Agricultural Interactions with Wildlife

The presence of wildlife in agricultural production areas can be a mixed blessing. Coyotes, for example, are valued by producers for their role in consuming grasshoppers, birds, and small mammals that can damage agricultural crops and equipment; but are not appreciated for their occasional consumption of livestock. While some losses to wildlife may be unavoidable, there are Wildlife Smart farm practices that can be utilized to reduce the risk of wildlife damages to farm operations.

Wildlife Damages to Crops

Claims under Manitoba’s Wildlife Damage Compensation Program indicate wildlife damage averages about 20,000 acres annually, but will fluctuate greatly from year to year. Fluctuations are due to numerous factors including crop selection, weather conditions and natural food availability for wildlife. While it is impossible to prevent all wildlife damages to crops, producers are encouraged to utilize farming practices that will lower the risk of damage for their operations.

General Farm Pratices to Reduce the Risk of Wildlife Damage

  • Plant faster maturing varieties.
  • Harvest crops as early as possible to reduce the length of time they remain on the landscape and vulnerable to damage.
  • Straight-combine crops whenever possible, rather than swathing.
  • Combine at a slightly higher moisture content and then dry the grain.
  • Allow hunting on your land during regulated seasons.
  • When wild animals are found in or near your crops, use noise-making devices to scare them out of the crop.

General Farm Pratices to Reduce the Risk of Waterfowl Damage

  • Use a crop rotation that includes less vulnerable crops such as canola or flax.
  • Delay tillage practices after harvest to provide enough grain to attract waterfowl away from vulnerable crops.
  • Use scaring devices such as effigies (figures of people, coyotes or eagles), flags, scare cannons or laser lights; move scaring devices frequently to maximize effectiveness.
  • When deploying scare cannons, try to locate one scare cannon per 40 acres to provide optimum crop protection from waterfowl damage; use a randomizer attachment so that the blasts are not emitted at a fixed time interval.
  • Play recorded bird calls of geese in distress combined with the calls of eagles or falcons (more effective if used in combination with the corresponding effigy).
  • Allow waterfowl hunters on your land.

General Farm Pratices to Reduce the Risk of Black Bear Damage

  • Use a crop rotation that includes less vulnerable crops such as bearded wheat.
  • Plant vulnerable crops (especially corn, oats and fruit) at least 1.6 kilometres away from any forest cover; black bears don’t like traveling long distances in the open.
  • Use electric fencing to exclude bears from a crop; if you can’t fence the whole field, protect the areas closest to forest cover and install motion activated alarms where the fencing ends.

Farm Practices to Help Reduce the Risk of Damage by Deer and Elk

  • Plant crops as far from wooded cover as possible.
  • Use frightening devices (e.g. scare canons) at the crop development stage most vulnerable to damage, such as the silking to tasseling stage for corn and the blossom stage for soybeans.
  • Move scare canons frequently to maximize effectiveness and use a randomizer so that the blasts are not emitted at a fixed time interval.
  • Dogs can be used to protect a crop as long as they are contained within a designated area by an electronic invisible fence system. Be aware the dogs may be vulnerable to predator attack under these circumstances and consider outfitting them with a spiked collar to provide them with some protection.
  • Store harvested crops and hay bales in a contained site which prevents wildlife access.  The most effective options are in an enclosed storage facility or a fenced containment area.
Predator Attacks on Livestock

Information collected under Manitoba’s Wildlife Damage Compensation Program indicates there are about 1,900 claims for predator attacks on livestock in Manitoba annually. Of these, coyotes are identified as the predator responsible in about 75% of the claims, wolves in about 20%, and black bears, cougars and foxes, in the remaining 5%. Beef calves under 300 pounds account for about 50% of the damage claims. While it is impossible to prevent all predator attacks on livestock, producers are encouraged to utilize farming practices that will lower the risk of predator attacks for their operations.

