BARRHEAD - Farmers and ranchers in Lac Ste Anne County now have another tool to use in their efforts to protect their livestock against predators.
This year the county has instituted a free predator mitigation program that sees animals like coyotes, foxes and wolves that prey on livestock trapped and removed from their property.
Problem wildlife officer Kimberly Verge said the program was a direct result of residents throughout contacting the municipality's agricultural services department.
"Coyotes are the biggest nuisance. It doesn't matter where you go in Alberta, you will encounter evidence of coyotes, even in a city such as Edmonton," she said. "It is especially problematic now because it is calving season for many ranchers. (Calves) are small enough of an animal that coyotes can take them down quite easily ... and they are always a problem for sheep farmers."
The first step after a resident contacts ag services about a coyote problem is that one of the municipality's two licensed trappers will meet with the complainant and do a site assessment of the property.
The wildlife problem officer then decides if they can help and what method they’ll use.
"We always try to educate first on how to better secure their homestead against predators as well as steps they can take not to attract the animals such as feeding cats outdoors," Verge said.
Although coyotes are the most prevalent, they are not the only predators in the area, she said, adding there are also wolves and foxes.
"Foxes mostly are problems on homesteads, going after chickens and stuff but they can play havoc with livestock chasing them around ... but that is a rarity," Verge said.
The last resort is trapping the animals, which they do as humanely as possible. But when it comes to coyotes they are unable to relocate the animal and it is destroyed.
When asked if the county ever considered a culling program Verge said they generally don’t work.
"It's not effective. You might get one per cent of the population ... and that one per cent is only going to be the young inquisitive ones," Verge said.
For more information about the predator mitigation program, call Lac Ste. Anne County's Agricultural Services Department at 780-785-3411 (toll-free 1.866.880.5722) or e-mail agservices@LSAS.ca.