Tuesday 30 October 2012

Time to head home

Winter came fast and furious this year.
I have been in denial for about two weeks now,
however with temperatures around -10 and snow,
I cannot avoid the fact that winter time has started.

One of the first chores to do is move the cows off the summer pasture.
Last week the kids and I moved the cows to a pasture where there was still alot of stockpiled grass.
However, with the snow we have, we thought it would be wiser to get them home.

So, last Saturday, the kids, me and Eric ( he hardly ever rides with us) set off on the horses
to gather up the cows and move them to the corrals.
The move went smoothly and the cows co-operated.
In fact it went so smoothly, I believe the cows wanted to come home.

Jess and eric gathering up some stragglers.

Allie watches as the cows come up the road.

Trailing the cows.

Roy blocks an escape route and oversees that they move nicely in the right direction.

They are heading off in the right direction to the corrals.

We spent the Sunday all day trailering the cows and calves home. Due to the bad road conditions and pile of snow we chose to let the cows out close to the barn and walk them to the winter pasture.

We were done at 7pm, and that night and following day we got a foot of snow.
We are pleased we got the job done.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Wolf Bounty, in fact, my thoughts on any bounty system...

The MD of Big Lakes (our MD) has been reviewing their wolf bounty program. They initiated the bounty in 2010 after a number of concerned ranchers asked the MD to “do something” about the wolves in our MD. Many ranchers have complained that they were being overrun with wolves and that they were losing large numbers of cattle and loss of production, as a result of harassment/killing by wolves. The MD decided to implement a bounty on wolves, despite the fact that Fish and Wildlife (and other biologists world wide) were opposed to a bounty. The MD pays $300 for each dead wolf. The result of the bounty up until now is about 290 dead wolves and about $87 000 spent on this program, that is filled with loop holes.
I have been protesting against the bounty since its inception asking the MD to look at alternative ways to help ranchers and reduce predation. I believe education is the way to go and have sent numerous letters to the council suggesting alternatives.
In these last few weeks the program has been under review. Myself and a few other concerned citizens (3 in total), spoke at a council meeting asking for them to review the program and look at alternative ways to aid ranchers who are suffering losses.
On Monday ( Oct 15), council had a delegation from the local ranchers who all support the bounty. The MD meeting was filled to the brim with about 150 people attending. Many ranchers talked about their losses, the cruel way that wolves kill, the worry about children being attacked and how they feel supported by council and urged them to continue on with this bounty.
One other lady and I, were against the bounty.
Here is my take on this situation…
It always amazes me that this topic always seems to deteriorate into a “them vs. us” discussion, “them” being radical, environmental, tree huggers.  I would like to point out that not all people, who would like to see an end to the wolf bounty, are radicals, hunter haters and anti livestock ranchers. I do ranch and have so for many years, I do not regard myself as one of “those radicals” as some people like to call them.
 There still seems to be little seperation between fact and fiction to what people perceive to be the nature of wolves.
Just to set the record straight:
  •  I do have cattle, I have sheep, I pay taxes, am an MD resident, I have seen wild wolves on our ranch and yes, I have stepped out into the bush.
  •  I am not anti hunting; in fact I believe we need ethical hunters as well as predators in our     ecosystems to be healthy.
  • I do understand the issues, and know that once a pack starts predating on livestock, it is near impossible to stop them. Yes, I do believe that there are instances where lethal control may be needed. It is not a choice I will make, but that is my prerogative.
  •  I am not a “tree hugger” but I do care for the environment and feel we have a responsibility to care for our land, the wild animals and our livestock. I believe that ranching and predators can co-exist, it just takes some effort and management.
I am opposed to this bounty in our MD for a number of reasons:
  1. Scientists world wide have proven bounties DO NOT work to reduce predation of livestock, in fact exactly what biologists predict would happen is happening in our MD right now. I know of three instances now where single wolves have turned to either entering human settlements to find food, or start predating on calves.
  2. In fact it leads to a larger problem down the road, and … more predation. Despite the bounty here in this area, ranchers are still losing calves.        
  3. It is wasteful of tax payer’s money, considering that biologists have proven that bounties are just a temporary band aid. This is pouring money down the drain and that money could be better utilized.
  4. I am against council discriminating or giving preference to one sector of people over and above others, killing off wolves means more elk and deer damaging canola crops, hay predation and other problems. This program only benefits one sector and discriminates against the other.
  5. Our ecosystems need wolves to be healthy and viable. 
  6. I do not want my tax money spent on cattle ranchers that do not practice due diligence when it comes to managing their dead stock and livestock.
  7. Too many fraudulent claims. By simply doing the math, it is easy to see that our MD has paid out bounty money for wolves that have come from other areas. I have seen people suggest illegal forms of killing wolves. I believe that this bounty is encouraging illegal and fraudulent claims.
  8.  I do not believe that the MD should selectively choose to supplement the income of certain groups such as trappers. Fur prices are market driven as are cattle prices. The trappers do not need to have an added incentive to trap wolves, markets should be the driver.
  9. There is a total lack of good statistical data about the wolf population here. Some ranchers say they are being overrun by wolves, yet this is not validated in any way. There are no clear stats on wolf populations or about predation numbers. How can a program of this magnitude be implanted without clear and concise facts? No attempt was made by the MD to really look at which ranchers were being predated on, the number of animals been predated on and whether or not the dead animals actually had been killed by wolves? The decision to implement this bounty was not based on good data. In fact Fish and Wildlife opposed the bounty as it has never proven to be an effective system to reduce predation. Council has not looked at any other ways to see if a better or more sustainable way of reducing predation could be implemented.
I have not even started talking about the negative effects this bounty has on the environment and ecosystems.
To read more about this see:
Where the Wild Things Were: Life, Death, and Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing Predators by William Stolzenburg
The Wolf's Tooth: Keystone Predators, Trophic Cascades, and Biodiversity by Cristina Eisenberg

