A NEW INITIATIVE! Wild Canid Coexistence Project in NE Alberta bounty areas.
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, a total of 971 wolves were killed for bounty between 2010 – 2016. Community taxes funded this program which has cost $242,750. 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.
There are no data to support the municipalities’ claims in Alberta, 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.
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.
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.
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”.
“The real responsibility resides with those who remain silent; they are allowing others to prevail”.
Martin Luther King
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:
The Honourable Rachel Notley, Premier
307 Legislative Building
10800 97 Avenue
Phone: 780 427-2251
The Honourable Shannon Phillips
Minister of Environment and Parks
208 Legislature Building
10800 – 97 Avenue
Phone: 780 427-2391
Deputy Minister Bill Werry
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
915 – 108 Street
Phone: (780) 427-1799
Executive Director Fish and Wildlife Policy Branch Environment and Parks
2nd fl Great West Life Building
9920 – 108 Street
Phone: 780 427-7763
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
Phone: 780 422-9535
The Honourable Brad Wall
Premier of Saskatchewan
226 Legislative Building Regina, Saskatchewan S4S 0B3
Telephone: (306) 787-9433
Environment Minister Scott Moe
Room 345, Legislative Building, 2405 Legislative Drive, Regina, SK, Canada, S4S 0B3
Killing Contests in Canada? How far have we come, eh?
BC, Alberta, and Ontario all allow killing contests, where public are rewarded for the number, size and type of wolves or coyotes they kill.
It is usually hunting groups or Rod and Gun Clubs that host these competitions.
Undoubtedly, both wolves and coyotes are killed in these contests, and sometimes domestic dogs too. Find out if these are allowed in your area…and consider being a voice to help stop them wherever they occur.
Wolf Awareness does not understand why these killing contests are legal, do you?
Coexistence is Key. TOGETHER we CAN create CHANGE
- Gilbert Proulx and Dwight Rodtka (2015). Predator Bounties in Western Canada Cause Animal Suffering and Compromise Wildlife Conservation Efforts. Animals 5, 1034-1046.
- 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.
- Wielgus RB, Peebles KA (2014) Effects of Wolf Mortality on Livestock Depredations. PLoSONE 9(12).
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.