Move afoot to change coyotes from pests to predators in Alta.

Lamb and calf losses from coyotes in Alberta have prompted two producer groups to investigate changes to coyotes’ designation under provincial regulations.

Alberta Lamb Producers and Alberta Beef Producers think designating coyotes as predators rather than pests could enable them to be compensated for lamb and calf losses. It might also allow Alberta Fish and Wildlife personnel to help with control measures.

“It’s a big problem in the sheep industry,” said ALP chair Ronald den Broeder about coyote predation. “Being a pest, it’s under jurisdiction from the counties and every county deals with it differently.”

Farmers and ranchers are legally allowed to kill coyotes on their own land or on public land where they have livestock. No compensation for stock losses is provided.

The two groups suggest that if coyotes were designated as predators, compensation might be available, the same as it is for livestock kills by grizzly bears and wolves.

“If they’re designated predators, they would basically come under the compensation programs for losses,” said Fred Hays, policy analyst for Alberta Beef Producers.

But Jim Allen, head of game management for Alberta Fish and Wildlife, said it’s not that simple.

Changing the designation of coyotes would not trigger compensation for producers who lose livestock. It might even make things worse for producers who want to control them.

“By removing them as a pest, (it) would remove some of the options that they as producers have for dealing with coyotes on their own. That was one of the reasons it was listed as a pest, so they could legally deal with coyotes,” said Allen.

Compensation is not provided just because the killer animal is deemed a predator, he added.

“Changing the classification wouldn’t automatically put coyotes on that eligibility list. I think (producers are) operating on the assumption that that change in class would make them eligible but it won’t.”

Eligibility for compensation is determined by a committee that reviews the programs every few years and that process is now underway.

From that perspective, input from lamb and beef producers is well timed.

Lamb producer and ALP director Bill Gibson said coyote predation is so severe in some areas that lamb producers have quit the business. He likens coyote attacks to muggings.

“It’s a situation similar to that. There’s emotions involved as well as practical financial problems. As a director, I have dealt with a number of people that are just at their wit’s end.”

The ALP has been working to encourage greater lamb production in the province because demand exceeds supply but coyote problems have proven to be a limiting factor.

Den Broeder said compensation for losses could help, though he acknowledges additional cost to the province will be a hurdle.

He said the problem of coyote predation requires a multi-pronged approach, with producers taking protective measures and the province also offering solutions.

Hays suggested greater involvement from Alberta Fish and Wildlife could result in better statistics on coyote numbers and predation cases so informed decisions could be made about control.

“We do need coyotes … but somehow there has to be a balance and I think if wildlife (department) were to be involved, certainly helping to manage that, it would probably be a better thing overall.”

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