      With all that said, I am certainly not denying that wolves kill livestock. Some do. I am also not denying that it is emotionally devastating to see livestock and even game animals killed by wolves. It is not a pretty sight, but that is how wolves hunt, nothing more and nothing less. There is no evil in what they do as so many suggest.
      The law here in Alberta says that ranchers may kill any wolves predating on their stock, anytime. In fact the wolves do not even need to be predating on cattle, if they are just found on the ranch lands, the ranchers, hunters and trappers have the right to kill them. 
      With the implementation of the bounty, the only thing added to the above equation is the added incentive of $300 per dead wolf.
      What amazes me is why ranchers think that their hands are tied behind their backs should the bounty be ended? All that will be ending is the payout for dead wolves. Did they not kill livestock predating wolves before the bounty was initiated? If ranchers have wolves predating on there calves they do have the right to shoot/trap them.  They can apply for compensation for every confirmed wolf killed animal. Nothing stops them contacting a local trapper to trap wolves on their ranch.  Fish and Wildlife will come and assist. Ranchers already have the tools and safety nets in place to protect their cattle. The end of the bounty does not mean that it is the end of their right to protect their cattle.
      If the ranchers (here) feel they are being overrun with wolves, why do they not band together, chip into a fund  to the tune of $87 000 and employ a trapper to  trap wolves on their own private lands? In this way they do not use public money (or public land) and will cover their own cost of production themselves.
      I have heard the arguments from ranchers that they do not have time to run around and hunt wolves. If the ranchers do not have time to manage their cattle, is it then the  responsibility of the MD to have to cover these costs?
      Some of the ranchers stated that it was not the goal to extirpate the wolf, however if one takes a closer look at what is happening here in Alberta, then this could very well be the start. All extirpations start somewhere. Not only does our MD have a bounty but so do Hinton, Cleardale, MD of Smoky River and many other MDs in the Peace region. The BC ranchers are now also calling for culls. It is not only the livestock industry that is calling for these culls, but the government is culling wolves in the name of caribou recovery, the logging industry and oil industries cull wolves. Where does it end?
      A rancher voiced his opinion that it would not even be possible to extirpate the wolf; however history has proven it very well possible.
      Not all wolves kill cattle, in fact research shows that a very small portion of the wolf population actually predate on cattle. A lot of predation problems can be minimized by implementing some good management practices.
      You know, as well as I do, that a lot of ranchers do not practice good enough management practices, they have a dead animal dump that attracts predators, they do not check the cattle often enough and do not  implement any other strategies to try and avoid predation. The MD could consider subsidizing the building of predator proof composting sites to get rid of dead animals. Research has shown that the removal of dead animals to avoid scavenging can reduce predation by 55 times! Now, that would really benefit ranchers directly.
      If the MD is serious about wanting to help ranchers then they should look for more sustainable ways to minimize predation. This bounty is just a temporary band aid. It is also an illusion to think that no livestock will ever be predated on.
      The good news is that all bounties systems do come to an end. It may take two years, five or ten. When council is tired of spending money it will stop, populations will take some time but will recover and we will all be back at the same place. Ranchers screaming for culls, more and more public opinion turning against them.
      Public opinion can be very powerful, especially with the recent scandals surrounding the beef recalls; we do not need to add to the tainted image of the beef industry that needs to rely on culls and public handouts to be able to survive.  There is a petition to suspend agricultural aids to countries in Europe that do not respect their commitments regarding predators. Europe made a mistake when they extirpated the wolf in certain regions and they are now looking for ways to get large predators back.
      Our ranchlands have been encroaching on wildlife habitat; the consequences of this is that predation is an issue that we need to face, just as we need a business plan we also need to have a predator management plan in place. Understanding that putting cattle into large tracks of public land, or bush areas brings a certain risk with it, a risk that will need managing. Some people argue that the cattle industry should be kicked out of public lands (see the huge debates in the USA) and others argue that the wolves should be eradicated. Somewhere, between these two extremes is a workable solution. Ranchers and wildlife can and need to learn to co-exist together.
      What I would like to see is that the wolf bounty comes to an end; remember that if council ends the bounty it does not mean that ranchers cannot protect their stock! I would like council to make a commitment to look into other possibilities to help hard hit, diligent ranchers who do everything in their power to minimize predation.  I believe that education is the key and would like to see the MD  make a commitment to more education and on informing ranchers to alternative measures of predation management.
      I value an open and respectful debate and I am also perfectly happy to agree to disagree about this issue. I can respect someone and treat them with dignity, even though we may not see eye to eye on this issue.
      A recently received email from Douglas W Smith, who is leader of the Yellowstone Wolf Project . When he heard about this and the other bounties in our region he stated:
      "Kind of an old way to deal with wolf issues."
      And,  that just about sums it up for me!  -Louise

