Alberta’s Coyote Killing Contests

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WARNING: Extremely graphic images included below.

After my recent posts about British Columbia and Alberta basically having an open season on wolves these days, perhaps it comes as no surprise to anyone that Alberta is playing host to a number of legal coyote-killing contests this winter.

Kodiak Lake Hunting & Fishing’s 10th Annual Furbuster Coyote Derby in Barrhead is this weekend

Alberta Beach, Grande Prairie, Leslieville, and Barrhead are all communities within Alberta taking part in these barbaric contests — Grande Prairie just hosted the “3rd Annual Whack ‘Em ‘N Stack ‘Em Coyote Derby” last weekend (if the name of this contest doesn’t sum up the collective mentality of these contests and their participants, then I don’t know what will!), while Barrhead is hosting their 10th Annual Furbuster Coyote Derby this coming weekend on February 7th, 2015.

The Grande Prairie coyote-killing contest ran last weekend

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi was talking about gay and lesbian issues when he was recently quoted nationally and internationally as saying that he was fearful Albertans were going to be portrayed as “hillbillies,” and one can’t help but think that his words couldn’t possibly be any more applicable than they are to these wildlife killing contests across the province, in which the sole aim of the contest is have a bunch of rednecks get together and gun down wildlife like coyotes and red foxes so that they can stack them up and take a bunch of pictures afterwards.

Last year’s Furbusters ‘harvest’ — http://www.kodiaklake.com/photos/coyote-derby-photos

To date the Alberta government has been decidedly silent on the topic despite a rash of negative publicity that Coyote Watch Canada was able to drum up surrounding the Alberta Beach coyote-killing contest near Edmonton three weeks ago (“Coyote Kill Contest in Alberta Provokes Environmentalists’ Anger” and “Hunters, Conservationists Square Off Over Coyote Hunt”).

“Hillbillies” indeed. Wolves, coyotes and foxes killed in the 2012 Furbusters Derby

So let’s break this down and be very clear about what is going on in these contests: men, women, and children are going out onto public and private lands and are slaughtering our coyotes, foxes, and even wolves. They are doing this out of hatred for predators. And they are doing this because they love to kill. These contests have absolutely nothing to do with population control, livestock protection, pet protection, or game management, as many of these hunters would have you believe, and they most certainly have nothing to do with hunting to put food on the table. Which begs the question, why is the rest of the hunting community not coming down full-force on these unethical contests? Why are the same people who spend hours telling me how much hunters put into conservation and wildlife management not up-in-arms about these murdering contests? Much like last year’s Wolf Kill Contest in Fort Nelson, British Columbia, the hunting community by-and-large has disappeared from the scene, with very few hunters stepping forward to express their concern that our province still allows these contests and that this kind of hunting behaviour is still legal in Alberta.

So that leaves it up to you and me to do the dirty work and get these contests halted immediately.

See below for what you can do to help bring an immediate end to wildlife killing contests in Alberta

Here’s what you can do to help put an end to wildlife killing contests in Alberta:

Sign the online petition, we need to get to 10,000 signatures, so please share this far and wide in your social media networks: https://www.change.org/p/honourable-kyle-fawcett-ban-wildlife-killing-contests

Write an EMAIL to Premier Jim Prentice (addresses and sample email below):
CC Coyote Watch Canada, as well as the Minister of Culture & Tourism, the Honourable Maureen Kubinec, the Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, the Honourable Kyle Fawcett, the Wildlife Manager at Alberta Sustainable Resources & Development, Matt Besko, and Alberta Public Affairs Officer Duncan MacDonnell.

