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Cattle Producers Call For Predator Bounties

“The populations

have just gotten way

out of hand.”


Acall by Manitoba cattle producers for a province-wide bounty on wildlife predators looks like a non-starter with the NDP government.

“We’re not about to introduce a general provincial removal program for coyotes and wolves,” said Barry Verbiwski, Manitoba Conservation’s head of problem wildlife management.

“Bounties have not worked in the past and we don’t believe a general application across the whole province will work this time either. It’s indiscriminate killing of animals that may or may not be the actual animals causing the problem.”

The Manitoba Cattle Producers Association recently asked the province to fund an expanded program for eliminating predators, particularly coyotes and wolves, which prey on livestock.

Producers say coyote and wolf populations in Manitoba are out of control and drastic action is needed to curb them.

“The populations have just gotten way out of hand and we need to get them back under control,” said Sheila Mowat, MCPA general manager.

Predator problems are always near the top of producers’ list of concerns at MCPA meetings, she said.

Mowat said MCPA is working with the Manitoba Trappers Association on a plan for a predator removal program with an incentive fee for whoever removes the animal.

MCPA isn’t talking about a blanket bounty for all wildlife, just one for problem predators in specific situations, she said.

“We want to make sure that we’re not taking everything off the landscape but just the ones that are causing problems with the livestock.”

Landowners are allowed to shoot wild predators on their property without prior approval, but they must report kills to local provincial offices within 10 days.

Local municipalities can offer bounties for predators but few do so. The western Manitoba municipality of Glenwood has such a fee but allowed it to lapse this year.

Currently, the province has an agreement with the MTA for a predator management program. Livestock producers having trouble with predators contact the authorities. The trappers’ association then assigns licensed trappers to investigate and set traps for the predators. Trappers are paid a fee for their services and get to keep the pelts.

But Mowat said the program isn’t effective because it’s too bureaucratic, it takes too long to get traps in place and there are time limits for them.

The Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation has a program to compensate producers for 80 per cent of the value of livestock lost to predators.

The number of claims so far this year is down from the previous year, according to MASC. The number of claims between April 1, 2009 and February 28, 2010 totalled 1,472 (1,088 for coyotes and 384 for wolves), compared to 1,765 (1,378 coyotes and 387 wolves) for the same period in 2008-09.

The figures suggest predators are not out of control in Manitoba, as MCPA claims, said Verbiwski.

The province does not conduct survey counts for wildlife. But the number of coyotes and wolves reported taken by hunters and trappers has remained fairly stable over the last five years, he said.

Mowat disputed that, saying figures don’t tell the whole story.

She said MASC’s own rule of thumb is that for every predator kill claim made, four cases go unreported.

Livestock producers who make claims must produce a carcass as proof and often there’s not enough remains left to make a claim with, she said.

As a result, many give up and don’t even bother to call MASC anymore, said Mowat.

David Walker, a University of Manitoba ecologist, said he spots more predators when he goes hunting, but doesn’t have data to show if their populations are actually increasing.

Walker, an assistant environment and geography professor, said the reason there appear to be more wolves and coyotes is that the whitetail deer population is flourishing and there’s lots of food available.

Predator culls don’t work in the long run because the numbers always spring back if there’s an ample food supply, he said.

“Artificially depressing a population in the presence of a good food supply will simply result in the population exploding back to where it was, anyway,” said Walker.

“If you’ve got food for wolves and you kill off some of the wolves, the rest of the wolves will just breed.” [email protected]

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