BC Cattlemen's Association looking for long-term livestock placements

By Jill Sperling
July 12, 2017 - 5:00pm Updated: July 12, 2017 - 6:59pm

KAMLOOPS — Five days after the province declared a state of emergency in response to massive wildfires in the B.C. Interior, thousands of cattle still roam in affected regions. 

Some livestock have found temporary homes while the wildfires rage on. 

The BC Cattlemen's Association is now concerned about what happens once the fires are out. 

Fences and feed will have burned, and cattle could be wandering far from home. 

"Most of the cattle are still in the region, and that's for a reason," said BC Cattlemen's Association General Manager Kevin Boon. "They just can't be gathered into an area where we can load them and get them out, so they're very much fending on their own. But, we have a lot of ranchers that are staying behind, that are working on it, and that are keeping these cattle out of harm's way." 

Boon believes thousands of cattle are still in the affected area. Many will instinctively find their way to safety, but not all will make it out alive. 

"Mother nature has a great way of looking after them," Boon said. "Not all of them will survive. We're quite sure we will lose some. But they know the places to hit. They'll get into the lowlands, the meadows, the riparian areas, and lakes, sloughs, places where it's wet. That, of course, doesn't take them out of the smoke, and out of the heat, so there will be those problems, but they also will stay ahead of the fire." 

Even if they escape the fires, cattle may find their way to highways through areas where fences have burned down. 

"We've only had one incident reported to us, that doesn't mean more haven't happened," Boon said. "We found one vehicle that has hit two cows, and four calves, but we know there's the potential for more. We know there's going to be lots of cattle on the highway.  Highway 20 is a very big danger zone right now."

Highway 20 has been closed to everyday traffic, however, emergency vehicles continue to travel the route. 

"These cattle can travel a long way, and they can go through back country, and they can show up on a roadway somewhere where you wouldn't expect them that might be away from that fire too."

The smaller livestock that have been removed from the fire affected areas have been taken to various communities. Some have been taken in by the BC Cattlemen's Association, and others by good Samaritans who have opened up their properties.

"We're going to be looking for some long-term places for these cattle ... that couldn't get out. We're going to have to get out now, or we're going to have to get feed in to (them). The critical time is doing that assessment as to  exactly how has been lost when it's done, and finding a place for them."

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