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WHEREAS producers are absorbing the cost of livestock lost due to increased wolf predation occurring along Crown land; and
WHEREAS there is no compensation for missing animals when there is evidence of a confirmed kill; and
WHEREAS damage compensation claims have tripled since 2012; and
WHEREAS Idaho, Oregon, and Wyoming have developed approaches to compensate for confirmed, probable and missing animals; and
WHEREAS municipalities are absorbing the cost of wolf bounties and predator control programs in the province, and
WHEREAS there are insufficient Fish and Wildlife staff to monitor and proactively control the predator population in the Crown land bordering agricultural areas;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC) requests Alberta Environment and Parks, Alberta Justice and Solicitor General, and all other relevant government ministries to review the current staffing situation, program administration, , budgets and funding source of the Wildlife Damage Compensation Program to ensure its effectiveness, and
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the AAMDC request the Government of Alberta to compensate producers for confirmed cases of wildlife predation when livestock are missing and wolves, bears or cougars have been observed in area.
The MD of Bonnyville is bringing forward this resolution to have additional resources available to the producer when they experience costly losses due to wolf predation.
Currently, if a producer has an animal killed by a wolf and is able to preserve the carcass for a Fish and Wildlife officer to investigate, the producer will be paid full compensation for the animal at fair market value if it is 100% confirmed that a wolf killed the animal.
The problem producers are experiencing is the ability to find and preserve these wolf kills in a timely fashion. Often the carcasses are cleaned up by scavenging wildlife within hours of the kill and some calves are never found at all.
Additionally, producers are experiencing variable/delayed response times of Fish and Wildlife officers when investigating these kills, and often the evidence quickly degenerates prior to the officers attending the kill site.
We are asking the Government of Alberta to investigate other compensation programs within North America that allow for multiple compensation payouts when there are confirmed wolf predations in the producer’s herd and when there are confirmed multiple missing animals. We also ask that the province review staffing availability to ensure investigation of predation is a priority when a producer reports a loss.
The Wolf Lake Provincial Grazing Association (within the MD of Bonnyville) reported 55 missing animals during roundup from these pastures. The grazing association has been experiencing high predation from wolves over the past five years inspiring them to hire additional range riders and leave some high pressure pastures out of their rotation. Fish and Wildlife officers have been out to investigate several times during this past season which resulted in producers being approved for 2.5 animals for predator compensation. Normal loss in the grazing reserve is 20-25 animals as per average loss ratio.
The grazing reserve also compensates trappers and hunters that shoot wolves on the pastures at a rate of $200 per wolf to encourage harvest of these wolves.
Currently, the MD of Bonnyville has in effect a coyote/wolf reduction program that pays out $15 per coyote and $75 per wolf harvested. Since October, 1150 coyotes and 62 wolves have been compensated for thus far. The program runs October through March annually.
List of References:
Calista Morrison – Masters of Resource Management (M.R.M.) Candidate, Simon Fraser University (2012) Carnivores and Conflict: A Community Approach to Carnivore Compensation, (Idaho 30-34) (Oregon 40-42) (Wyoming 52-55).
Tracy Lee and Kim Good – Miistakis Institute, Mount Royal University, Calgary, AB (2015) Impact of Wildlife to Beef Producers in Alberta; Starting the Conversation, (Executive Summary 4-7) (Carnivores 12-16) (Figure 7: Canivore species with the most impact to beef producers pg 37) (Figure 19: Number of confirmed and probable claims to AERSD per municipality represented as percentiles pg 56) (Total cost of cattle lost to depredation table pg 121)
General Information: Mark Heckbert, Fish and Wildlife Lead Manager, Lesser Slave Lake (High Prairie)
3-14S: Wildlife Damage Compensation Program
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request that all relevant Government of Alberta ministries review the current staffing situation, program administration, budgets, and funding source of the Wildlife Damage Compensation Program to ensure its effectiveness; and
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal District and Counties request that all relevant Government of Alberta ministries implement a monitoring and assessment program to ensure that predators, inclusive of wolves, bears, and cougars, are dealt with proactively.