To: Premier@gov.ab.ca
Cc: coyotewatchcanada@gmail.com, barrhead.morinville.westlock@assembly.ab.ca,
duncan.macdonnell@gov.ab.ca, esrd.minister@gov.ab.ca, Matt.Besko@gov.ab.ca

I’ve included excerpts from an email Calgary wildlife photographer Colleen Gara sent to Minister Fawcett on January 10th in response to the Alberta Beach coyote-killing contest. Please feel free to use similar wording for your own emails to the Premier (and thank you to Colleen for providing permission to reprint portions of this email):

————————————————————————————————————————-

Dear Minister Kyle Fawcett,

I am writing to express my concerns over the DKD Coyote Tournament that occurred today, January 10, 2015 in Alberta Beach, Alberta. I do not believe that this event should be allowed in our Province. I believe that all contests or other similar tournaments which offer prizes or other inducements for the taking of mammals (such as coyotes), and other animals, for an individual contest or tournament should NOT be allowed. This practice is archaic, unethical and not in line with modern day views on wildlife conservation.

The offering of cash prizes in a contest setting is distasteful and unethical. It has also been shown that random, indiscriminate killing of animals such as coyotes (and wolves) alters pack behaviours and does not lead to a reduction of problem animals (which is what the contest organizer states to be one of the main reasons for holding the contest). In fact, evidence has shown that populations increase as a result of indiscriminate killing.

I note that California’s Fish and Game Commission passed a decision on this same issue this past December. The Commission found that “permitting inducements for the unlimited take of furbearers and non-game mammals was unsportsmanlike”. As a consequence of this finding, they are amending their regulations to prohibit such contests. They believe that by limiting this practice, it promotes respect for California’s environment and provides for “conservation, maintenance and utilization of the living resources of the state’s wildlife for the benefit of all of the citizens of the state.” This is a very important statement: Such contests are directed at a minority of the population. I believe that a far greater number of people in our Province believe in conservation and wildlife sustainability and would support the banning of such contests offering inducements such as cash prizes. These contests are archaic and the goal is not proper conservation and wildlife management. The prizes, such as those offered at the DKD Tournament, are offered for random reasons: the greatest number of coyotes killed and also for the smallest, largest and mangiest coyote brought in (http://coyotecontest.com/contest/4th-annual-dkd-coyote-tournament). It’s reprehensible! In the Commission’s decision, it was stated that “the introduction of prizes changes hunting behaviour by inducing competition beyond that which would normally occur” and I agree with this statement.

In several articles I have read on this subject, the Government of Alberta consistently states that they do not condone these contests and don’t support them. In an article by CTV in April 2010 (http://calgary.ctvnews.ca/41-coyote-carcasses-discovered-in-southern-alberta-1.505298) a number of coyote carcasses were found in Southern Alberta that were likely the result of a bounty being offered by the Government of Saskatchewan at the time. When questioned about this activity, the Alberta Government stated that “…although it’s legal to kill coyotes for a cross-province bounty, the Alberta government doesn’t support it.” When questioned about this month’s DKD Tournament, Duncan MacDonnell, a public affairs officer with Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, said the coyote shoot is legal as long as participants have a licence and obey hunting regulations. He was quoted as saying: “We don’t endorse or condone these hunts, but also realize they are not illegal…but I’d hate for people to think this is a government policy. We are not involved…From our perspective, every animal has a place, and coyotes are part of the natural ecological balance.”

But I argue that the Government is involved. By remaining silent in the Province’s hunting regulations and environmental policies, the Government is being complicit in this mass killing. You are essentially condoning these types of contests and the indiscriminate killing of wildlife. This practice continues to occur year after year

and I think that it’s time that the Government of Alberta stand up against these practices and calls them what they are – unethical and contrary to conservation practices. Follow California’s lead and be a leader in this country in this important area!

The Wildlife Act allows the Minister to establish regulations relating to licenses and permits and to hunting in the Province in general. The Minister may specify activities authorized by or under such licenses. Therefore an amendment banning such contests can be enacted by the Minister. I would suggest that our hunting regulations be amended to disallow the practice of allowing these types of contests, similar to what has been done in the State of California.

On a side note, I also note that the regulations allow for the pelts of these animals (shot on private land) to not be recovered. Therefore, under the current legislation, a contest such as the DKD Coyote Tournament could allow for the killing of an unlimited number of coyotes and their pelts could all be wasted. There is no requirement for them to donate the pelts. I realize that the organizer of the DKD Tournament says that they will be donating the pelts, but they don’t have to and who will be confirming that this was in fact done? It’s wasteful on so many levels.

