BOUNTIES AND PREDATOR KILLING CONTESTS
Note: Some information regarding this topic on this page has been provided the Alberta Wilderness Association
* Some images on this page may be disturbing to viewers
Historically, bounty programs (programs where rewards are offered for capturing or killing an animal) were commonly used throughout Europe to control predators. When Europeans settled in North America, bounty programs were implemented here as well. Bounties ended more than 40 years ago in Canada, but were reintroduced in Alberta in 2007 by hunting, trapping and farming organizations and by some municipalities and counties under the intent to protect livestock, increase the number of ungulates for hunters and to supplement trapper incomes.
In Alberta, there are several regions where individuals are rewarded financially for bringing in a dead wolf (or evidence thereof) and these bounties can reach upwards of $500. Jurisdictions with bounty programs represent approximately 20% and 50% of the
surface areas of Alberta (total area: 661,848 km2). Bounties are legal and unregulated in Alberta and any one person or group can, for any reason or no reason at all, offer a bounty on an animal that can be legally killed. Bounty programs are often done under the guise of livestock protection, and can be cloaked under vague names like "incentive programs" or "conservation initiatives". Additionally, bounties also often apply to wolf pups. Alberta Environment and Parks doesn't control wolf hunting and leaves it open to anyone with an in-season big-game tag. The department doesn't keep records of wolves hunted or trapped on private land.
In Alberta, there are two separate bounty payments currently in place. The first is the use of public funds (municipal and county jurisdictions bounties) to provide an incentive to kill wolves in order to reduce/eliminate depredation on livestock. This often includes bounties on either farmland, crown land or both. Bounties range from $75 to $500 and at least 1425 wolves were reported killed by bounty hunters in the last five years (see documents posted below for further details).
The second payment type involves private funding from foreign sources, such as the Wyoming based Wild Sheep Foundation and Safari Club International. Other private bounties have been established by the Alberta Fish and Game Association (not to be confused with Alberta Fish & Wildlife) and from local Trapper’s Associations. Private bounties are offered with the intention of maintaining/increasing ungulate populations in areas where there is high to moderate human hunting pressures on elk and other ungulates.
Bounties in Alberta are not rooted in science; rather the call for bounties is based on a perception of increased wolf population and/or troubles promoted by groups and individuals for whom the bounties are an economical self interest. Because bounty hunters are out to make as much money as possible, they will often use techniques that expedite the capture of target animals. Many scientists and wolf experts agree that their techniques to kill wolves are carried out using methods that cause animal suffering and thus have a significant impact on the welfare of both target and non-target animals. Often times, bounty hunters use inhumane killing methods such as shooting animals in non-vital regions, killing neck snares and strychnine poisoning, which cause suffering and delayed deaths. Many of these techniques are indiscriminate and end up killing many non-target species. Bounties have been researched and found to be ineffective by many wildlife professionals. It is well documented that random killing of wolves/coyotes actually heightens the risks of livestock depredation. Anyone who randomly kills wolves/coyotes, like through bounty programs, fragments the animal's pack. Studies repeatedly show that breaking the family structure of a wolf or coyote pack causes instability by disrupting pack behaviours and hunting patterns, and can lead to the formation of new breeding pairs who in turn spread out and mate, thus increasing the population.
'War on Predators' wrong approach says biologist:
Dr. Gilbert Proulx, wildlife biologist and Director of Science for Alpha Wildlife Research & Management, gave a presentation to Buffalo Lake Naturalists Club on the use of bounties as a control for wolf and coyote populations. Livestock predation by the wild canines has led some municipalities to institute bounty programs to help reduce their numbers, which Proulx believes is an ineffective strategy. Read HERE
Predator Bounties in Western Canada Cause Animal Suffering and Compromise Wildlife Conservation Efforts by Gilbert Proulx and Dwight Rodtka
History of Bounty Hunting:
Bad News Bambi by Kevin Van Tighem
As of September 2014, municipal bounties recorded 1052 wolves killed in Alberta amounting to a payout of at least $316, 790.00 of public money. The municipal district (MD) of Big Lakes alone, paid out $144, 300 for 481 wolves killed. Alberta municipalities with bounties include: Big Lakes (BL), Bonnyville (BV), Brazeau (B), Cardston (CN), Clearwater (CR), Clear Hills (CH), Greenview (G), Minburn (MN), Mountain View (MV), Newell (N), Northern Lights (NL), Saddle Hills (SH), Smoky River (SR), St. Paul (SP), Taber (T), Two Hills (TH).