General Farm Practices to Reduce Risk

  • Monitor livestock frequently (daily, if possible) to spot problems immediately and deal with them before they become critical.
  • Maintain calving and lambing facilities near buildings where there is human activity; some farmers have reported success in parking a farm vehicle next to the calving/lambing area and moving it regularly within that general area.
  • Use pens to house livestock at night and locate them away from protective cover like shrubs, trees or tall grasses (for example, 50 metres for bears; 400 metres for cougars).
  • Alter the timing of calving and lambing seasons to reduce risks for young animals.  Shorten the birth cycle to reduce the amount of time vulnerable newborns are on the landscape (i.e. in one pulse, rather than extended over many weeks).  Try to match the timing of calving/lambing with the timing of local wild ungulate births.  If vulnerable natural prey is more abundant when calves/lambs arrive, carnivores may be less likely to switch from natural prey to livestock.
  • Avoid leaving livestock unattended in high-risk areas (for example, in heavy brush, near waterways, and in hilly terrain).
  • Store and dispose of after-birth and deadstock in a manner that prevents predators from accessing these attractants.
  • Secure or remove any other potential attractants on the farm to prevent predators from investigating/frequenting the area. Attractants include human food, pet food, garbage/compost, and junk piles that can provide protective cover for prey animals that predators like to consume.
  • If you haven’t had issues with livestock predation, don’t remove the predators in your area. Their removal will allow other predators into the area that may have a greater tendency to attack livestock.

Non-Lethal Predator Control

Electric Fencing

Electric fences are a very successful risk reduction tool. Options include traditional electric fencing, modifying existing fencing to become electrified, and turbo-fladry (see Scaring Devices and Repellents below). Contact a knowledgeable electric fencing supplier for detailed options for electric fencing systems.

Guardian Animals

Guardian animals, including dogs, donkeys and llamas, can provide effective protection of livestock from predator attacks. These animals stay with the livestock to provide protection 24 hours a day. 

Guardian dogs are particularly recommended, and in multiples of two (for their own protection). They should be chosen based upon where you keep your livestock and what predators are common in the area. These dogs must be chosen from breeds that have been bred for this purpose, and be properly trained to bond with, and protect, livestock.

Donkeys are also useful for livestock protection, but are not as effective as dogs. Donkeys are known to be inherently aggressive toward canids, such as coyotes and wolves, but they don’t have any protective instincts toward livestock. This could leave livestock vulnerable to predation by black bears or cougars. If you do choose to use donkeys, the jenny or gelded jacks are best for this purpose.

Keep in mind that some of the costs for buying and maintaining guardian animals are tax deductible.

Scaring Devices and Repellents

The use of scaring devices and repellents are short-term solutions because predators will quickly become accustomed to them. However, they can be useful as an interim measure until longer-term methods can be put into use. Noise-makers (such as scare cannons, radios, and motion-detecting noise devices) have some limited success when used in combination with visual deterrents (such as lights and scarecrows). 

The use of fladry, and particularly turbo-fladry (electrified fladry), has been used successfully for the protection of livestock from wolf predation (not recommended for protection from coyote predation).  Fladry is the suspension of flags around the perimeter of an area to be protected. Turbo-fladry is the installation of fladry on an electric fence wire, which can increase this method’s effectiveness. To install turbo-fladry (or fladry), suspend flags on a wire installed at a height of 60 centimetres (cm) (about nose-height for a wolf) and about 60 cm outside of existing livestock fencing (to prevent livestock from consuming the flags). Use a maximum spacing of 45 cm between flags. Hang red (or orange) flags 8 cm wide by 45 cm long, so that the bottom of the flag is 10-15 cm above the ground. The fladry waving in the wind acts as a psychological barrier for the wolves. The electrified wire reinforces the psychological barrier if the wolves become bolder.

Chemical repellents have shown limited success at preventing predator attacks. Cost is a concern, since many are expensive to buy and they must be applied frequently to continue their effect.

Lethal Predator Control

Lethal methods of removing predators can include the use of firearms and trapping devices; use of poison is prohibited. Lethal control is not an option for cougar conflict management because this species cannot be legally killed in Manitoba.

Trapping

Producers experiencing livestock attacks by coyotes, wolves or foxes are encouraged to work proactively with a licensed trapper. Licensed trappers are able to harvest these species during the open regulated trapping seasons. The most common devices used are leg-hold traps and power snares. If traps are being set, you should let your neighbours know where and when, so they can keep their pets away from those areas. Be aware that restrictions are in place regarding the use of deadstock for bait in order to reduce the spread of disease. For more details on trapping, see the provincial Trapping Guide

Producers who would like to work proactively with a predator trapper in their area, and aren’t aware of any potential trappers to contact, are encouraged to ask for recommendations by contacting the Manitoba Trappers Association (204-739-2624) or a conservation officer in their local district office. Its best to contact a predator trapper before the trapping season begins so the trapper can familiarize him/herself with your area and livestock operations.

