Wolf Awareness is a non-profit Canadian organization dedicated to the conservation of wolves through research and public education about wolf ecology.

Wolf and Coyote Bounties

Will you add support to our Wild Canid Coexistence initiatives?

In Alberta, bounties to control wolves and coyotes have been implemented since 2007 to minimize livestock depredation. In the last 5 years, more than 1,400 wolves and 25,000 coyotes have been killed by bounty hunters (Proulx and Rodtka 2015).  Although bounties are known to be an ineffective management practice, they are maintained by some Alberta municipalities under the pretense of reducing livestock depredation by wolves and coyotes.

In the municipal district of Big Lakes, more than 900 wolves were killed for bounty between 2010 – 2016.  Community taxes funded this programs which has cost more than $240,000.  This money could and should have been better spent on investing in preventative measures such as carcass removal programs, range riders, and livestock guardian dogs.  In our study area in Eastern Alberta, we combined two adjacent counties that both practice bounties.  Each County had an annual budget of approximately $20,000; $15/coyote and $15-75/wolf.  Over three years, more than 7,000 coyotes were claimed for bounty in the study area.  Ethics aside, tens of thousands of municipal tax dollars are spent each year to kill hundreds of coyotes and some wolves to ostensibly decrease conflicts with livestock, yet our results indicate that this is unwarranted and unscientific.

This study has been a partnership project between Dr. Gilbert Proulx – lead scientist for Alpha Wildlife Research and Management and Wolf Awareness.
 Project Reports 

YEAR ONE: Wolf and Coyote Predation on Livestock in Northeast Alberta Counties With and Without Predator Boundaries – Spring Summer 2016

YEAR TWO Wolf and Coyote Predation on Livestock in Northeast Alberta Counties With and Without Predator Boundaries – Spring Summer 2017

 As part of the educational component of this project, in 2017 Wolf Awareness updated our Ranchers Guide to Coexistence among livestock. 

In summary, our research in a region of eastern Alberta that offers wolf and coyote bounty payouts indicates that the impact of wild canids on cattle in the area is minimal and well within an acceptable loss to natural elements. A small amount of consumption does occur where these animals overlap in range, however, some of this may be accounted for because of scavenging opportunities when cattle death occurs from another cause and the carcass is left in the area.  In speaking with local residents in the study area that included a grazing lease manager, municipal fieldmen and livestock producers, there was very little concern about livestock depredation events in the area, nor did we identify anyone who was in support of the municipal tax-funded bounty programs underway, despite hearing about individuals who claim many dead canids for profit.  Our findings indicate that there is no justifiable nor evidence-based reason to continue offering incentives to kill these natural predators, and that predator bounties in this region should be ended immediately. 

There are no data to support municipalities’ claims in Alberta that livestock conflicts are reduced due to bounties, and the persistence of bounties in rural regions is anecdotal rather than science or fact-based. There are several regions in AB where people are rewarded financially, from $50 to $500, for bringing in a dead wolf (or evidence thereof). There are both public and private bounties underway in this province.  Often, the public bounties that use taxpayer dollars are done under the guise of prevention of livestock depredations.

Read this paper by Dr. Gilbert Proulx and Dwight Rodtka about how Predator Bounties in Western Canada Cause Animal Suffering and Compromise Wildlife Conservation Efforts.

After being shut down more than 40 years ago in Canada, numerous counties in Alberta and Saskatchewan are offering bounty payments once again to kill wolves and coyotes1, mainly for the perceived benefit to ranchers.  Cyclic wolf killing programs are not new to North America2 but it is a wonder that they continue despite all of the evidence against them.  Bounties are ineffective and unacceptable from an economical, ethical and ecological point of view1.

Just let me be Wolf

“Predator bounty programs have been found to be ineffective by wildlife professionals, and they use killing methods that cause needless suffering and jeopardize wildlife conservation programs,” (Proulx and Rodtka 2015).

Substantial research shows that when wolves are indiscriminately killed, families experience pack disintegration (loss of social stability regardless of population size) which can lead to increased prey killed per capita and more conflicts with livestock 3,4,5. Indiscriminate killing is counter-productive as it results in  smaller packs and an increase in lone and dispersing wolves, which are more prone to kill livestock as they are less capable of taking down wild prey, especially if they lack experience and group work passed down by their elders. Hunted wolf populations also face higher stress hormone and reproductive hormone levels6, which can be detrimental to long-term health and may exacerbate social chaos and conflicts with livestock. It is of great importance to recognize that not all wolves or coyotes kill livestock. Many of the animals killed for bounty rewards have never encountered domestic stock and likely never would.

Backgrounder on Wolf Bounty Programs & Reasoning for Smarter Options.

Aside from being ethically unacceptable and creating ecological damage to whole systems , there are several reasons WHY this practice needs to change:

Some researchers have found that there are increased depredation rates following the indiscriminate killing of wolves.  This may be due to more wolves present in these areas following a disruption of their social structure or possibly wolves avoiding traps had learned to prey on livestock, and become more dependent upon domesticated animals as a food source as pack mates are removed.  Similar research on Dingo’s in Australia also documented pack disintegration (loss of social stability regardless of population size) following indiscriminate lethal control methods.  In this research there appeared to be an increase in attack rates on livestock when using poison baits.

