MANITOULIN— Howland farmers Lynn Bond and Gary May lost six of their sheep this fall to coyotes, prompting the couple and their neighbours to seek the coyote bounty brought back to the municipality.
“We had the flock in a 10 acre field off the Green Bush Road,” explained Ms. Bond. “Every morning I go to check on the flock, which is guarded by two lamas, following my bus run. I had the sheep trained to come when I whistle, but on the morning of September 14 only seven of the sheep came to me.”
When Ms. Bond went looking for the rest of the flock, she found them dead and ran home to call the municipal wildlife compensation evaluator, Jack Wood.
Despite the field being fenced in, Mr. Wood told Ms. Bond and Mr. May that a coyote, and most likely one with young pups, had gotten through and separated the four sheep and two lambs.
“Based on what they ate and the kills, Mr. Wood said it was likely an adult and four or five pups,” said Ms. Bond. “They ate one and started on another and just left the rest dead. I was really upset. I had them all named. I got compensated, but it’s not the same. I don’t know the new sheep.”
“I want to push for a bounty like there was before,” continued Ms. Bond. “I’ve spoken to my neighbours too and they feel the coyotes are out of control and a bounty would encourage trappers and help with the population. I’ve heard the municipality used to have a $50 bounty and I think this would make a huge difference.”
Ms. Bond and Mr. May’s neighbour Chris Roszel said he stopped farming sheep after the issues he had with coyotes a few years ago.
“I got out of sheep two years ago,” said Mr. Roszel. “I had to quit because the coyotes wouldn’t leave them alone. They were killing day and night. The fence wouldn’t keep them out so we started putting them in the barn at night, but they were smart and as soon as we let them out, they would hunt them during the day.”
“I think a bounty would help a great deal,” added Mr. Roszel. “It would encourage trappers if it was brought back.”
Al Rolston, who owns a 600-acre farm in Sheguiandah, said he has also been seeing a lot of coyotes.
“There have been more wolves and coyotes than ever,” said Mr. Rolston. “I’ve seen 10-15 this year so far.”
Mr. Rolston said that some of his cattle have been losing calves and he has been told this could be because the bred cows are stressed out.
“I think bringing the bounty back would definitely make a difference,” Mr. Rolston said. “It’s a chore going out and getting the coyotes or wolves, but if people were compensated, it would make a difference. It would be a good thing for farmers and landowners.”
The Expositor spoke to Northeast Town CAO Dave Williamson about the municipal bounty and how it could be brought back if the need/desire was present.
“Since I’ve been with the town, there hasn’t been a bounty, but my understanding was there was a bounty in the past for coyotes (or wolves). People would bring them to the municipal office and an employee would clip the ear and issue the funds. My understanding is that it was probably a budgeted item.”
To his knowledge, if the bounty was to be brought back it would have to be approved by both the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) and the Northeast Town council.
Ms. Bond asked Island trapper and retired MNRF conservation officer Ian Anderson to set traps on her farm to help catch the coyote that had killed her sheep.
On October 14, Mr. Anderson caught a 36-pound female which he told her was likely the culprit as she had produced milk for pups in the summer.
Mr. Anderson said that, based on his experience as an active trapper, he felt that the coyote population across Manitoulin generally isn’t as high as it was a few years ago.
“However, certain geographic areas that are not getting a lot of trapping pressure (such as Sheguiandah) could be seeing higher numbers,” said Mr. Anderson. “Coyotes are shy creatures, so when there are a lot of reports of people seeing coyotes, that is a sign that the population is high.”
Generally, Mr. Anderson said, Manitoulin has a healthy coyote population but some areas are higher then others and the population fluctuates on what they eat.
“If the deer population increases, the coyote population does as well,” Mr. Anderson explained. “They eat everything from mice to deer. They even eat newborn calves, which seems to be more common currently, but I’m not sure why. With sheep, once the coyote realizes how easy they are to catch and kill, it can become a real problem.”
To make a difference in the population, Mr. Anderson said there would have to be great trapping pressure Island-wide because if you manage to get a population down in one area, coyotes from a neighbouring territory will simply move in.
“Bounties on wolves and coyote were pretty much across North American in areas where the species existed,” said Mr. Anderson. “I think in about the mid 1970s it ceased, with the reasoning that it just wasn’t reducing the populations—they didn’t think it was effective—and it had been in place in Ontario for 75 or 80 years.”
The Manitoulin Municipal Wolf Bounty, a cooperative effort, lasted well beyond that time.
Longtime Assiginack reeve and current Assiginack Councillor Hugh Moggy explained that the cooperative was a Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) initiative.
“If a farmer shot a wolf, or coyote, it was mostly coyotes, they would come to Assiginack and have to prove that they trapped it or shot it in a specific Island municipality and then money would come from that municipality,” said Mr. Moggy, explaining that Assiginack operated the program for the MMA. “It operated up until the early ‘80s.”
The Expositor contacted the MNRF, inquiring about the history of the coyote bounty in Ontario, and Manitoulin specifically, and if it could be brought back on Manitoulin if there was a desire (both from residents and a municipality(s)), but had not received a response as of press time.