Robin Hood famously hunted the king’s deer in Sherwood Forest.
Should Manitoba’s ranchers be allowed to do the same?
As part of a wide-ranging discussion of wildlife issues at the Manitoba Cattle Producer’s Association annual general meeting, Don Ransom spoke in favour of a resolution carried by the MCPA to lobby the provincial government to give ranchers permission to hunt elk and moose on their own land.
“The people owning the land and having the animals there should have some small compensation,” said Ransom, adding that landowner tags are available in some areas.
“In a perfect world, you’d maybe even be able to sell that to a neighbour or someone with lots of money to allow the hunting.”
Felix Boileau, a rancher from the eastern corner of the province, complained that although the abundant deer and elk on his farm eat his standing hay and trample new growth, there is no compensation for damage done to standing forages.
“The government won’t allow you to shoot them yourself, except with hunting licences and only a limited number, and I can’t get enough hunters to shoot them either,” said Boileau.
Interlake rancher Howard Hilstrom strongly supported the resolution.
“In the Interlake, not only are we getting flooded out, we’ve got as many as 50 to 75 elk every day on our 180-acre alfalfa fields,” said Hilstrom.
“The damage being done by this wildlife is incredible. While there are hunters around who can hunt out of season, we don’t want them running all over our land either. This is a real serious problem that is costing us a lot of money.”
The resolution, amended to include beavers, bears, and other species was carried.
Don Winnicky, from Piney, spoke in support of a motion to remove the 20 per cent deductible on wildlife loss claims.
“In our corner of the province, we have more wildlife than there are vehicles and guns to take care of them,” he said. “We’re sick and tired of the deductible on wildlife claims. Basically, they are penalizing us to feed their wildlife.”
Brian Greaves, who also raises sheep, moved that MCPA lobby the province for 100 per cent compensation on livestock losses to predators, as well as pay for “suspected” predator losses.
“Let’s be careful what we ask for. One hundred per cent compensation for a 100-pound calf, might get you $100,” said Greaves. “But it has cost you $400-$500 to get that calf to that stage.”
Government needs to be shown that livestock producers are serious about the problem of inadequate compensation for losses to predators, and added that it should be based on cost of production, not market value at the time of the loss.
“The government says that the claims are not coming in, so there’s no problem. But the reason claims are not coming in is because it’s not worth it and people aren’t bothering to claim.”
Ray Armbruster added that the public’s demands for more and more wi ldl i fe habi tat mean that society should start to take responsibility for the problems that result.
“We see the amount of money that is poured out for those types of agreements and habitat and it’s become very inequitable,” he said. “Producers are suffering the impact, and there isn’t the same level of concern and support. It’s really a matter of principle.”
Another motion called for a stronger Problem Predator Removal Program with better incentives or full-time problem predator removal officers.
Noting that sheep producers are being hit harder than the cattle industry, Greaves said that the trappers complain that the hourly rates paid by the government don’t cover their costs. He added that he has heard reports from producers that the claims adjusters are telling them that the only solution is to get rid of all their livestock.
“That’s how serious they are about it,” said Greaves. “Make sure that there is somebody coming to take care of those problem predators. We’re not asking for total annihilation of coyotes, but let’s get serious about it.”
Lloyd Atchison, from Pipestone, moved that Manitoba allow more lethal strychnine-based gopher poison to be used, mirroring that of Saskatchewan.
“I guess we’re being hard on wildlife at this meeting, but the program in Saskatchewan appears to have been very successful,” he said.
“The hawks and other predators aren’t able to hold up their end of the bargain now that the strychnine is gone, so it’s time to reinstate the use of it.”
Bill Campbell said that the cost of fighting gophers can be onerous, noting that one producer he knows bought 10, 20-litre pails of the commercially available pre-mix at a cost of $115 each.
“I’ve also heard of people going to Saskatchewan to visit friends and coming back with a pail of mysterious product,” he said.
Two resolutions aimed at problem beavers were also carried, one calling for the province to hire full-time trappers to catch beavers on unorganized territory in the Interlake, and increased funding for municipalities struggling with the chisel-toothed rodents. daniel. [email protected]
– HOWARD HILSTROM