A delegation from the Alberta Conservation Association came into M.D. council chambers last week to give advice on several issues such as wildlife habitat-friendly mowing patterns for M.D. crews and helping farmers make more environmentally friendly farms while still being economically successful.
Another issue that came up was the concerns of predators such as coyotes running amok within the M.D. of Taber which is affecting wildlife.
“We certainly have a high number of coyotes, I’d say inordinately high,” said Brian Brewin, reeve for the M.D. of Taber, at council’s meeting last Monday.
Jon Hood, ag fieldman for the M.D. of Taber, confirmed the M.D. averages between 1,000 and 1,200 coyotes a year that are removed.
“Their running population, according to Alberta Agriculture, I’m guessing is 7,500 to 8,000 coyotes in the municipality,” said Hood.
Such high numbers can affect bird populations such as pheasants in which the M.D. holds its pheasant festival.
But keeping coyotes in control is a two-pronged effect, according to Mike Uchikwa, a biologist with the Alberta Conservation Association.
“With predator control, a lot of the time is they stay where there is a successful population of birds and it’s a combination of both habitat and predator control. The theory being that if you have good habitat, these things have co-existed for a long period of time,” said Uchikwa. “When that habitat starts to diminish and those species that we want out there have nowhere to hide, they become a lot more susceptible to predators. Part of predator mitigation is actually habitat improvement.”
Coyotes are your higher-profile predators affecting game birds, deer and livestock, but others like skunks and raccoons have an impact as well.
Predator control at too high of a level sometimes has a way with Mother Nature in evening things out, or even compounding the problem, according to Hood.
“A female coyote, they have shown studies that if there has been a lot of pressure put on them, she’ll have a second litter just to keep their population up,” said Hood. “It’s important to try and keep our harvest at a certain level. If you impact it too much, they’ll come back twice as strong the next year. We are almost at the point of harvesting that we may have to back off our number a little bit.”
There is a bounty system in place with the M.D. of Taber and the Taber Fish and Game Association for coyote removal up to a certain number.