NARCISSE -- Henry Hendrickson moved a fly from the raw, bloody shoulder of a calf seriously wounded by coyotes.
"There are no maggots, at least, today," he said, gently touching the wound. "Yesterday it was full, crawling with maggots."
The calf was on Hendrickson's pasture in the Interlake when it was attacked on June 6. The coyotes' bites left bone protruding from the calf's skin, bites up and down the its body and a herd of cattle watching from behind a metal gate.
"That one is Mama," said Hendrickson, opening the gate so the mother could come to her wounded baby. "Don't worry, buddy," he said, petting the young one. "Nobody's going to hurt you."
In one year, the farmer raises 300 cattle and loses between 10 and 12 to predators: coyotes and wolves, mostly.
Hendrickson would like to protect his herd by hunting the predators, but the laws make it difficult. For example, coyotes are nocturnal creatures, but laws governing gun use prevent farmers from hunting at night. They also can't legally shoot from a moving vehicle, even though vehicles are the only way to keep pace with fleet-footed coyotes and wolves.
"What do I do?" Hendrickson asked, shaking his head. "Like, what do I even do?"
The number of claims filed for wildlife-damage compensation through the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corp. grew by an average of 11.5 per cent per year between 2009 and 2011.
Tom Dziedzic, Hendrickson's neighbour, has lost livestock to predators, too. "Each one we lose, it's a substantial loss, a big loss for us," said Dziedzic. "It's heartbreaking."
Farmers in Manitoba raise cattle for six months to a year before selling to cattle buyers and receiving a paycheque.
They sometimes struggle to prove their livestock was attacked by predators because often, no carcass remains. With no evidence, farmers cannot receive compensation.
"On a newborn calf, the bones are still so soft. You'll be very lucky to find any bones," said Dziedzic.
If a farmer can prove livestock was attacked by predators, however, they will be issued a claim number. In the past, the claims would garner problem predator removal services, in the form of a trapper, from the Manitoba Trappers Association.
But the MTA's website (manitobatrappers.com) said such trappers are currently unavailable due to a lack of funding.
"It's almost as if they don't care; like they're saying 'Don't tell me your problems,' " Dziedzic said.
Manitoba Conservation funds the MTA and provides $50,000 per year.
"In previous years, the MTA had money left over from the previous year, so there was enough money to carry them into the fall, when our funding for the succeeding year would arrive," said Serge Scrafield, assistant deputy minister for Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship. "What we've heard this year is the MTA has expended the funds."
Scrafield could not say when Manitoba Conservation will provide funds to the MTA again.
"We've been made aware, and you know, we hope to address it but that's all I can say at the moment," said Scrafield. Back at the farm, Hendrickson washed the calf's wounded shoulder and administered medication.
"Yesterday, drugs at the vet were $167 for a little bag," he said.
Food and medication cost money, the calf has little to no market value, and Hendrickson does not have time to care for it. There is one other option Hendrickson cannot bear to imagine: kill it.
He told a visiting journalist: "If you want to shoot him for me, I'll get the gun."
Caught in the act
The Wildlife Act, which governs hunting in Manitoba, says hunters may kill wildlife on their own land to defend property. But the following restrictions apply:
Can't hunt at night or use lighting or reflecting equipment when hunting.
Can't use poison to trap or kill wild animals.
Can't have a loaded gun in a vehicle, and can't fire a gun from a vehicle.
Livestock producers must do the following when filing a claim for wildlife-damage compensation:
Contact a government insurance office within 72 hours of discovering the attack.
Preserve evidence of an attack, such as the carcass, attack site and indicators that a predator was there. An adjuster will use the evidence to assess loss.
If the adjuster thinks there is enough evidence to prove a predator attack, the farmer receives full payment.
If the adjuster thinks a predator probably attacked, but there is not enough evidence to prove it, the farmer receives one-half payment.
If there is no carcass to prove a predator attack, the farmer receives no payment.
-- source: Manitoba Agricultural Services Corp.: masc.mb.ca