      Wednesday 17 October 2012

      Busy, busy..

      We have been really very busy.
      things got a little set back with a huge pre-winter dump of snow..
      and then came rain and now we have mud!
       Normal work such as hauling bales, jobs, kids, council meetings, presentations and life in general,
      also got in the way of blogging and  making puppy pictures.

      Even the sheep were surprised at the snow.

      Yesterday was the big day.. for Ace and the puppies.
      Ace, went from being a stud to being a dud...
      just joking.
      He is now going to be a great gelding...

      It was a battle initially,
      as he seemed to really like the ketamine high and would not give in to his sleepiness.
      But, the drugs won and down and out he went.

      When he woke up he was a new man!

      For the 12 pups it was also an exciting day.
      First they got loaded into a stock trailer together,
      went for a long drive.
      At the destination they were loved on, petted and vetted.
      All have some fancy marks on their paws now, so we knew who was done and had not been looked at yet.
       They have been vaccinated, wormed, micro chipped now.

      Two of the little white boys each had a small navel hernia closed,
      just to be sure that this would not have any effect on them later.
      So, they are all as good as new now.

      The fattest pup was Akuma akaVuk aka Lobo aka
      yep you guessed it...
       weighed in at  9.5 kg or  close to 21 pounds.
      The lightest pup was 6.8 kg, this is Mali aka Grouchy and she is our pup from Katcha's litter.

      All the other pups, including all the orphans, weighed in between 7 and 7.7 kg (15-18 pounds).

      The pups will be leaving us as of end of next week.
      Some will be staying here so we will not have to suffer through too much "empty nest syndrome"


      Monday 8 October 2012

      Here are the white pups..

      Unfortunatly, one of the pups (Tarzan) died rather unexpectedly.
      So, 6 of the pups survived.
      Here they are:







      Sunday 7 October 2012

      Here are the pictures of the pups.. Katcha's pups:

      Most of the pups will be leaving these next few weeks.
      It is fun to see them growing up and discovering the world.







      Tomorrow the white pups..

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