B.C. wildfires threaten thousands of cattle
Small livestock and horses can be saved, but cattle too difficult to move, says B.C. Cattlemen's Association
While wildfires in the B.C. Interior have forced thousands of people to flee their homes, attention is now turning to how ranchers can save their livestock.
The B.C. Cattlemen's Association is connecting ranchers who need to move their livestock with people who can help get horses and smaller animals out of evacuation areas with trailers. But the association says thousands of cattle can't be helped.
According to general manager Kevin Boon, the challenge with most cattle is they are often spread out over thousands of acres of land, making it onerous to round them up.
"You might have a thousand head out on 40 or 50-thousand acres of land, and you have no way of pinpointing exactly where they are," said Boon.
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Ryan and Esther Maljaars were forced from their ranch in 100 Mile House in a hurry last Thursday due to the aggressive wildfire closing in on the town.
They left with their four children, three dogs, and two cats, but had to leave their cattle — their livelihood.
"When we left the fire was bearing down pretty hard, and we chased [the cattle] down into a swamp area," said Ryan Maljaars.
Maljaars managed to get back to his place on Saturday to get a look at his ranch.
"Everything was scorched until we came to our place ... most of the fields were burnt up around near the house. I came around the corner and there were all my cows just standing there.
"So that was the most welcome sight I've ever seen," said Maljaars.
Checkpoints restricting access
Maljaars is among the lucky ones. His house is safe and his cows still have a week or two of grass to eat, but some of his neighbours lost their homes and grassland, leaving their cattle with little food.
Maljaars still wants to get back to his ranch to tend to his livestock, but like many ranchers, he is being refused re-entry by the RCMP.
"The RCMP have a job to do, too. They can't just let anybody in. There's a lot of vacant houses out there, there's opportunity for looting," said Boon.
Boon says the B.C. Cattlemen's Association is liaising with the RCMP to get people access at the checkpoints so they can transport or tend to their livestock.
He estimates that 10,000 cattle are affected, and only a small portion have been moved.
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While Boon expects some cattle won't survive, he is confident many can endure the harsh conditions.
He does worry cattle will start to range on their own and enter the highways as fences burn.
"We've already had an incident of animals being hit by traffic. We want to make sure that people are aware they're still out there," said Boon.
If you have livestock in need of evacuation, or you can help haul cattle for other people, send an email with details to firstname.lastname@example.org.