Hunting

Coyotes and wolves can be hunted by licensed hunters using predator calls (including electronic calls). The use of firearms must comply with federal legislation and local municipal bylaws. Be aware that restrictions are in place regarding the use of deadstock for bait in order to reduce the spread of disease.  For more details on hunting, see the provincial Hunting Guide.

Protection of Property

Subsection 46(1) of The Wildlife Act states “that a person may kill any wildlife, other than a moose, caribou, cougar, deer, antelope, elk or game bird, on their own land if they are doing it to defend or preserve their own property.” This only entitles landowners to shoot or trap problem wildlife (except those mentioned above) without a permit, without first reporting it to a conservation officer, and without following the normal season restrictions that apply to hunting and trapping. This provision is restricted to the land owned by the individual and does not include leased Crown land or rented private land. A person who kills any species of wild animal to defend or preserve property, must – under subsection 46(2) of The Wildlife Act – report the incident to a conservation officer within 10 days.
Producers whose livestock are attacked on land that they lease or rent may contact a conservation officer to request that a special permit be issued to authorize the producer (or their designate) to lethally remove the attacking predator(s).

Do Not Use Poison

Be aware that under The Wildlife Act, no person shall possess poison or a poison device for the purpose of hunting, trapping, taking or killing a wild animal. 

Wildlife Damage Compensation Program

Compensation for livestock injured or killed by bears, coyotes, cougars, foxes and wolves is available from the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC) under the Wildlife Damage Compensation Program. Producers are advised to contact the nearest MASC office for details; or go to the MASC website.

Producers who suspect they have lost livestock to wildlife predation, but are unable to provide evidence that allows them to access funding under the Wildlife Damage Compensation Program, are encouraged to report their situation to a conservation officer in the local district office.  Conservation officers may be able to provide additional information to assist with the situation.

Problem Predator Removal Program

Manitoba’s Problem Predator Removal Program assists with the removal of predators (coyote, wolf or fox) that have attacked livestock or that pose an increased risk to human safety. The program is not for general predator population reduction. Manitoba provides annual funding to the Manitoba Trappers Association for administration and delivery of this program.

Producers whose livestock have been attacked by a predator and who have accessed the Wildlife Damage Compensation Program (see above), may then contact the Manitoba Trappers Association (204-739-2624) to request that a predator trapper be deployed to remove the problem predator(s) in their area.

Predator trappers who are interested in working under the program are encouraged to contact the Manitoba Trappers Association for more information on how to become involved.

Domestic and Feral Dogs

Domestic and feral dogs are not considered wildlife under The Wildlife Act. As a livestock owner, you will not receive compensation for losses caused by domestic or feral dog attacks. 

It is important for producers to recognize what predators are impacting their livestock because wild predators are sometimes blamed for livestock damage that was actually caused by domestic and feral dogs.

Each predator tends to attack prey differently. Unlike other species, domestic and feral dogs will typically bite and slash numerous parts of their prey over much of the body, rather than attack one specific part. While domestic dogs rarely eat any livestock they have killed, feral dogs will sometimes do so. Identifying tracks and droppings may tell producers whether livestock has been attacked by dogs or by other predators.

If it’s clear that dogs have attacked your livestock, consider the following options:

  • Ask your neighbours to control their pets.
  • Contact your local municipal office to check on any bylaws covering off-leash pets.
  • Ask for a municipal animal control officer to assist with the situation.

Livestock Predation Protection Working Group

Established in 2013, the Livestock Predation Protection Working Group is working to reduce the risk of livestock predation in Manitoba.  Membership includes representatives from Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development (co-chair), Manitoba Beef Producers (co-chair), Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Manitoba Sheep Association, Manitoba Trappers Association, and Manitoba Goat Association.

The mandate for the working group includes providing recommendations to government and stakeholders regarding options, strategies, and solutions for livestock predation protection. 

Invasive Swine

Invasive Swine Damage

Manitoba is striving to control and ultimately eradicate all wild boar in the province. Wild boar are not a native species in Manitoba. They were brought over from Europe in the 1980’s as part of an agricultural livestock diversification initiative. Current free-ranging wild boar are escaped farm animals or their descendants. Many of these animals are the result of interbreeding between wild boar and domestic pigs. Because of the mixed genetics between wild boar and domestic pigs, as well as the non-native and damaging impacts of these animals, any swine in Manitoba that are not contained within an enclosure are frequently termed “invasive swine”. Intelligent, hardy and adaptable, invasive swine are able survive in harsh weather conditions, a variety of habitats and the presence of people.

