Manitoba Conservation’s decision to allow year-round coyote and wolf hunting and trapping is aimed at alleviating the pressure on livestock producers, according to Barry Verbiwski, who heads the province’s fur-bearer and problem wildlife unit.
“In many instances, wolves and coyotes were coming off of Crown land and coming on to private land to maraud and kill livestock,” said Verbiwski.
If the varmint was on private land, the farmer had the right to shoot it in defence of his herd or flock. But if the animal wandered off into Crown land, legally they could not destroy it.
“This will allow property owners under the authority of a trapping licence to go beyond their own private property to deal with problem wolves and coyotes,” he added.
Also, extending the season from the traditional Oct. 15 start to late winter and end of March for wolves, is just the latest step in the effort to rein in predator populations, said Verbiwski, noting that a few years ago, a two-animal limit for wolves in some northern areas and a one-animal limit for coyotes was added to regular big game licences.
Each year, some 300 wolves and roughly 8,000 coyotes are harvested by trappers and hunters. Manitoba Ag Services Corporation (MASC) last year paid out more than $400,000 in compensation on 1,600 claims of lost livestock.
He said Saskatchewan recently delisted wolves, coyotes and beaver from the wildlife act altogether – effectively declaring them varmints that may be taken anytime without a licence.
Don Winnicky, a Manitoba Cattle Producers Association director from Piney, applauded the move saying the population of wolves and coyotes has “exploded” in recent years.
“It’s just ridiculous,” said Winnicky. “When the people within the perimeter of Winnipeg are seeing coyotes wandering around looking to take their dogs and cats – and heaven forbid if they ever grab a little kid – we can’t let it get that bad.”
After years without any trouble from predators, last spring he lost an 800-pound steer and a couple of calves to timber wolves.
Ever since Bill C-68 was passed in the mid-1990s, the risk of being charged with unsafe firearm storage – and having all one’s firearms confiscated – means ranchers are less likely to carry rifles in their vehicles.
But Stu Jansson, a volunteer director of the Manitoba Trapper’s Association, is annoyed at what he calls the provincial government’s “lazy” response to the problem of livestock predation.
He noted that funding for the Problem Predator Removal Program, which pays trappers “a big, fat $10/hour” plus mileage to catch the bad actors, has been cut from $50,000 per year down to $40,000.
“That’s to look after 6,000 livestock producers in the province? At the same time, the province is paying out half a million in livestock compensation,” said Jansson.
“If they put $200,000 into this program, they would probably see those livestock losses drop significantly because we are going after the target predator, the one that’s habituated to killing livestock.”
The hourly rate is lower than that paid to a highway flag-person, he added, and ignores the fact that to catch problem predators, a trapper must be highly skilled and provide all their own equipment.
Implementation and promotion of the program has been spotty too, he said.
Of the 1,300 livestock loss claims that have been filed this year, less than 40 have been forwarded to the MTA as requests for trapper services.
“To now throw it wide open, and now anybody can buy a trapping licence and go and whack coyotes and wolves any time of the year for no reason at all, puts the weekend warrior out on the back roads,” said Jansson.
The coyotes, he said, will simply respond to the increased pressure by having larger litters. The increased hunting pressure will also mean that the less wily ones will be removed from the gene pool, leaving only the craftiest animals to breed and proliferate.
“It could backfire. For the trapper who’s trying to make a dollar, the gravy is gone. Now he has to go out there and try to catch the one that’s been smartened up a whole damn bunch.”
Verbiwski said it is up to the farmer to contact the trappers if they desire help, not the government. While the predator removal program funding hasn’t been cut, some funds have been used for seminars on how to protect stock from attacks.
Rob Lamont, an avid coyote hunter, agreed that trapping is probably a “way more effective way” to thin out coyote populations.
In the winter months, when the fur is at its best and he isn’t working behind the counter at Jo-Brook firearms in Brandon, Lamont likes to head out into the backcountry with a simple, hand-held predator call and bag a few pelts. One of the best coyote hunters around, he goes hunting about 25 days each winter. Last year he got 52.
“Fifteen years ago, when there were very few people doing it, it was very easy,” he said. “But I think, evolution has made them pretty smart and as a consequence, it’s a lot more difficult than it used to be.”
He’s not concerned so-called weekend warriors will head out in droves to blast away at coyotes on Crown land in the summer.
“Nobody is going to hunt them seriously in the summer,” said Lamont.
“People complain about gophers, and you can shoot gophers all summer. If people aren’t ambitious enough to go hunt gophers, coyotes are 150 times harder to hunt.” [email protected]
“Thiswillallow propertyowners undertheauthority ofatrappinglicence togobeyondtheir ownprivateproperty todealwithproblem wolvesandcoyotes.”
– BARRY VERBIWSKI