I believe this practice should be banned in order to provide Alberta’s citizens with the enjoyment of its natural resources. The Government should be respecting ethical hunting and proper conservation.

I would very much like to hear what the Government’s views are in light of what I’ve outlined above.

Thank you,

Colleen Gara
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Thank you everyone for helping put an end to wildlife killing contests in Alberta.

John

A Wolf Kill Contest Update – Wolf Week – Day 2

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When you feign ignorance, sometimes you get to hear the most interesting of stories. Like of how hunters kill wild wolves.  Over the years traveling much of Canada, I have heard some real doozies, like of the time the guy in the Yukon told me how he chased a black wolf down with his snowmobile, then ran it over to kill it.  It didn’t die right away, so he ran it over some more.

It’s appalling to me that here in Canada, a supposedly educated country that many would think ranks among the leaders in environmental protection, we find it perfectly acceptable to chase wolves to exhaustion with snowmobiles.  In fact, not only is it legal in most of the country, but so is killing wolves by choking them to death with wolf snares (yesterday’s blog post) or letting them suffer through endless nights in an archaic leg-hold trap. You can also take potshots at them along the road (not quite as legal, but it doesn’t long in a group of wolf haters to start hearing the stories come out) and use wolf pup distress soundtracks or the calls of wounded rabbits to bring wolves in so they can be gunned down.

So why is it that we sit around and tolerate this kind of behaviour here in Canada and in the U.S. (where the once-slaughtered, then federally protected, now slaughtered-once-again wolf is under fire from all angles in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho).   Why do we allow such barbaric practices like the Wolf Kill Contest in northern British Columbia to happen without making a big, BIG stink over it?

What future awaits wild wolves like this one?  A leg-hold trap or a safe, protected zone for its family?

Well, that’s about to change (see below for what you can do to help).

Back in November when I first started reporting on the Fort St. John wolf kill contest, the Vancouver Sun published a series of articles on the contest that were picked up by media across the nation. One of those articles talked about the legality of the contest and noted that the environmental organization, Pacific Wild, had decided to look into whether or not the contest was legal.  Days later, the provincial government was still sticking to its guns, claiming that the contest was legal and did not require a gambling permit (or a moral conscience, apparently).

So Pacific Wild, founded by noted Canadian environmental pioneers Ian and Karen McAllister, decided to take matters into their own hands.  They sought legal advice.  They concluded that the contest is indeed illegal and violates a number of sections of the Criminal Code of Canada. The Liberal government in BC continues to disagree with the opinions of Pacific Wild’s legal counsel, so Pacific Wild has decided to up their challenge on the matter and pursue further legal action.

If your blood is still boiling over this and you want to help out, here’s what you can do:

1. consider donating to Pacific Wild.  In my opinion, they are one of Canada’s foremost environmental organizations and I personally donated $250 to them at the start of January to help with this fight and other important battles they are waging at present (you can view Pacific Wild’s wolf contest press release here and view comments from Pacific Wild’s legal representation here).

2. you can Take Action on Pacific Wild’s website and write a letter to the provincial government departments involved.  Pacific Wild has even crafted a sample email, click here to voice your opposition to the illegal wolf kill contest. My only suggestion with this sample email is that you add in a few sentences of your own at the start so the government can’t write them all off as ‘form letters’, which they seem keen to do.

[if the link isn’t working for the sample email, then copy and paste the following into your email program:]

rich.coleman.mla@leg.bc.ca; terry.lake.mla@leg.bc.ca; Steve.Thomson.mla@leg.bc.ca; sunletters@vancouversun.com; info@pacificwild.org, adrian.dix.mla@leg.bc.ca

Please stop the illegal wolf kill contest immediately!
Honourable Rich Coleman
Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources
(Minister responsible for B.C. gaming)

cc.
Honourable Terry Lake—Minister of Environment
Honourable Steve Thomson—Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources

Dear Minister Coleman,

I am writing to express my concern that an illegal wolf-kill contest is currently being supported by the British Columbia government when it appears to be in violation of section 206 and 207 of the Criminal Code of Canada. 
In addition to the criminal nature of this contest, I am also concerned about a wildlife management policy that allows prize money to be awarded for an unlimited, open-season killing of a species without mandatory reporting, inspection and no requirement for a specific license.   
I believe that the provincial government is undermining its ability to manage wildlife when it encourages unregulated financial incentives to encourage the killing of wolves, a highly social and intelligent animal.

