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Wildlife Management



Although they are often disliked, snakes are not a pest and do not cause damage on the farm. In fact, snakes provide valuable rodent control and require nothing in return save for respect and personal space. Gophersnakes will actively seek out rodent burrows to eat the inhabitants, and Rubber Boas like to eat baby mice, and can consume an entire litter in one meal. Rattlesnakes are the only snake in the area big enough to consume some of the larger invasive Black Rats and although rattlesnakes are venomous, they are very shy and do not seek to bite humans.

Snakes in the vineyard can and should be left alone to continue on their way, unless there is risk of harm to them (e.g. mowing) or they are affecting  farm operations (e.g. rattlesnake in an irrigation box or toolshed). Killing snakes just because they show up is not only completely unnecessary, it is also illegal under the BC Wildlife Act and comes with high financial penalty.

To reduce the chance of human-snake conflict in high-traffic areas:

  • Fill exterior holes in buildings with boards, steel wool or caulking. If you think a mouse can fit, it’s likely a snake can too.

  • Close in decks and stairs. Use skirting so that snakes cannot access storage areas under decks and stairs where they feel safe.

  • In high traffic areas, ensure there are no messy wood, rock, or debris piles that can serve as basking and retreat sites for snakes. This is also recommended for rodents (who are snake attractants).

  • Keep storage areas tidy and well lit.

  • Ensure workers are aware of Snake Smart practices such as wearing pants and boots in potential snake areas, looking underneath and around objects before moving them, and avoiding putting hands or feet in places they cannot see (e.g. under a pallet, stepping over large logs)

rattlesnake by Paula Rodriguez de la Vega_edited.jpg
Great Basin Gophersnake -Lia McKinnon.JPG

Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship offers free or low-cost Snake Smart workshops to local farms and farm crews.
These workshops involve snake identification tips, how to manage for snakes on the farm, and how to safely move a snake if absolutely necessary.  For more information, send us a message.

Cats & Coyotes

Cats & Coyotes

Larger predators are one of the main risks to calves and cattle on range.  Cattle depredation by cougars is relatively uncommon, as open range and pasture is not the preferred hunting grounds.  Aside from electric fencing and harassment by guardian animals, not much can be done to prevent occasional cougar presence on the farm. As deer are a preferred cougar prey, they do not take cattle very often. The highest risk is from old, sick cougars or very young cougars that are searching for an easy meal, so monitoring for traces of a lingering cougar is the best management strategy.

Highly intelligent, adaptable, and territorial, coyotes can pose a problem to calves, especially if they have identified calves as a food source. That being said, coyotes very quickly learn how or where to get food easily.  If discouraged from preying on calves and cattle from the starts, coyotes will learn that is not a good route to a meal. The territoriality of coyotes means that a loose pack that has learned not to prey on calves can keep other interloping coyotes away from the ranch. Killing them indiscriminately without evidence of calf depredation may leave the ranch open to new coyotes moving that may not be as hesitant to try for a veal dinner.

With good fencing and strong guardian animals such as dogs, llamas, or donkeys, the risks from coyotes can be kept at a manageable level and their usefulness as excellent gopher control can be maintained.


Though they were once loathed and hunted to near-extinction in BC, the relationship between ranchers and badgers has improved greatly.

Despite the unfortunately-large holes they leave, badgers are an integral part of the grassland ecosystem and are voracious predators of gophers and other rodents . A single adult badger will consume 2-3 ground squirrels per day and a mother with kits can double that.  Previously-held believes around livestock injuring themselves in burrows are unfounded, with the great majority of burrow-induced injuries being caused by ground squirrel and marmot burrows.  In a 2016 survey of 131 BC ranchers, just one  instance of a badger burrow causing injury was reported. The size of badger burrows makes them easier for livestock to see and avoid than gopher holes.

