Billings council gives approval for coyote control compensation bylaw

KAGAWONG – Billings Township council has given its approval to a bylaw to launch a coyote predation control compensation program in the township.

At a meeting this past Tuesday, council passed all three readings of the bylaw with amendments.

This comes after council had debated this issue at a meeting in February. 

“I will basically support this program for the benefit of our farmers (who may be losing livestock due to these predators); although I don’t like animals being killed, I feel there should be a natural order,” said Councillor Sharon Alkenbrack.

“I’ve been doing some homework on this issue and have found that several local municipalities have a similar bylaw; Burpee and Mills, Gordon/Barrie Island, Assiginack, Central Manitoulin and recently NEMI,” noted Councillor Sharon Jackson. “I agree with Councillor Alkenbrack to support farmers, if they (coyotes) are harassing livestock, calves and sheep are being taken, and farmers have lost revenue on them.

Councillor Michael Hunt said that there should be more research on the actual coyote populations in the area and find out how many farmers are affected, and how many of their livestock are lost due to coyote/wolf attacks. 

“I certainly support a coyote compensation bylaw,” stated Councillor Bryan Barker. “It is extremely important that we note this is not a bounty, or that the township condones killing of coyotes unless they have affected farmers’ livestock. This is being looked at just to assist farmers and protect their livestock and animals.”

And I agree with the township funding the coyote predation compensation program up to a maximum limit of $2,000 per calendar year, with $50 provided to any licenced trapper or licenced hunter who has met the regulations and satisfied the requirement of the bylaw.

Billings Township council had been approached by George Hagen, president of the Manitoulin Trappers Council in regards to a coyote compensation bylaw at a recent presentation. “I am here today to ask that the Township of Billings follow the lead of other Island municipalities and institute a coyote compensation bylaw. The intent of the bylaw would not be to eliminate the coyote but to compensate trappers, hunters and farmers for their efforts to control coyote populations.”

Mr. Hagen explained, “Manitoulin Island has a natural eastern coyote and grey wolf population. The heavy snowfall two years ago caused a higher deer mortality which led to an increased food supply. Coyotes are opportunistic predators and will take whatever presents itself. Their main food source is listed as small rodents, deer, as well as berries and fruit. This predator has taken hold on Manitoulin because of the availability of food in the form of livestock, small mammals, and deer.

“In conversation with livestock evaluators, I was informed that Manitoulin Island had a healthy sheep industry at one time,” said Mr. Hagen. “They advise that due to predation most sheep producers have left the industry. These same evaluators are now seeing calves and poultry being taken by coyotes. I believe this speaks to the adaptability of this predator.”

“As a trapper I receive calls every year from farmers with concerns about coyote and wolf populations. The loss of stock as well as stress put on surviving stock represents an economic loss to the agricultural community, which, in turn, is felt by the municipality,” continued Mr. Hagen.

“I have been advised by a farmer in a neighbouring municipality that he lost six calves last year,” said Mr. Hagen. “He was compensated over $700 for four calves and nothing for two as it was not certain if it was coyote or wolf predation. My understanding is that the municipality was out over $2,800 for this claim, although I understand they are compensated by the provincial government. The proposed bylaw has a cap of $2,000 with a provision to increase as council sees fit. A proactive approach such as this may help to eliminate some of these costs.”

Mr. Hagen noted the deer population on Manitoulin also needs to be protected, and noted the economic benefits the annual deer hunt has on the Island, with property purchased and hunt camps built, all of which adds to the tax base. Businesses also benefit. 

“We have to protect our deer population to ensure that the economic value remains,” continued Mr. Hagen. “We have a healthy coyote population on Manitoulin Island. Our goal is not eliminate them but to control their numbers. The municipalities of Burpee and Mills, Gordon/Barrie Island, Assiginack, Central Manitoulin and NEMI have a similar bylaw in place to protect livestock and deer populations.” 

The (proposed) bylaw has a $2,000 cap which can be increased if council sees fit. A form is filled out with the location of where the animal was harvested and by whom. The form also ensures the animal was taken legally. The form is then taken to a municipal designate to verify and mark. The form is then submitted to the municipality for payment ($50 per animal).

Council at its meeting Tuesday passed all three readings of the bylaw.