Archive for April, 2010

Coyote Bounties: It’s All political

April 23, 2010

In a recent post, I referenced a story out of Nova Scotia where the Natural Resources Minister talked of bringing in a bounty on coyotes (later revised to “considering a bounty” when he took some heat on the plan).

In the process, I discovered that Saskatchewan had actually put in place a similar bounty on coyotes this past winter.

The Saskatchewan scheme provides a $20 bounty for each verified coyote killed in the province, exactly the same as the proposal from Nova Scotia.

However, the Saskatchewan program differs in that any resident of the province can participate (with a limit of $50,000 for any single individual – which is one hell of a lot of coyotes). The program is (was) also time limited, announced on November 10th, 2009 and ending on March 31st 2010.

The reason for the bounty being put in place was to reduce predation on farm land in the province. Again, as in Nova Scotia, the rationale was for political reasons and the bounty program was used to show that the government was attuned to the needs of its constituents. In this case the very strong agricultural lobby in the province.

The bounty was actually only a part of the complete package to accommodate the farming industry. There was also a fencing assistance provision (up to $10,000) and assistance in acquiring a guard dog (up to $100). The government was also training  Conservation Officers in the use of the 1080 poison. (It surprises me that in this day and age that the Ministry of Environment would be tasked with using a poison such as 1080, which is not target specific).

As of February 2010 there had been 18,000 coyotes killed under the program. It was also noted that there had been 18,000 coyotes killed for fur the previous year with average kill of 21,000 in most years. Which would appear that the government has so far subsidized the normal winter kill with a $20 subsidy, which comes to $360,000 for coyotes that apparently would have been killed anyway. It will be interesting to find out what the total kill was when the program ended on March 31st and what the cost to the taxpayers was.

Regardless, I would suggest that this is simply another political and ill-conceived program that once again leaves the perception that something is being done to solve a perceived problem while not really accomplishing a lot. The one good thing about the program is that it was set up for a specified and limited time frame.

The problem with this kind of program is that it applies a scatter-gun approach to the problem.The coyotes being killed will not necessarily be taken from the areas where there is a predation problem, so although you may kill a bunch of coyotes you won’t necessarily be targeting those that are causing the problems.

If there is a serious predation problem on agricultural lands it would be far more effective to target coyotes in those specific areas. But to do that wouldn’t require a bounty system and wouldn’t enable the politicians to issue press releases and announce their intent to solve the problem by throwing money at it. It would also require some manpower and actual planning and execution.

Another question that comes to mind is, if farmers and ranchers are having some problems with coyotes on their land, why aren’t they solving the problem on their own. Why are taxpayer’s dollars needed to encourage them to go out and reduce the coyote population in their area? And don’t for a moment think that many of those very same individuals who have complained to the government about predation problems weren’t out there this winter shooting coyotes and collecting their $20 per animal from the bounty program.

I was under the (apparently mistaken) impression that the old bounty systems had been proven to be inefficient, ineffective and ultimately corrupt many years ago. But obviously when political considerations come into play the experiences of years past mean nothing.

To go back to Nova Scotia for a moment, some of the discussion has gone past bounties to extermination.

Nova Scotia should completely “exterminate” its coyote population, some Colchester County councillors believe.
“Bounties don’t work,” Coun. Mike Cooper said, during this week’s council session. “You might as well get rid of them. They’re hunting in packs now.”

I’m sure that was a well thought out rationale, non-political opinion.


Why we get stupid laws and regulations

April 16, 2010

On numerous occasions I have belaboured the point that we get laws on the books that really make no sense from a practical point of view and those laws have just ended up there because lawmakers need to look as though they are “doing something” to solve a perceived problem.

Not necessarily always a real problem, but something that the public or the government perceives to be a problem. Or even worse, a non-existent problem that is manufactured to serve someone’s personal agenda.

Case in point: The Nova Scotia government’s stated intention to place a bounty on coyotes in the province.

But first, some background:

Back in October 2009 a 19 year old girl – Taylor Mitchell, a folk singer from Toronto – was attacked and killed by coyotes while hiking in Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Highland National Park.

That certainly put the spotlight on to the coyote population in the province and complaints came in that coyotes were getting much bolder around humans.

In January 2010, there was a complaint from a man who felt threatened by a pair of coyotes that approached aggressively.

All of this apparently has spooked the provincial government in to believing that they now need to do something to show that they have the situation under control. Their solution – at least their stated solution – is to bring in a bounty on coyotes in the province.

Five months after a young woman was mauled to death by coyotes on a Cape Breton trail, the Nova Scotia government is poised to offer trappers a bounty for the animals to ease fears they are becoming more aggressive.

John MacDonell, the province’s natural resources minister, said Wednesday he has to act because of three additional reports of close encounters with coyotes within the past week. A final decision is expected Friday.

