Preventing Livestock Losses and Maintaining Ecological Integrity
Although bounties are known to be an ineffective management practice, they are maintained by some Alberta municipalities in an attempt to reduce livestock depredation by wolves and coyotes. On the basis of small scale surveys and unscientific extrapolations, Alberta Beef Producers claim high annual losses to predation, primarily from wolves and coyotes.
The fact is that there is no data ascertaining such claims, and the persistence of bounties in rural regions is largely based on perceptions rather than facts.
This project aims to assess the importance of livestock in the diet of wolves and coyotes in areas where small farms and ranches abut upon or are near wilderness areas in northeast Alberta, and provide education to both public and producers about non-lethal methods for preventing conflicts and deterring natural predators, (ie. methods of co-existence) as well as the ecological values of wolves.
We will collect and analyze scats at different times of the year, over 2 years, and discuss the current status of livestock losses and husbandry methods with resident farmers and ranchers. This study is vital to properly understand and manage human-wildlife-predator conflicts in areas where farms are interspersed with wilderness areas.
This project is comprised of a research and an educational component. The objectives are to:
- collect, analyze and provide accurate data on the dietary habits of wolves and coyotes during various seasonal windows in northeast Alberta municipalities where predator bounties are being paid;
- interview livestock producers to assess the frequency and extent of damage caused by predation, and determine existing preventive measures in use (if any) to minimize predation;
- report findings to the scientific community, the public, municipal governments, and livestock producers; and
- provide information to livestock producers about non-lethal measures to take to prevent conflict among livestock and predators.
Many organizations and individuals across Canada have expressed the belief that more education and outreach needs to be provided to Canadian ranching communities about non-lethal methods regarding prevention of wolf-coyote-livestock conflicts; however this information is not being adequately provided by livestock producer associations nor government agencies.
We see the need to provide this service and have stepped up to the plate to initiate proactive steps that can reduce conflicts and improve human tolerance for wolves and other large carnivores, ultimately leading to greater coexistence.
This project offers a unique approach to livestock-predator conflicts because it is solution oriented and provides “boots on the ground” education about coexistence through one on one dialogue, public workshops and presentations, and evidence-based decision making for future best management practices. It is also the first attempt in Canada to work towards establishing Predator Friendly ranching certification.
As more foundations and public become aware of our work over time we anticipate more financial support that will be used to continue to expand this program across the country. By taking proactive measures within small communities, this project aims to act as a pilot to build upon across Canada.
Project partners involved in this initiative include: Wildlife Biologist Dr. Gilbert Proulx, who is the Director of Science at Alpha Wildlife Research & Management Ltd, Certified predator-friendly rancher Louise Liebenberg, co-owner of Grazerie Farms, and Coyote Watch Canada, a Federal, Not-For-Profit, community-based wildlife organization, which advocates positive wildlife experiences through education, research, mediation, intervention, and conflict resolution.