DEVELOPMENTS: While the government responses to date have provided an explanation as to how the Wildlife Damage Compensation Program currently operates, there is no indication that the program and associated budgets and staffing levels will be reviewed in the future. The program was reviewed recently, but no detail is available as to the review’s findings or if they led to changes in funding or operations of the program. The government response does not address the resolution’s request for a strengthened government predator monitoring program, nor has there been increases to wildlife management in the 2015-16 provincial budget. As such, this resolution is deemed Intent Not Met. The AAMDC has learned that the Alberta Beef Producers have similar concerns with livestock predation, and may pursue a joint advocacy effort on this issue in the future.
Environment and Parks: Alberta Environment and Parks (EP) is reviewing its current compensation programs and the terms and conditions for compensation, including the burden of proof required to meet the objectives for compensation.
The available funding currently allocated to the programs is limited. Shared, collaborative solutions need to be developed with producers.
EP, along with other involved ministries, will continue to work with landowner groups to seek innovative ideas to reduce depredation.
Agriculture and Forestry: While the Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) plays a key role in the Wildlife Damage Compensation Program (WDCP) for damage to crops and stored feed, the administration and policy development for the Predation Program resides with EP. The AFSC’s role in the WDCP for losses to livestock caused by predation is limited to facilitating the transfer of federal dollars to the province.
In 2012, the AFSC initiated discussions between the federal government and the Government of Alberta (GOA) to determine if the federal government would cost?share the administration and losses associated with the Predation Program. These discussions led to an agreement, starting in 2014, whereby the federal government cost?shares 60 per cent of administration and losses paid under the Predation Program.
For administrative reasons, the federal government would only participate in funding if the claims for funding were made by the AFSC. The federal dollars are then paid to the AFSC and transferred to the GOA.
Justice and Solicitor General: EP is responsible for wildlife management in Alberta (including predators) and administers the WDCP. The Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Branch within the Public Security Division of Alberta Justice and Solicitor General is responsible for operational elements of the program – conducting investigations of possible predation by bears, cougars, wolves, and eagles on food producing livestock outside of lands administered by EP. Branch policy dictates that fish and wildlife officers will respond to reports of livestock predation within 24 hours of receiving a complaint, a policy that reflects the high priority placed on these types of occurrences.
Dead livestock may not be found immediately after an attack, leaving the carcass vulnerable to scavenging by predators and other wild life. Critical evidence may be lost, making it difficult for investigators to determine cause of death. Therefore, it is vital that producers regularly check their herds and immediately report predator losses. An investigating officer may provide direction to the producer to remove or cover a carcass in order to preserve evidence for the investigation.
Once a fish and wildlife officer conducts an investigation, the results are forwarded to EP staff (Fish and Wildlife Policy Branch) for processing. Officers will often discuss preventative measures livestock producers can employ to mitigate losses to predators.
Fish and wildlife officers will trap and relocate or euthanize an offending predator when it is warranted. Any other predator control measures are the purview of EP.
Protection of life and property in relation to human/wildlife conflict is a core mandate for the Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Branch, and the branch regularly reviews its staffing strategy.
The Government of Alberta’s response indicates that Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) is aware of the weaknesses of the current Wildlife Predator Compensation Program identified in the resolution and are undertaking a program review to address issues related to funding and to proving wildlife predation. The review will involve the participation of other ministries involved in administering the Program. A recently released Rancher’s Guide to Predator Attacks on Livestock was developed to provide ranchers with information about wolves, bears, cougars and coyotes and the attack characteristics specific to each predator to aid in the identification of predator incidents to encourage more efficient investigations with Fish and Wildlife officers.
AEP has noted recent successes in reducing wolf predation of cattle on a provincial grazing reserve highlights the value of cooperation with stakeholders and that continued work with the Alberta Beef Producers, grazing reserves, the Waterton Biosphere Association will ensue. This resolution is assigned a status of Accepted in Principle, and the RMA will continue to monitor the issue in upcoming provincial budgets and program review processes.