Agricultural associations are calling on Manitoba farmers to complete a survey about wildlife predation of livestock.
The survey is the first step in a three-year applied research project called the Livestock Predation Prevention Project.
The working group behind the project is comprised of representatives from Manitoba Beef Producers (MBP), Manitoba Sheep Association (MSA), Manitoba Goat Association, and Manitoba Trappers Association. Provincial and federal agriculture departments are also involved.
"For many years, predation numbers of sheep and cattle have been growing around Manitoba," Ray Bittner, project lead for MBP, said in a phone interview.
Wildlife predation robs Manitoba producers of more than 2,000 commercial animals per year, according to Agriculture Minister Blaine Pedersen.
It’s most common in the northern Interlake and Parkland regions but occurs across Manitoba. In the Southeast, coyotes are the number one culprit, followed wolves and black bears, Bittner said.
MBP found the average rural municipality loses 20 head of cattle per year to coyotes alone.
"It can be devastating to individual ranchers," Bittner said.
Predation is a complex issue. Bittner said larger farms are one factor.
"You can’t be everywhere at once as a livestock manager."
Urbanization also means less human activity in rural areas to deter wolves, coyotes, and bears.
Fluctuations in wild prey populations are another variable.
"When wild animals like moose, elk and deer are on a decline, predators naturally come out of the wild and go looking for something to eat," Bittner said.
In February, Pedersen’s department pledged $300,000 over three years to fund research into predation. The goal, Bittner said, is to identify and test ways to reduce losses, and get producers talking to one another about best practices.
Bittner wants to encourage more livestock producers to develop risk management plans.
Only the healthiest animals should be pastured near rough country, Bittner said, and deadstock should be removed promptly to prevent scavenging. Game cameras can help producers determine what type of predator is targeting their livestock.
The survey is open to all Manitoba producers, regardless of whether they have lost livestock to wild predators.
Members of MBP and MSA received the survey in the mail. To request a postage-paid copy, call 1-800-772-0458 or 204-421-9434.
Survey responses will be accepted until Dec. 31.