I look forward to your response,

Sincerely,

[Your Name]
[Your Title]

3. ‘CC’ the NDP in on your email if you do send one: Adrian.Dix.MLA@leg.bc.ca They’re most likely going to be the next government in British Columbia, and they have already shown more willingness to work with Pacific Wild on this issue and to develop a true management strategy for wolves in B.C. based on science and responsible wildlife management. If you oppose this wolf kill contest, then be sure to let them know.

I think together we can help put an end to wolf killing practices like this contest, and hopefully start to impact wolf management decisions that lead to the abolishment of wolf trapping using leg-hold traps and snares, as well as wolf hunting with snowmobiles, bait, and calls.

Thank you everyone for your support and stay tuned for more wolf news tomorrow on Day 3 of my Wolf Week.

Sincerely,

John

Wolf Snares in the Backyard – Wolf Week – Day 1

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Imagine walking along a trail near your house on a beautiful sunny day, your lovely dog racing along beside you darting in and out of every little trail having the time of its life.  A dog being a dog. A perfect day!

Now imagine being out on that walk and, suddenly, all goes quiet except for a muted rustling in the bushes to your left.  Your dog has vanished, and you sense that something isn’t right.  During a frenzied, panicked search, you discover your dog choking to death ensnared in a wire wrenched so tightly around its’ neck that you can’t even get a finger in there. 

Within minutes, your beautiful family dog is dead, all because some friggin’ idiot put a wolf snare on YOUR backyard trails.

Sound too far-fetched to be true?

Wildlife photographer and conservation advocate Brad Hill came across wolf snares in his ‘backyard’ in the Columbia Valley in British Columbia while walking his dogs this weekend (thankfully his dogs are fine), and he’s rightfully furious that no one warned him they where there.

He was just as mad that someone had put it upon themselves to ‘manage’ wolf numbers near his house, so he made a few calls and discovered that the ones placing the snares were actually paid government workers, Conservation Officers (COs) with British Columbia Fish & Wildlife.  Further digging revealed that these COs had set the snares to remove a pack of 6 wolves that had been preying on cattle (or so they suspected) on public land.

So basically, in a nutshell, British Columbia taxpayers are paying for their government employees to go out and choke wolves to death, uh, pardon me, to snare wolves in what’s considered to be a perfectly acceptable manner so that the wolves won’t (potentially) prey on cattle that are being run on public land.  To break that down even further, taxpayers are paying for government workers to remove wild wolves doing what they do naturally in the public wilderness owned by all Canadians so that a private business (the rancher) can increase its earning potential while using public land for free.

Want to learn just how ridiculous this situation really is?  Then check out Brad’s full post, Wolf Snares in my Backyard – an Ethical Dilemma.

Now back to those snares.

Is choking a wolf to death humane?  Is that the fate awaiting this beautiful gray wolf in B.C.’s Columbia Valley?

I got to photograph this wolf above on a chance encounter north of Radium in British Columbia’s Columbia Valley just this past November.  I am sickened to learn that it may now fall victim to a wolf snare just because some rancher can’t look after his cattle on the range (I’m sorry, but if you plan on letting your cattle out onto public lands to graze all summer long without any supervision or husbandry, then losing cattle to bears, wolves, cougars, or anything else should just be the cost of doing business). 

I’m beyond frustrated that we continue to persecute wolves without letting science do the talking. Conservation Officers should know better.  They go to school and are supposed to learn a bit about wildlife biology, and they should know, as Brad says on his blog, that “one way to GUARANTEE that wolves will turn toward livestock is to kill about half a pack – not only are you likely to take out some of the more experienced animals that teach the younger ones how to kill natural prey (like the elk and deer that abound in this area), but you’re also making it unlikely that they will even be able to take down grown elk (and thus can be forced to go after “easier” prey, like livestock).

