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Interlake Rancher Calls For Cyanide Gun Option

“After 200 contacts with them, it became obvious that no matter how many hoops we jumped through, they were not going to restore the registration.”

– JACK DUBOIS

The wolf predation problem in some parts of Manitoba’s Interlake has some ranchers calling for the reintroduction of cyanide guns.

At the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association annual general meeting last month in Brandon, a resolution was carried to lobby the provincial and federal governments to reintroduce cyanide guns to control problem predators.

Glen Metner, a rancher from Ashern who spoke in support of the resolution, said a new “tool in the tool box” is needed to help ranchers cope with the growing number of wolves in the Interlake area.

He doesn’t think wolves should be wiped out – just the troublemakers – noting predation was a factor that drove at least one ranching family he knows out of business.

Like many other ranchers and farmers in Manitoba, back in the early 1980s he earned good money trapping coyotes and other furbearers as a farm sideline when prices were high. But unlike the handful of old-timers with decades of experience, his skills are no match for gun-shy wolves that have become wise to traps and snares.

Cyanide guns fire poison into an animal’s mouth when it tugs on a trigger baited with a scented lure via either a spring-activated mechanism or a blank .38 cartridge, depending on the model used.

Unlike steel traps or snares that must be checked daily, cyanide guns are often more effective because they can be left unattended for longer periods.

And that helps, because although younger, dumber animals don’t seem to notice, the signs and scents of human activity near a trap’s location are a dead giveaway for crafty wolves, said Metner.

“I’m a big believer in cyanide guns,” he said at Brandon. “It only fires once and it kills that animal. You’re going to get rid of the problem animals that are there.”

BAD ACTORS

In the early 1980s, he was involved in an effort to take out a couple of problem wolves near Sleeve Lake and was impressed at how effective cyanide guns could be for selectively removing bad actors when other methods fail.

“They nailed two wolves and they never lost any more cattle even though there were still wolves out there,” said Metner, who along with his brother grazes 270 head of cattle on 20 quarters each summer.

Jack Dubois, director of Manitoba Conservation’s wildlife branch, said Health Canada’s Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) currently allows only

one jurisdiction in northern Alberta to use the devices.

Manitoba’s authorization expired in the late 1990s, and despite continued efforts of provincial officials, repeated appeals to PMRA to renew it have been refused.

The trend away from non-target-specific animal control methods is unlikely to change, he added.

“They never outright say ‘No,’ but they make it so difficult to get it registered that we gave up on the process after about a year of back and forth,” said Dubois.

“After 200 contacts with them, it became obvious that no matter how many hoops we jumped through, they were not going to restore the registration.”

MCPA’s lobbying efforts should be directed at the office of federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, Dubois

said, because in the face of their “fruitless” efforts to have the regulation changed, the province has decided to use only traps and power snares.

Even if cyanide guns are reintroduced, Dubois said, it’s unlikely the province’s 120 conservation officers will be the ones setting and checking them.

Unlike in the old days, when conservation officers were mainly from rural backgrounds with personal experience and good trapping and hunting skills, today’s C. O. is just as likely to be urban raised.

RESPONSIBILITIES

That, and the fact that the officer’s range of duties has been expanded to include environmental monitoring and other non-traditional responsibilities, means they simply don’t have the time.

“Our conservation officers don’t have unlimited time to run around checking these kinds of things,” he said. “There was a time when they could, but not anymore.”

Under the Wildlife Act, he noted, farmers and ranchers can take out predators at any time of year to protect their property.

Also, the Problem Predator Removal program and livestock loss compensation programs are there to help. But in the end, people may just have to accept occasional losses as the cost of doing business on the landscape.

The other option, he added, is for individuals in tough situations to work harder at developing the skills they need to defend their livestock from predators.

“Whether it’s problem beaver or problem coyotes, some people we never hear from. They take care of their own problems,” Dubois said. [email protected]

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