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TB Eradication Plan Back To Square 1

TB task force is “not functional.”

– RAY ARMBRUSTER, MCPA

Ayear ago, Manitoba cattle producers felt they were finally getting somewhere in their decades-long fight against tuberculosis in Riding Mountain National Park.

Parks Canada had signalled a willingness to eradicate some wildlife in Riding Mountain as part of a strategic plan to help control TB in elk and deer.

The eradication would occur on the western side of the park where TB hot spots occur.

Parks Canada was careful not to call it a cull. But a cull by any other name was welcome news to local cattle producers, whose livelihoods are periodically disrupted by TB in and around the park.

Fast forward to 2009 and little appears to have changed.

Parks Canada did some culling in the winter of 2008-09. But mechanical problems with a leased helicopter limited its efforts.

DISEASE SURFACING

Meanwhile, TB continues to appear. A 2008-09 capture program by Parks Canada confirmed four TB positives: two in elk and another two in deer.

The Manitoba Cattle Producers Association feels a multi-party TB task force, established six years ago to co-ordinate TB eradication, is dragging its feet.

MCPA blames, not Parks Canada, but the Manitoba government for the delay and, ultimately, the problem.

The “wheels fell off ” the disease-control strategy this past year soon after Manitoba Conservation assumed the rotating chair of the TB task force, said Ray Armbruster, a producer in the region who also heads MCPA’s animal health committee.

It was “very apparent” the task force was “not functional” while Manitoba Conservation was in the chair, Armbruster said.

DYSFUNCTIONAL

The task force represents Parks Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Manitoba Conservation, Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives, MCPA and the Manitoba Wildlife Federation.

Parks Canada has since resumed the chair and there’s now a “better atmosphere” on the task force, but the process has been delayed a whole year, Armbruster said.

He said producers get the impression Mani toba Conservation opposes wildlife culls and does not want one in the Riding Mountain Eradication Area in and around the park.

Parks Canada estimates there are as many as 2,600 elk and 3,300 moose inside the park, as well as 142 elk and 52 moose outside it and nearby.

Armbruster said wildlife have spread further afield in recent years despite barrier fencing and hay yards to contain them.

MCPA wants the province to extend hunting boundaries and hunting seasons. It also asks that landowners receive special hunting licences for wildlife on their property. Both requests have been turned down, said Armbruster.

WAITING FOR ANSWERS

MCPA asked MAFRI in August to implement the provincial Animal Diseases Act, giving the province authority to remove wildlife posing a potential disease threat. The association is still awaiting an answer, he said.

Without provincial co-operation, a plan to eradicate TB in Riding Mountain cannot go ahead, said Armbruster.

TB was high on the agendas of MCPA annual district meetings this month.

Questioned recently in the Manitoba legislature, Conservation Minister Stan Struthers said the province is working with all its partners to control TB in the RMEA.

“There is a hot spot that we have to deal with and we have been co-operating with all others to make sure that we reduce that number so that there’s fewer elk and deer coming into contact with people’s cattle outside the Riding Mountain area,” Struthers said.

But Armbruster said Manitoba Conservation is not monitoring for TB beyond what Parks Canada does. [email protected]

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