable for their actions. I’m quite happy that the logging companies have had to tighten up their environmental impact, and I feel there is a long ways to go with that yet. Seems strange that I cannot turn a single cow on to range before an agreed on date, because of the damage she will do to the ground, when not so long ago the logging companies were free to work, as long as they could drag their machinery in and out of the bush with the help of D8 Cats. But I digress....
Looking at some of the media driven propaganda these days is quite shocking if you really pay attention. Human emotions are being targeted in the majority of cases, not facts. When photos are circulated of a super cute wolf pup with the caption “have you seen my family?” one should wonder at the focus before reacting. I want to reply with one of a caribou momma saying “Have you seen my baby? Or any of my baby’s young friends? Or any caribou calves at all?!” Does anyone care about the quickly diminishing caribou herds? They are super cute too! What about the moose? Maybe we need more photos of those amazingly long legged little buckskinned creatures, wobbling along beside their massive mommas. Moose have a maximum of two babies (generally one), just to point out. Wolf mommas average 5-6 pups.
The fact of the matter is that we can point fingers all over the place (except at ourselves of course, in our wood framed houses, paper everything and endless array of throw away petroleum based gadgets, toys and vehicles), but the balance has been tipped. We must all do our part to ensure industry is accountable and does their part to minimize impact, but in the meantime we are also accountable for re-establishing the balance that humans have pushed so far out of alignment. The amount of predators that we are dealing with in BC is not just affecting ranchers, but certainly First Nations sustenance hunters, guide outfitters, and the general public. At the rate we are going, our moose and caribou populations will be on the verge of extinction soon, and to call that ‘natural’ now is ludicrous.
No one, I repeat, NO ONE wants to wipe the wolf population off the earth. Let me say that again in case someone missed it while on their Facebook feed, “liking” whatever media spun photo or quote scrolled by. Despite what some so wrongly presume, NO ONE wants to wipe out the entire wolf (or bear) population. Instead, it needs to be returned to a number that is sustainable and supports all the other animals on the planet they share. Sadly, that is going to mean some deaths have to be considered, and considered seriously.
Ranchers and farmers often have to make difficult choices, ones they would rather not face. The old favorite horse that was depended on as a partner for so many years that no longer winters well. The best friend of man getting a severe kick, doing what he loved to do best, but suffering horribly. The pet lamb, fed by the kids from a bottle for months, destined for the butcher block. Decisions made out of common sense and necessity. Emotion may roll down the cheek, but reality makes the move never less.
I’m fully aware that I am not going to change anyone’s mind with just one letter. My aim is to support government in taking the time to thoroughly investigate the current predator problem and not be swayed by social media and uninformed and emotional outcries from the public, who are reacting to photos and sites designed to inflame. As leaders, I ask you to consider all voices equally, not just based on where the majority of the voting population lives. The experience and expertise of those few actually living or making a living on the land, and seeing first hand the damage that is currently being done by predators, should not disregarded or ignored. Please, keep all aspects in perspective and make your decisions (even if unpopular) based on unbiased studies, relevant reports and plain common sense.