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Producers push for tighter bear-baiting rules

Riding Mountain producer Teren Garlinski says baiting bears on Crown lands has contributed to his herd losses, 
and he wants something done

Beef producer Teren Garlinski wants to see a halt to bear baiting on Crown lands, or at least have meat taken out of the equation.

Garlinski, who farms southwest of Grandview near the border of Riding Mountain National Park, says predation is a serious concern on his operation and claims bear baiting contributes to the problem.

Garlinski runs his cattle largely on private land, although baiting occurs on the Crown lands surrounding his property through hunting season. Much of that bait is excess from nearby restaurants and contains meat or animal byproducts.

“We’ve been seeing that when these guys finish their bear baiting and their hunting, that we have a big flood of bears moving out and mingling with our livestock. We’ve lost calves and we can’t find them,” he said, pointing to bears’ tendency to drag off their kills.

Alberta’s Rancher’s Guide to Predator Attacks on Livestock notes that bears may prefer to feed on kills in a more protected area.

Garlinski has taken up the issue with the Manitoba Beef Producers. The Grandview-area producer sponsored a motion during the most recent round of beef producer membership meetings, asking MBP to push the government into banning the use of meat and animal fat as bait on agricultural Crown lands.

What does the province say on bear baiting?

Baiting is unique to hunting wolf and bear, and the Manitoba government requires all baits to be labelled with a hunter’s name and address.

The 2017 Manitoba Hunting Guide allows up to 100 kilograms of meat or fish in baits, although none of that may be livestock heads, hooves, hides, mammary glands or internal organs.

The same rules forbid baiting within 200 metres of a road or dwelling, 500 metres of a cottage development or Crown land picnic shelter or 100 metres of Riding Mountain National Park.

In terms of Crown lands, baits in the Riding Mountain area can’t be put up sooner than two weeks before hunting season and must be gone within five days of the season’s end.

Manitoba Sustainable Develop­ment says hunting is one of the main means it controls bear populations and that, “desired harvest levels cannot be achieved without the ability of hunters to use bait.”

“Most bear hunters like to hunt in secluded areas away from others, and where their activities cause little disturbance to other Crown land users,” a spokesperson said over email. “The department has no evidence to suggest that the use of bait in general, and specifically the use of meat for bait, with the restrictions that Manitoba has in place, increases black bear depredation on livestock.”

Garlinski disagrees. Sur­viv­ing bears do not leave just because the baits are removed, he said. Instead, he argues, baiting with animal fat or meat has signalled that there is meat in the area.

While it’s difficult to say how many of their losses are bear kills (coyotes and wolves are also predation threats in the area), Garlinski estimates between 15-20 calves are killed by predators each year.

“We have quite a few losses in the spring due to bears just for the simple fact that that’s about the time when the bears do come out and everything,” he said. “During the wintertime is when we find quite a bit of the wolf activities.”

Cliff Trinder, another beef producer in the RM of Russell, agreed that bear baiting could make predation worse if done improperly.

At the same time, he said, he has used bear baiting on his own land to draw bears away from cattle to reduce predation.

“Done right, it can be very effective in controlling the location of the bears and it can be very effective in reducing the numbers, but it’s got to be done properly,” he said.

Trinder brought in a licensed predator reduction outfit to control his bear problem several years ago. Since then, he said, his losses have dropped from upwards of 17 animals a year to one or two.

“I don’t know how you’re going to regulate it because you’ve got to have co-operation with the landowner… that’s simple common sense and I guess what you could ask as part of the licensing system, you may ask the outfitters or the people doing the baiting to work actively with the landowners or the cattle operators.”

Garlinski’s motion received broad support from beef producers gathered in Roblin at the beginning of November. It will join other member motions at this year’s Manitoba Beef Producers AGM Feb. 8-9 in Brandon.

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Stockford is a journalist and photographer with the Manitoba Co-operator. She previously reported with the Morden Times and was news editor of  campus newspaper, The Omega, at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She grew up on a mixed farm near Miami, Man.

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