British Columbia

Ranchers brace for 'astronomical losses' due to B.C. wildfires

Cattle ranchers in B.C. are bracing for massive damages to their land and livestock as wildfires continue to rage across the Interior.

30,000 cattle estimated in wildfire regions; many suffering from burned feet, scorched lungs

Cattle stand along a road in Green Lake, B.C. on Sunday, July 30, 2017. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Cattle ranchers in B.C. are bracing for massive damages to their land and livestock as wildfires continue to rage across the Interior.

Kevin Boon, the general manager for the B.C. Cattlemen's Association, visited two areas this week in the ravaged Cariboo region.

"We know there's going to be some astronomical losses," Boon said.

It's still too early to peg the total cost of damages — a question Boon says he has been fielding from many ranchers — but the expenses are quickly adding up.

"There's hundreds of miles of fence out there that have been burnt up," he said.

"That's all a huge cost when you stop and figure it costs somewhere in the neighbourhood of $15,000 to $20,000 a kilometre of fence to replace."

Costs will also be incurred in destroyed grass and hay, he said. 

Volatile conditions

The B.C. Cattlemen's Association has been liaising with RCMP to get ranchers access through checkpoints so they can transport or tend to their livestock.

Boon is also calling on the province to keep tourists and recreational users out of the backcountry because of the volatile conditions. Even ranchers are restricting use on their own lands, he said.

"We're recommending our guys take their horse shoes off their horses just so they don't create a spark of the shoe on the walk," Boon said.

Boon estimates there are about 30,000 head of cattle in the wildfire regions. Death tolls won't be as high as ranchers anticipated, but he expects it will affect the calf population next spring.

"A lot of these cattle are in their breeding season right now," he said. "They might be miscarrying those calves and aborting them naturally because of the stress."

Greg Nyman, a rancher who lives south of Clinton, B.C., has so far found 60 of his 120 cattle. They're in varying degrees of health, he said.

"I saw quite a few that have burned feet," he said. "They've been in a burning fire for a week and heavy smoke for close to a month now."

"More often than not, their lungs are scorched," he added. "So they're no longer productive."

With files from Karin Larsen and CBC's Daybreak Kamloops