One sheep rancher's solution to his coyote problem
Some Alberta municipalities pay hunters a fee for every coyote or wolf they kill, and on last week's program we heard a call to end those bounties on coyotes and wolves. Wildlife biologist Gilbert Proulx told us the practice just doesn't work, and that there's a better way to get the job done.
Dennis Lapierre, a sheep farmer in Falkland, B.C. and one of our listeners, heard that interview and wanted to share his experience.
The full interview is available in the audio player above. The following portions have been edited for clarity and length.
You've been a sheep farmer for nearly 25 years. When you first started out, what would you do if you saw a coyote near your animals?
I would shoot them. That was the thing you did back then. Coyotes hunted easy prey, and that meant my sheep. Any time I saw a coyote around the place, I would take a poke at it with a rifle.
How well did that work?
It didn't work very well at all, actually. I just ended up shooting at more and more coyotes and losing more and more lambs every year. My very worst year, I lost 15 of my roughly 60 lambs. It was a significant hit, but the worst part was that I just wasn't gaining any ground.
I read an article out of some research centre in the U.S. about the use of livestock guardian dogs. I bought a guardian dog. It would be out there with the flock and patrolling at night, and I quit losing sheep. Dogs will establish a territory and more or less an arrangement with the coyotes. Being both canines, they'll respect each other's ground.
You could see where the dog would mark, and where the coyote would mark. It was as if things were just fine as long as the coyote knew where the dog lived, and the dog knew where the coyote lived. They didn't encroach on each other's ground.
How many lambs a year would you lose now?
I've lost maybe four in the last 14 years. It's a remarkable change.
Are there any circumstances under which you would shoot a coyote?
If there was one that was persistent and kept sneaking in, and paid no respect to the dog, I'd probably shoot it. I really don't want to. Probably the last coyote I shot, it had three legs and broken teeth. You could tell that it pretty much had to take what was easy to find. I even tried to discourage the neighbours from shooting coyotes, because if a coyote gets shot, then a new coyote is going to move in and explore that territory. It's just going to create more work for the dog, and he's going to test the margins until he figures it out. You're not gonna beat 'em. You're never gonna beat 'em. You might as well learn to live with them. Ranchers know this.
Click the blue button above to listen to the full interview.