Bears—and the possibility of being eaten by one—are a very real part of normal life for BC silvicultural workers today. It does not have to be so. I firmly believe that dogs, and particularly livestock guardian dogs, can reduce bear attacks on BC silvicultural workers.
I believe that nobody should be asked to work in silviculture in the forests of BC without a guard dog, and that livestock guardian dogs should be accepted as a standard silvicultural tool on all BC reforestation projects.
I have been a silvicultural contractor for 34 years (17 years tree planting contracting, employing 100 to 200 planters per year, and 17 years as a sheep vegetation management (sheep veg. mgmt.) contractor using approximately 6,000 sheep per year. We have always worked way out in the boonies and we have taken more sheep further out bush than anybody in Canadian history. Lots of our sheep veg. mgmt. work was in the Stewart area of BC, which is famous for its high grizzly and black bear populations.
We were laughed at and told we were nuts when we first proposed to take 6,000 sheep to plantations 100 km out bush from Stewart on the west coast, but we were confident that good BC shepherds and 50 dogs would keep the sheep safe. We pride ourselves in being good shepherds and we try not to harm or kill any animals, including predators, for any reason. The fact that we have only lost a total of eight sheep to bears and wolves in our 17-year sheep veg. mgmt. contracting experience speaks for itself. We believe that our sheep are safer from predation when they are out bush with us and guarded by livestock guardian dogs than they would be at home in most Canadian sheep farmers’ fields. The neighbor’s dog would probably kill far more than eight sheep over a 17-year period.
I have used dogs to guard silvicultural workers and sheep from bear attacks for about 30 years, and I personally never go into the forest without at least one dog. Most dogs will guard you against bears, but livestock guardian dogs will guard you better. Just as Greyhounds were bred to run and Labradors were bred to retrieve ducks, livestock guardian dogs were bred to guard. Now it’s simply a matter of choosing the best tool for the job.
Livestock guardian dogs have evolved over about 5,000 years of selective breeding and ruthless culling. People ate dog for most of that time and it is only recently that man could afford to feed large, non-productive, pet dogs. Guardian dogs that ran away from attacking bears or wolves usually ended up as supper for the farmer. They certainly were not fed or used for breeding. The end result of this 5,000-year breeding program is that today’s guardian dogs have had fear bred right out of them. They will guard your family, livestock, chickens, or silvicultural workers against anything, fearlessly, until they die.
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