History: Livestock predators cause heavy losses

Reprinted from the November 1949 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

On September 15 the Western Stock Growers’ Association sent a questionnaire to its 1,350 members to determine the extent of livestock and poultry losses caused by predators. As of October 18 there were 85 returns received. An analysis of the returns at hand gives alarming and important information and is as follows:

These returns covered 62 points in an area extending from Watino in the Peace River to Cardston and Coutts in the south and four Saskatchewan points in the east. The entire range area is considered as being represented in the returns. The 85 reporting members disclose that over a period of five years loss to predators, both wildlife and human, aggregated 4,803 head of livestock and poultry valued at $73,997. This is an average annual loss of $14,770 for this reporting group of members.

A breakdown of losses discloses that coyotes destroyed 1,091 sheep valued at $11,575, 83 cattle and calves valued at $4,295 and 2,646 poultry valued at $4,817, a total destruction by coyotes of 3,820 head of livestock and poultry valued at $20,687.

Oddly enough, over the five-year period only 14 cattle valued at $1,250 were destroyed by wolves. Bear accounted for 10 cattle valued at $1,800 and 300 sheep valued at $3,500.

Skunks took 30 poultry; cougars four cattle and beaver, by having 11 cattle and calves drown in their dams, accounted for a loss of $900.

The largest reported loss from predation is to human predators or cattle rustlers. The reporting members over a five-year period lost to the cattle rustler 364 cattle valued at $41,645, 166 sheep valued at $1,730, 32 horses valued at $1,350 and 39 poultry worth $110 or a total of 601 units valued at $44,835.

The occasional member reported losses of poultry to badgers and weasels.

As to recommendations, with two or three exceptions, all were unanimous that the bounty on coyotes should be restored in some form. This could take the form of a per-head bounty throughout the year on both coyotes and pups or the fur market could be subsidized in such a way to make the killing of predators remunerative; some recommend the supervised use of 10-80 poison. Several of the members observed that the coyote by killing rabbits, field mice and gophers, kept these two forms of wildlife under control. It was also agreed that bounties should be paid or continued on wolves, bears and cougars and should be placed on skunks.

Relative to opinions on control of human predators there was a wide diversity of opinion ranging from “hang ’em” to long terms in prison with lashes. The general feeling, however, was that the cattle rustler was getting off too lightly in fines and sentences when brought to the bar of justice. All were agreed that brand inspection, especially in districts away from the stockyards should be tightened up. A few were highly critical of the RCMP and its interest once information has been laid. Some pointed out that large losses occurred in the meat lockers and the local butcher and some method of checking the hide should be developed before meat is delivered to either locker or local butcher. Bills of sale should be given where stock is sold and if resold the seller should produce bill of sale covering the original brand. All were agreed that the practice of clearing the last brand on the animal, if declared by the shipper, was unsound.

In view of the fact that in certain areas of Saskatchewan no brand inspection is required, the Alberta government should co-operate to bring about inspection in Saskatchewan for only in this way will the Alberta ranchers contiguous to the Saskatchewan border have any measure of protection.

For more of the past from the pages of our magazine see the History section.

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