Saskatchewan is expanding its wolf hunt to help reduce livestock predation near the provincial forest.
Environment Minister Scott Moe said the plan isn’t to cull the wolves. Instead, it’s to put pressure on them to stay in the forest and away from livestock.
Only three wolves were killed last year.
The expanded wolf hunt follows a pilot hunt in zone 49 two years ago and zones 49 and 53 last year.
“This year what we’ve done is spread that across the northern edge of the grain belt, south of the forest fringe, so that all of those ranchers and hunters have the opportunity to apply that pressure to the wolf populations to keep them in the forested area,” Moe said.
Between Oct. 15 and March 31, hunters can cull wolves in wildlife management zones 43, 47, 48, 49, 50, 53, 54, 55 and 68N.
Only Saskatchewan residents are eligible for licences, but there is no limit on the number available. The licences must be picked up at ministry of environment offices in Meadow Lake, North Battleford, Spiritwood, Prince Albert, Nipawin, Saskatoon, Melfort, Greenwater Lake, Hudson Bay, Preeceville and Regina.
Moe said the pilot program was a result of requests from ranchers and municipalities that recorded a high number of predation claims. Although the claims were localized, they can be severe, he said.
Those who buy licences must report their results within 14 days of the end of hunting season. About 200 licences were sold last year.
“The intent was never to have a high harvest volume,” said Moe. “All we would ever expect is maybe a zero to five-percent harvest volume, which is extremely low.”
He said wolves are intelligent and will learn to stay where they are safer.
But wildlife attacks on livestock are always possible.
“If you look at zone 49, it’s actually surrounded by three sides of forested area and it’s not uncommon for wildlife to travel between them through the green land zone,” Moe said.
Livestock producers have raised increasing concerns about wolves and cougars in recent years.
Moe met with the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association earlier this month to discuss better control options.
“Culls don’t work but there are programs in place for mountain lions that are perceived as a problem,” he said.
Sask. Crop Insurance Corp. compensates producers for predation claims by wolves, cougars and other predators.
Coyotes appear to be the main problem, accounting for between 60 and 90 percent of predation claims.