Municipal bounty programs have been of variable duration and extensiveness. Annual payouts vary, ranging from $15 to $500 per wolf. Annual payments ranged from $17,000 to $106,000 in various areas, although accurate figures have not always been available. Exact records of total expenditures and total animals claimed are not publicly available and details are difficult to obtain as the public disclosure processes on this matter is flawed. There is no way to verify the origin of the dead wolves as the government does not keep a record of killed wolves and thus the MD bounty system is open to abuse and fraud.
Additionally, in Alberta, bounties on coyotes (usually $15 CAD for each dead animal) are sponsored by municipal governments and Fish and Game. At least 25,940 coyotes were reported to be killed by bounty hunters between 2010–2015.
See report by Alberta Wilderness Association:
Several of Alberta’s hunting and trapping groups have created wolf bounties, which are funded by individual hunting and trapping clubs such as the Sundre Trappers Association and the Fish and Game Association. The Alberta chapter of the United States-based Wild Sheep Foundation (a “wildlife conservation organization” promoting the
interests of hunters) ,and Safari Club International (Red Deer Chapter; an organization promoting hunters’ rights and wildlife conservation), in conjunction with local trapper associations also have a history of funding wolf kills in Alberta. These funds are spent to affect a valuable Alberta public resource, foothills native big game animals and their natural predators, yet their effects are undocumented, and public records of total expenditures or wolves claimed are unavailable, like municipal bounties.
It is estimated that hundreds of wolves have been killed through these privately funded bounties:
2007: Wild Sheep Foundation funding to Sundre fish and game and trappers locals begins, with payouts $150 to $300 per wolf. A total of $8750 from a combination of local and American sources was
reported available for up to 25 wolves killed.
2010: $3000 paid by Wild Sheep Foundation to each of Sundre, Rocky Mountain House, Drayton Valley.
2011-12: In Rocky Mountain House region, 35 wolves killed with a $10,350 payout. Wild Sheep Foundation pays $5000, fish and game local pays $3000, trappers local pays $2350.
2012-13: Sundre region: Total bounty funds increased after 60 wolves were killed before end of season.
2013-14: $5000 paid by Wild Sheep Foundation to each of Hinton, Edson, Drayton Valley, Rocky Mtn House, Sundre, and South Country [Calgary] regions to expand the bounties.
In Western Alberta, the Wild Sheep Foundation also offers a $4,000
bounty on cougars killed in any Provincial Management Unit with bighorn sheep where the provincial cougar harvest quota has not been filled. This is to ensure that as many cougars as possible are killed annually. This initiative is part of their Ungulate Enhancement Program.
WHAT ARE COYOTE & PREDATOR CONTESTS?
Coyote and predator killing contests, according to the Coyote Contest website, are: "An activity where hunters engage in calling and shooting coyotes or predators within a set period of time. Prizes are often awarded for the most game taken or the heaviest/lightest presented at the weigh-ins."
Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario all allow killing contests, where individuals are rewarded for killing predators.
Contests like these—often called coyote/wolf calling contests, varmint hunts, predator hunts and predator derbies—have become popular events, especially in the Midwest and West and increasingly so in Canada although often hidden from public view. These contests are operated by outdoor outfitters and hunting organizations that distribute prize money and winnings to groups of hunters who kill the most coyotes/predators. There are categories for other prizes as well such as largest animal, smallest animal and many disturbing categories such as most pups killed and most pregnant females killed. Such contests are not limited to coyotes and often include foxes, bobcats, and wolves.