Click on an article(s) below to review further scientific evidence that lethal control can be counter-productive where the goal is to reduce conflicts among wolves and livestock:

Aldo Leopold described this basic principal in the following way, A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise. Local sustainability is not just about taking care of the people in our community; it also requires stewardship of the plants, animals, land and water around us.

Watch our video about the bounty project underway in partnership with other experts. 

Read our blog: Bounties – When Will the Reality Set In?

Municipal districts using bounties have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years to people who bring in dead wolves and coyotes, only to have vacant territories filled in by the same species within a few years. The resilient reproductive nature of exploited wild canids does not excuse our butchery of these highly evolved animals.  Real investments include non lethal PREVENTATIVE measures that LAST.

If a producer can remain “unattractive” to natural predators by promptly managing for dead and sick livestock, as well as maintaining a strong human presence, livestock depredation rates should decrease in most areas.

Husbandry practices where predators share the landscape with domestic stock can have a major influence on whether or not wolves will be attracted to an area.

Putting Things into Perspective

Currently, there is no known place in North America where livestock is the majority of wolf prey.  This is not always the case in other countries where wolf populations have been all but decimated, such as Europe and Asia.  Wolves account for approximately 1 – 3 % of livestock losses on a large scale in North America, with weather, calving, and digestive problems a far larger concern for producers.

It is also paramount to consider the benefits and costs involved in ecosystem services that are provided for by wolves as a top predator and keystone species.  Wolves help to maintain the health, balance and biodiversity of natural ecosystems.

Provinces could invest in  education about husbandry techniques that prevent conflicts with wolves and other large carnivores and provide incentives for coexistence, such as awarding individuals who practice “Predator-Friendly Ranching”.

Contacting your local MLA and asking them to raise the issue at the provincial level is one of the best ways to provoke change.

Consider including your local editor and/or other newspapers too.  Here are some other relevant contacts that influence these decisions:

ALBERTA

The Honourable Rachel Notley, Premier
Executive Branch
307 Legislative Building
10800 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2B6

Phone: 780 427-2251
Email: Premier@gov.ab.ca 

The Honourable Shannon Phillips
Minister of Environment and Parks
Executive Branch
208 Legislature Building
10800 – 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2B6

Phone: 780 427-2391
E-mail: aep.minister@gov.ab.ca

Deputy Minister Bill Werry
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
915 – 108 Street
Edmonton,
T5K 2G8

Phone: (780) 427-1799
Email: bill.werry@gov.ab.ca

Travis Ripley
Executive Director Fish and Wildlife Policy Branch Environment and Parks
2nd fl Great West Life Building
9920 – 108 Street
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2M4

Phone: 780 427-7763
E-mail: travis.ripley@gov.ab.ca

Sue Cotterill, Section Head
Species at Risk, Non-Game and Wildlife Disease Policy Environment and Parks
2nd fl Great West Life Building
9920 – 108 Street
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2M4

Phone: 780 422-9535
E-mail: sue.cotterill@gov.ab.ca

 

SASKATCHEWAN

The Honourable Brad Wall
Premier of Saskatchewan
226 Legislative Building Regina, Saskatchewan S4S 0B3

Telephone: (306) 787-9433
E-mail: Premier@gov.sk.ca

Environment Minister Scott Moe

Room 345, Legislative Building, 2405 Legislative Drive, Regina, SK, Canada, S4S 0B3

Telephone:(306) 787-0393

Email: env.minister@gov.sk.ca

Coexistence is Key. TOGETHER we CAN create CHANGE

 

Citations:

  1. Gilbert Proulx and Dwight Rodtka (2015). Predator Bounties in Western Canada Cause Animal Suffering and Compromise Wildlife Conservation Efforts. Animals 5, 1034-1046.
  2. Marco Musiani and Paul Paquet (2004). The Practices of Wolf Persecution, Protection, and Restoration in Canada and the United States. Bioscience 54 (1): 50 – 60.
  3. Wielgus RB, Peebles KA (2014) Effects of Wolf Mortality on Livestock Depredations. PLoSONE 9(12).
  4. Linda Y. Rutledge, Brent R. Patterson , Kenneth J. Mills , Karen M. Loveless, Dennis L. Murray , Bradley N. White (2009). Protection from harvesting restores the natural social structure of eastern wolf packs. Biological Conservation 143 (2010): 332–339.
  5. Arian D. Wallach, Euan G. Ritchie, John Read, Adam J. O’Neill. (2009). More than Mere Numbers: The Impact of Lethal Control on the Social Stability of a Top-Order Predator. PLoS ONE 4(9).
  6. Bryan, H.M., Smits, J.E.G., Koren, L., Paquet, P.C., Wynne-Edwards, K. E., and Musiani, M. 2014. Heavily hunted wolves have higher stress and reproductive hormones than wolves with lower hunting pressure. Functional Ecology.