by Mac Olsen
So, we’re back to the debate about not controlling predator populations versus the damage they can inflict on livestock and big game populations.
A wildlife researcher is calling for a ban on bounties for wolves and coyotes – which should be taken with a grain of salt. The Edmonton Journal had a report about the issue on Nov. 2. In the story, Gilbert Proulx says bounties are inhumane and ineffective.
“Just look at the coyotes,” said co-author Gilbert Proulx, a wildlife biologist with Alpha Wildlife Research & Management. “We killed over 25,000 of them in the last five years and they’re still all over the place.”
The report also says, when bounty hunters shoot, snare or poison coyotes or wolves, it often makes the situation worse for farmers and ranchers in the area because aggressive newcomers move in to take the place of the original predators, he said.
“When you kill the dominant residents, then you get all those coyotes or wolves who come from everywhere and they don’t know the territory and they start to do bad moves,” Proulx said. “These guys cause a lot of trouble. They are the ones that kill the caribou, the calves or the cows of a farmer because they don’t know their limits.”
However, I take the side of Alberta Beef Producers. The Journal report also says, others point to the heavy toll on livestock that coyotes and wolves inflict. A recent study by the Miistakis Institute in Calgary found predators had an economic impact on nearly three-quarters of Alberta beef producers.
“If there’s a problem area, for sure we would be supporting putting bounties on these animals because they do cause problems,” said Fred Hays, a policy analyst for Alberta Beef Producers.
I see no reason not to have bounties in place, if a predator is a menace to livestock or big game animals. We only have to look south of the border, to the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park in 1995.
In theory, that should have been a good thing to keep big game populations under control. Instead, the reintroduction demonstrates that wolf populations exploded and they have decimated big game animals like elk.
Moreover, if we have “killed over 25,000” wolves and coyotes over the last five years as Proulx suggests, then by not killing them at all and barring bounties on them, that will only allow their populations to grow exponentially.
Finding the right balance for animal populations is not an easy task. Predators like wolves and coyotes have the right to survive – but not at the expense of decimating livestock and big game heards. Eradicating one species so that another can be preserved is not the solution. If we eradicate predator populations, then big game herds will explode out of control. And vice versa.
No, the solution is not to ban bounties or predators or allow big game populations to explode. But to find the right balance, that is the proper thing to do.
So take Proulx with a grain of salt and use predator bounties where and when required.