Killing any sentient creature for the purpose of a contest, derby or tournament for essentially fun and prizes is fundamentally wrong and should be banned.
An event poster for a previous predator killing contest that took place in Alberta:
Photos from that killing contest (Please note they are graphic)
Wolf Matters Position Statement on Bounties & Predator Killing Contests:
Wolf Matters is vehemently opposed to kill contests, bounties and culls as methods of predator control for the following reasons:
1) These activities have been shown to cause reproduction rebound where predators litters are larger and more individuals reproduce. Therefore the populations have been shown to dramatically increase in areas where culls and killing contests have taken place.
2) Many of the kill contests and culls focus on taking the “big animals”. The “big animals” are the adults. The removal of skilled adults can leave unskilled, disorganized young animals who having not had the benefit of adult guidance for hunting and pack cooperation may actually begin to prey on easier animals such as livestock.
3) Predators who were not the problem animals may be taken, leaving the problem animals to continue to prey on livestock.
4) Nature does not allow for vacuums, therefore where a territory is left vacant by a cull or bounty, that area will be filled by incoming predators, therefore illustrating once again , that population control by culls has not succeeded. It’s a bit like shoveling sand.
5) Many of these contests are focused on the coyote, as human residents in many areas feel that the coyote is the problem animal. These contests, for the most part, will allow wolves to be taken as well. Wolves are a natural deterrent to coyote, therefore it makes no sense to kill wolves.
6) Predators are a vital part of a healthy ecosystem. We are seeing countless examples all over North America where predators are removed from a territory only to have other animals such as ungulates flourish and become the problem animal. Next up, cull the ungulates. This is a vicious unnatural circle on so many levels.
7) Many of the conflicts involving predators are man made in that livestock (or domestic pets) are left outdoors unsupervised or attractants are not properly disposed of or secured. In addition wild habitats are being urbanized and used for other human activities such as recreational use, ranching and farming. This reduces habitable space for wildlife. In the case of livestock there are numerous examples of successful ranching and farming in BC and Alberta where non lethal methods are the first line of defense with legal methods being a very last resort. Fladry and hazing, proper animal husbandry (keeping carcasses and organic matter from birthing properly disposed of), range riders, guard animals, proper storage of animal food, proper storage and disposal of garbage, removal of fruit trees and bird feeders which can attract wildlife, wildlife corridors, confining animals who are giving birth or increasing the supervision, keeping animals in larger herds - there is safety in numbers are all proactive preventive measures that should be considered first before resorting to lethal measures.
IUCN CANID SPECIALIST GROUP ON BOUNTIES:
In 2013 a group of concerned Alberta citizens, including wildlife professionals, scientists, and lay people, documented facts regarding archaic bounties placed on wolves in Alberta. These facts were presented to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The IUCN is the world's oldest and largest global environmental organization and advising authority to the United Nations General Assembly. Then, in 2014, the IUCNs Species Survival Commission (the Wolf/Canid Specialist Group) wrote a letter to the Alberta Provincial Government respectfully asking that they prohibit wolf bounties. Bounties are an ineffective method of predator management and in violation of the International Wolf Manifesto, to which Canada is a signee.
Alberta is one of the few areas left worldwide that permits wolf and coyote bounties. The IUCN Wolf Group offered to provide assistance and advice, yet the Alberta government did not end the bounties, heed advice or accept assistance and has remained ignored to present day.
You can read the full letter, response and the IUCN Wolf Manifesto below.
Wolf pups may also be targets of bounty programs.
It is a matter of the value of pups whether they are extracted from the den or not. If there is a bounty, pups are usually dug out of the den or extracted out using barbed wire attached to a cross stick handle which is then wound down into the den and into the animal's fur. Once out, pups are usually hit on the head.
If the pups are to be destroyed, the den mouth is usually shoveled full and the pups starve or they are gassed by using "woodchuck bombs" which causes asphyxiation. These methods are taught by the government. To see how a woodchuck bomb works, click here (not a graphic video).