“It’s better to be pro-active and assume that it would help a little rather than do nothing and worry about somebody possibly being hurt by these animals,” he said in an interview.

Which would be fine and dandy if there was any proof that a bounty system would solve the problem. A lot of people think it’s hokum.

But the head of the province’s Federation of Anglers and Hunters said a bounty would be a waste of taxpayers’ money, motivated by politics rather than science.

Tony Rodgers, the federation’s executive director, said MacDonell should think twice about the controversial move.

“It cannot be based on emotion,” Rodgers said. “This is part of the problem we’ve experienced in past years when politicians started making biological decisions. They haven’t got it right yet.”

He said killing more coyotes won’t make them more afraid of humans.

“No message will be sent back to the rest of the pack,” he said, adding the money for the bounty should instead be used to educate Nova Scotians on how to reduce confrontations with wild animals.


….. Rodgers said it’s a mistake to think the province’s 8,000 coyotes are getting more aggressive.

He said the real problem is that one of the coyote’s main sources of food, the snowshoe hare, is at the bottom of a seven-year population cycle and hungry coyotes are simply looking for food.

As well, biologists within MacDonell’s own department have confirmed bounties are ineffective. A provincial bounty introduced in 1982 was removed four years later when it became clear it had no impact on coyote populations.

“It totally flies in the face of what his department has been saying for years,” said Rodgers.

R.A. Lautenschlager, executive director of the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre, said targeting individual animals that pose a threat to humans, rather than all coyotes, is a better approach.

“That’s one of the problems with bounties – there’s not necessarily any selection,” he said from his office in Sackville, N.B.

But here’s the rub –

MacDonell confirmed he is planning to offer a bounty worth about $20 to members of Trappers’ Association of Nova Scotia, whose members caught 1,900 coyotes last year without a bounty.

While he conceded that a bounty would have little impact on the coyote population, he stressed that he felt compelled to do something. (emphasis added)

“I have a concern over who might be attacked or hurt or mauled,” he said. “I know (residents) are not going to call the head of the anglers and hunters if that happens – I’m going to get that call. It’s my responsibility to be more pro-active.”

He said he hopes a bounty will change the coyotes behaviour.

So the Minister actually believes that the bounty will have little effect on coyote behaviour.

But to cover his ass for future indiscretions on the part of their little provincial predator he is willing to use taxpayers dollars to put in place a job enhancement program for the benefit of local trappers.

Knowing how governments seem to work everywhere, that will probably be the full extent of the program.

There is never money available to analyse and assess whether the program is effective and it is unlikely that the trappers would be able to operate in a National Park where the initial tragedy took place anyway.

As well, these laws are rarely set up with end dates, so the bounty program would no doubt carry on long past any reasonable time frame.

In the end it would be a cash cow for the trapping fraternity, who would be guaranteed an extra $20 for every coyote they trapped on top of the fur value. Which certainly would help keep their personal wolves away from the door.

BUT – The politicians will have DONE SOMETHING.

And that’s how we get dumb and useless laws on the books.

Being legislated by fools

April 13, 2010

I read about Ruby Dhalla’s proposed legislation before I left for Arizona in February, and then it dropped beneath my radar. But now Peter Worthington has written a column commenting on it – and with good reason – ripping it apart.

Periodically, a private member’s bill is introduced in Parliament that is so foolish and illogical it has no chance, yet because it’s so asinine rational folk fear it might pass.

Such a bill is C-428, proposed by Ruby Dhalla (of alleged harassed nannies fame), Liberal MP for Brampton. She would reduce from 10 years to three the time an elderly immigrant would have to wait to claim Old Age Security (OAS) or Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS).

Dhalla’s audacious bill can be justified in that she represents a riding replete with many of East Indian origin who’d love to bring aging kinfolk to Canada to reap old age benefits after three years.

Distressing to some is that Bob Rae seconded Ruby’s outrageous bill and gave it instant credibility it didn’t deserve. The ever-preppy turncoat NDP provincial premier now has his eye on being federal Liberal leader and springboarding to the prime ministership.

Rae’s ambitions never fade. He’s the one most likely to inherit Michael Ignatieff’s job, should Iggy get bored with Liberals, or the Liberal Party gets fed up with him. Rae may yet get a chance to do to Canada what he did to Ontario as its premier.

In any event, Dhalla’s bill to reduce the eligibility wait for OAS entitlement from 10 to three years will escalate costs and reduce the amount pensioners should receive. Already, the system is hard-pressed to prevent old gaffers from actually losing ground as the economy struggles and baby boomers grow older.

This just brings to the forefront the fact that we have too many elected idiots in Ottawa who are only concerned with pandering to their electorate in order to get re-elected and who appear to be totally oblivious to the ramifications of their self-centered actions.