It is not rocket science, yet we continue to stand around and let our governments sneak around behind our backs doing things like this.  Wolf snares should be outlawed immediately. They can and do ensnare family pets like dogs, as well as a host of wild creatures like coyotes and deer.

I’m not going to beat around the bush on this one, someone, anyone, needs to go down there (the GPS coordinates from Brad’s picture of one of the snares are 50,11.2403N, 115,53.8594W on the Findlay-Dutch road north of Radium — you can find more details on Brad’s blog) and see those snares for themselves. If you happen to take along some wire-cutters, so be it. 

One of the wolf neck snares along the Findlay-Dutch – (c) Brad Hill

I have decided to officially name this Wolf Week here on my nature photography blog and Facebook fan page, so starting today and continuing all week long, you’re going to get full updates on a host of storylines associated with wolves in BC, Alberta, and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, including an update on the Wolf Kill Contest situation in northern British Columbia.

Thanks everyone for your interest,

John

The Big Bad Wolf – How YOU Can Help

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Hi everyone, this will be the first in a series of blog posts leading up to December 5th, which just happens to be the deadline for submitting comments to the BC government regarding its Draft Management Plan for the Grey Wolf in British Columbia.

As many of you already know, I’ve put my heart on my sleeve of late and come out strongly against the men and women hiding behind their guns up north in the Peace region. Their barbaric wolf kill contest has now garnered national attention, and my call for a boycott of the Alaska Highway by wolf lovers has people from around the world stepping up in support of the wolves of British Columbia.

Through this last week, some of the people up north have been interesting, to say the least. They’ve continuously shackled themselves with comments in the newspapers, on the radio, and on the internet that has made many of them look like they’re stuck in a time warp, afraid to embrace modern values towards wildlife and tourism.

I’ve asked them repeatedly for science to back up their claims of “too many wolves” and they’ve come up with nothing. They’ve ignored my calls for data showing something/anything (!!) about increased wolf predation on livestock (read the Vancouver Sun article from October 9th, Livestock Stats Don’t Justify Wolf Cull, for an eye-opener on that bogus claim). And perhaps worst of all, the men behind the contest have shriveled up under the spotlight and disappeared. Completely. Hoping, I’m sure, that us “tree-huggers” and “radicals” will go back to our cities and southern towns and let them keep masquerading about as conservationists. Unfortunately for them, the time has come to step up and make our voices heard across the province and across Canada.

So just how bad is this Draft Management Plan for the Grey Wolf in British Columbia (60 page pdf)? Rather than listening to me on this one, I’m going to give center stage over to some of Canada’s most prominent wolf researchers: BC Wolf Management Plan criticized as veiled attack on the species (Vancouver Sun, November 16th) and to a friend and colleague in the world of professional wildlife photographers, Brad Hill, a biologist living in the heart of wolf country in the Kootenays in British Columbia.  Brad has crafted up two fantastic blog entries in the past week outlining exactly what is wrong with what he calls BC’s Draft Murder Plan for the Grey Wolf (read his November 21st entry down the page, as well as his November 29th entry at the top).

It takes just a few minutes, but if you read Brad’s comments and the Sun articles, you can then go directly to the British Columbia government’s feedback form and submit your comments on what you think about BC’s proposal to have aerial wolf culls in the province, among other draconian measures, as part of their murder plan for grey wolves.

It’s time we put an end to wolf culls (for now — I’ll have more about this on Monday’s blog post), wolf killing contests, and the myth of the Big Bad Wolf.

After all, would YOU shoot this?  Then why are we letting anyone else do it without some science to back up their claims?

The Big Bad Wolf?  Hardly, not a single person has ever been killed in BC by a wolf.

Thank you everyone, I greatly appreciate your help and support in this urgent matter.  Please help spread this across Facebook and Twitter and the web as quickly as possible.

Sincerely,

John