Coyotes are the king of predators, at least when it comes to livestock attacks in Manitoba.
A survey of Manitoba producers says there were 11,606 livestock losses in the province between 2015 and 2019, due to predators. Of those, coyotes were responsible for about 7,210 of the total attacks — of cows, calves, sheep and other livestock.
The data comes from a pilot project, which is studying livestock predation and prevention in Manitoba. The government of Manitoba announced the initiative last winter and provided $300,000 (over three years) to fund the research.
“Wildlife predation of commercial livestock is a significant problem for Manitoba producers, with more than 2,000 commercial animals lost each year,” said Manitoba’s agriculture minister Blaine Pedersen, at the time.
Manitoba Beef Producers and Manitoba Sheep Association are leading the project.
The producer survey found that wolves are the second biggest problem for livestock producers, causing 2,634 losses over five years. Black bears are third, with 1,390.
About 550 farmers responded to the survey, representing cattle and sheep producers from 231 postal codes in the province.
The leaders of the pilot project also studied claims data from the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corp.
(MASC), the provincial insurer. MASC data shows that certain municipalities, in northwestern and western Manitoba, account for a large share of coyote losses.
From 2015 to 2019, coyote claims were:
• More than 450 in the Rural Municipality of Riding Mountain West
• Almost 400 in Hillsburg-Roblin
• About 350 in Minitonas-Bowsman
• More than 300 in Two Borders
Gathering such data, on where predators are taking down livestock and which predators are the problem, was one of the first steps in the pilot project.
Project leaders have also studied strategies and techniques, which could reduce livestock-predator interactions.
“We dug through research papers, we dug through information from Alberta, Saskatchewan, B.C. and some of the states. We tried to find things that actually should work,” said Ray Bittner, who is heading up the project.
Bittner provided an update of their work at the Manitoba Beef Producers annual meeting, held online in early February.
The research generated a list of potential strategies, which Bittner and others hope to test in 2021. One of them is veterinary herd assessments, to ensure that livestock out on pasture are in good condition because a limping cow is an easy target.
“We want cattle out on pasture… exposed to predators, to be in the best health possible,” said Bittner, a veteran livestock specialist with Manitoba Agriculture.
Other strategies include things like predator resistant pens, GPS collars to monitor livestock movement, fladry wire for calving/lambing areas and something called fox lights.
“(They) are little lights that hang from wires. They emit strange coloured lights and strange patterns… which reportedly seem to work,” Bittner said. “We’re going to try it.”
The next step in the project is contacting farmers who are willing to participate and test some of the strategies.
“Individual producers, we’ll try and contact you in the coming weeks and months, to get the right people (involved) in this project,” Bittner said. “We have to prioritize people who have the most significant losses. But if you have interesting ideas (want to hear from you).”
They plan to try the strategies this spring and summer, then monitor the results.
Manitoba Beef Producers are building a website for the livestock predation pilot project, which should be up and running soon.
The pilot project wraps up in 2023.