Is Livestock an Important Food Resource for Coyotes and Wolves in Central Eastern Alberta Counties with Predator Control Bounties? Original Research
Although bounties are known to be an ineffective management practice to address human-carnivore conflicts, they are maintained by some Alberta rural municipalities (counties) to ostensibly reduce livestock predation by coyotes (Canis latrans) and wolves (Canis lupus). However, there are no data ascertaining these municipalities’ claims that livestock is an important food item in the diet of coyotes and wolves. In this study, using fecal analysis in spring and summer 2016 and 2017, we assessed the importance of cattle in the diet of coyotes and wolves in a bounty study area overlapping the Counties of Two Hills and St. Paul, and in a control area without bounties overlapping the Counties of Strathcona, Lamont and Beaver, Alberta. In 2016, in the bounty area, there was a significant difference (Fisher’s test = 0.02) in the frequency of cattle remains between spring (Relative Percentage of Occurrence ̶ RPO ̶ 5.4%; n=69 scats) and summer (RPO 18%, n=78) coyote scats. However, there was no difference (P>0.05) between the bounty and control areas during this spring season. In 2017, the RPO of cattle remains in scats was ≤8.4% in both study areas during spring and summer; no significant difference (P>0.05) was detected between seasons and study areas. Only 22 wolf scats were collected in bounty areas, and most of them (86%) had no cattle remains. Coyote and wolf spring and summer scats with cattle remains were found in areas with carcasses of cattle that had died of natural causes; scats were likely the result of scavenging rather than predation. Based on our results, we recommend that the implementation of bounties in these counties be discontinued.