Invasive swine can cause extensive damage to the environment. Their feeding behaviour (particularly rooting) can result in decreased water quality, increased presence of non-native plant species, increased soil erosion, modification of nutrient cycles, damage to native plant species and crops, as well as negative impacts to wildlife populations. There have been reports of people, pets and livestock being chased, harassed and even bitten by invasive swine. Invasive swine can also pose a risk of disease transfer to both livestock and wildlife. If you have seen signs or presence of invasive swine, please make note of the location and report it to a conservation officer in the nearest district office.

Because invasive swine pose such a significant risk of damage to Manitoba’s ecosystems, the province has put regulatory measures in place to reduce this risk. The public should be aware that, without a permit from the Government of Manitoba, it is illegal to farm or possess a live wild boar in Manitoba, or to import wild boar into the province.

Invasive Swine Biology

  • Adult males can weigh up to 200 kg and sows up to 170 kg.
  • Maximum length of 1.8 meters and maximum height of 1 meter at the shoulder.
  • Their typically appearance has a dark brown or black woolly undercoat with outer coat of course, stiff bristles, especially on the back. Also typically have erect ears, straight tail and four continually growing canine teeth or "tusks" (two in each jaw).
  • The young are frequently reddish brown with black longitudinal stripes that gradually disappear.
  • Maximum life span is approximately 25 years.
  • Can produce one to two litters a year, each containing 4 -12 piglets.

Invasive Swine Habits and Habitat

  • Prefer dense brush associated with river beds or swampy areas for cover, shelter and farrowing.
  • Commonly use conifer and hardwood forests for feeding and travel corridors.
  • In remote areas or where human activity is minimal, they may be found in fields or grass areas.
  • Due to their inability to sweat, invasive swine are frequently attracted to ponds, streams and dugouts in order to cool down.
  • Most active during the evening and early morning.
  • Can cover great distances in search of food. Winter home range varies from 0.9-18.5 km². Annual ranges up to 50 km² are not uncommon.
  • Omnivorous, but favour vegetative matter such as roots, tubers, plant stems and acorns.
  • Acute sense of smell that aids in their search for food.
  • When running, can reach speeds up to 40 km/hr.

Invasive Swine Population Management

Since 2001, the province has been declared a Wild Boar Control Area. The current province-wide declaration permits a resident of Manitoba to hunt and kill invasive swine that are running at-large anywhere in Manitoba (excluding Riding Mountain and Wapusk National Parks), at any time of the year. View the province-wide declaration which outlines the applicable restrictions and conditions for hunting invasive swine.

Any invasive swine harvested in Manitoba must be reported to a conservation officer within seven (7) days of taking the animal, and details, including the location where the animal was killed, must be provided.

Manitoba recognizes that it is unlikely to eradicate wild pigs through hunting efforts, due to their reproductive efficiency and movement behaviour. Hunting pressure that fails to eliminate all animals in a group (sounder) can disperse the remaining animals, leading to more problems in new areas. Invasive swine that have been hunted learn behaviors to avoid hunting pressure, making them harder to eradicate.

The province has recently begun working with wildlife associations and other agencies to explore corral trapping in an effort to remove entire wild pig sounders. Agencies and landowners that are interested in learning more about this effort are encouraged to contact a biologist at wildlife@gov.mb.ca

Hunters are encouraged to harvest invasive swine only when encountering an individual animal. It is of greater benefit to our native wildlife species and their habitat to report the locations of invasive swine sounders (groups) so that the entire group can be removed in a single trapping event.

Invasive Swine Encounters

If you encounter invasive swine:

  • Keep a safe distance, especially if piglets are present. Invasive swine can be protective of their young.
  • Try to quietly exit the area the way you came.

If an invasive swine attacks:

  • Try to escape by climbing onto a structure, a tree or boulder at least 1.8 metres (6 feet) from ground level.
  • If you cannot reach a secure location to avoid the charge, try to put obstacles between you and the pig to block the charge.
  • If contact is made, try to remain standing while fighting back. People who fall, or are knocked to the ground, can sustain more serious injuries.
  • Most assaults on people are over in under one minute.

Reporting:

  • If you observe invasive swine or evidence of their presence, please report the location and details to the Government of Manitoba. Reports can be submitted to a conservation officer at your local district office, or to a biologist at wildlife@gov.mb.ca.