Due to the extensive extermination efforts in the early 20th century, badgers in BC are hovering on the brink.  As few as 250 individuals are thought to still exist across the entire province, with only 30 or so still remaining in the Okanagan valley.  They are severeley threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, with highways being the largest cause of death. This means that ranch and grazing lands are often some of the last safe areas for badgers to live (and hunt gophers!).

If you see a badger on your property, please report it to Badgers BC using this link.  As they are so rare  now, citizen sightings play a huge part in helping badger biologists in their coniservation efforts.


Note: Interestingly, there have been several documented cases of badgers hunting cooperatively with coyotes.  It is thought that the underground prowess of the badger plus the aboveground prowess of the coyote makes for a more efficient and successful catch rate than hunting alone.  So seeing both of these predators together may mean fewer gophers on your lands in the future!



Gophers and other burrowing rodents can be a highly frustrating wildlife species to have on the ranch.  Their holes can trip wildlife and snarl up equipment attachments, and they can cause extensive crop damage.

While they can be problematic, it is important to ensure that control efforts are not having knock-on effects on the rest of the surrounding grasslands and other habitats.  Two big risks to non-target (and helpful) wildlife are secondary poisoning from lead shot fragments and rodenticides.

Although bullets often go through gophers, lead fragments are usually still present and as most carcasses are scavenged by other animals), these animals almost certainly ingest and get poisoned from the lead; As over 40% of carcasses are scavenged by birds of prey, who are highly susceptible to lead, this secondary poisoning has the double effect of not only killing wildlife but killing wildlife that would have continued to provide free rodent control. It is recommended that, if using lead bullets, a large effort is made to collect and safely dispose of carcasses. Copper bullets do not post this risk.

The problems and risks of rodenticides are no secret, with debates around bans and restrictions raging for years.  Due the extremely high risk of secondary poisoning in other wildlife and beneficial predators, use of rat poison is strongly discouraged. If rodenticides are insisted upon, it is vital that only first generation poisons are chosen for use.  Second-generation poisons are lethal at much smaller doses and will cause far more harm to predators up the food chain.  There are also non-toxic rodenticides on the market that use dehydration to kill rodents and do not affect larger animals.

For rodent issues around barns or buildings, trapping carries the least risk to other wildlife, with snap traps or self-reseting compressed-air traps as the best options. Never use sticky, glue or tar traps

black bear on yellow flower field during


Many frustrations with bears on the farm arises from indirect conflict such as access feed storage areas, destruction of fences, or general livestock harassment. The most effective way to keep bears out of an area is fencing, ideally electric fencing, but it is also important to manage any attractants so that if a bear does arrive, it does not find reasons to stay:

  • Store feed inside secure buildings or if it must be outside, surround the feed area with permanent electric fencing.

  • Do not dispose of carcasses in open pit areas. Carcasses should be buried in accordance to regulations, or disposed of in other appropriate measures.

  • If there are other hobby animals on the farm such as chickens, bees, or other small animals, enclosures must be surrounded with electric fencing.

  • If there are fruit or nut trees on the property, do not let windfall accumulate and ensure prompt harvesting of ripe fruit.

Depredation on livestock from black bears is far less common that from grizzlies, however it is a risk.  Black bears generally prefer to scavenge already-dead cattle, but will sometimes prey on calves if there is enough motivation and opportunity. Once a bear realises cattle are food, it can become an issue, so early prevention is by far the best management practice. Livestock guardian dogs and electric fences can be effective deterrents, and monitoring of known bears in the area can help with early intervention if problem behaviour starts.


Further Reading

The following resources are information-only. Find the Financial Assistance page here


Wildsafe BC program website:

Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Snake Smart Webinar Series (print resources also available in French, Spanish, and Punjabi)

Mctee et al. Free lunch, may contain lead: scavenging shot small mammals (2019) Journal of Wildlife Management

Bear Safety Tips for Livestock, Bees, Crops, & Orchards

Electric Fencing for Farms

BC Ministry of Environment: The Rules [on rodenticides] Have Changed- A Guide for Agricultural Operators

Audobon Magazine:Poisons Used to Kill Rodents Have Safer Alternatives

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