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Ranchers calling for wolf cull after predators kill cattle

Conservation officers killed 146 B.C. wolves since 2011

While many in the B.C. ranching industry are calling for a wolf cull, conservation officers are already targeting the animals under a provincial predator program.

According to the latest numbers available, 146 predators were killed provincewide in the nine and a half months leading up to the end of 2011. That figure included 60 wolves.

In the Thompson region, 21 wolves were killed.

Terry Inskip said his family has ranched the area just north of Westsyde for decades without incident, until April of this year.

"[Wolves] killed six yearlings in four days," he said.

"They were here off and on all winter. They hadn't bothered with anything but at the end of April, they started killing stuff."

The B.C. Cattlemen's Association is calling for a provincewide cull, arguing their numbers are rising and cattle losses are mounting.

According to recent reports, the last widespread wolf culls were done in the 1980s. More recently, wolves have been killed by trappers given bounties in order to protect endangered mountain caribou.

Inskip said prior to this year, the last time a wolf was spotted on his property, which has been in the family for generations, was 1948.

"Since then there's never been a wolf," he said.

Ranchers will learn more over the next month about how this year's losses to predators stack up.

"They won't know until they do a round up," said Barriere-area rancher and former B.C. Cattlemen's president Ed Salle.

"My experience is ... at times they'll take four, five, 10 without disruption."

Under the provincial predator program, ranchers are given 70 per cent of the value of livestock killed by predators. A kill must be verified by conservation officers, who then attempt to track and destroy the animal responsible.

Sadie Parr, of the conservation group Western Wolf Pact, said hunting and sterilization programs could make matters worse because they upset stable family units among wolves. Packs splinter and young wolves may not be able to learn hunting techniques needed to kill large ungulates like moose.