That appears to be one of the major problems with our system: In good faith you elect people to parliament with the hope that they will contribute to running the country in an intelligent manner and then they spend the next four years playing games in the hope that they will get re-elected.

Then again maybe I am giving Dhalla too much credit in believing that she is a clever but cynical politician  who is simply taking care of her own business. Maybe she is really dumb enough that she actually thinks that her proposed bill has merit.

I think this just proves an earlier point I made, that Harper’s proroguing of parliament was a good thing. If they’re not in the House, they’re limited to how much they can screw up the country.

2010 Masters’ Championship: Great Theatre

April 12, 2010

I pretty much glued myself to the TV for the 4 days of the Masters’ tournament. And good TV golf it was, with Tom Watson at 60 showing good form on day one, although he faded as the tournament progressed. Freddy Couples looking like a champion on Thursday, taking the first day lead by shooting his lowest ever one day score at the Masters, then dropping back on Friday but rallying on Sunday to look like a contender for a brief moment.

Contrary to all of the speculation about hecklers it appeared that Tiger received a pretty warm welcome from the fans patrons. After the first day it looked as though he had a real shot at winning the tournament, but by Sunday ended up tied for 4th place with KJ Choi while playing with what increasingly looked to be his ‘C’ game.

It seemed as though he had hacked his way out of the tournament by going 3 over by the 5th hole, then he holed one from the fairway on the 7th for an eagle and then went birdie/birdie on the 8th and 9th for a 1-under front nine. The back nine had another eagle and two birdies, only to be marred by an unbelievable 3 putt on the 14th where Woods stepped up to his short par putt and stabbed it by the hole. I was surprised that he didn’t simply self-immolate on the spot. The anger and frustration absolutely radiated from the TV screen. What was incredible to watch was Woods’ ability to continually recover from what appeared to be tournament ending shots, particularly off the tee.

Not that others, including Mickelson, didn’t put themselves in less than perfect spots and make amazing recoveries – particularly Phil’s recovery on the 13th, playing off pine needles and with a small gap in the trees to the green. He then proceeded to stick it on the green with a very real chance at an eagle putt (missed, but what the hell).

But for all of their skill and their experience it was an education in the mental aspect of the game to see what happens on the final day of a major tournament where winning means so much more than just the dollar value of the tournamen: Where they are playing for a place in the history of the game.

KJ Choi who had played like a well-oiled machine blew back-to-back bogeys on the 13th and 14th, then birdied the 15th, but his chance was gone.

Lee Westwood who looked invincible up until Sunday went 1-over par on the front nine but steadied down to shoot a 1-under for the day, which was a far cry from his 5-under on Thursday, his 3-under on Friday and is 4-under on Saturday and not enough to hold off a charging Phil Michelson who finished off his pressure packed Sunday with a bogey-free 5-under par.

Then it looked for brief moment that Anthony Kim might come on as a spoiler, starting on the 13th with a birdie/birdie/eagle/birdie run that at the end put him in 3rd place with a wonderful 7-under par 65 and a 12-under total for the tournament. This is a guy that could really blow away the competition at some point. Not just because he shot a 65 on Sunday-at-the-Masters.  On Thursday, beginning on the 10th hole, Kim went 3 bogeys in a row, recovered with an eagle on the 13th and then took another bogey on the 14th and still ended up shooting a 4-under 68. Having won the previous week’s tournament and with his showing in the Master’s Kim may be on the cusp of achieving his real potential.

But at the Masters Mickelson never backed off. Shooting a 67 on Friday, ‘blowing’ to a one-under par 71 on Friday and then a pair of 67s on the weekend for a 16-under final score and finishing strong with a birdie on the 18th. A marvelous and exciting performance.

A great Masters, even though it sucked away 4 days of my life.

Phoenix Zoo

April 9, 2010

I have very mixed feelings about zoos. I enjoy going to them, at least the really good ones, but at the same time I find them rather sad in many ways.

I had these feelings again while walking through the Phoenix zoo recently.

I know all of the arguments that are made about the values of zoos for species preservation (in some cases) and the importance of educating the public to wildlife issues around the world and it is fun to see the enjoyment that the young kids get in watching the various animals.

But there is a sadness in seeing some of these animals confined to small quarters, more akin to a prison cell than living space.

I feel this particularly when I see the great soaring birds such as vultures and the hawks and eagles, who even in the best of zoo habitats are limited to roosting.

I had the same feeling with the orangutans in the Phoenix zoo, who are housed in a pit with a tiered structure in the centre while the paying customers lean on the railing above them and point and talk. The one good thing in Phoenix is that they are in the process of building a new habitat for the orangutans which hopefully will be a major improvement. (Now the Seattle zoo has a great setup for their orangutan group as they do for most of the species on site).

On the other hand I have no problem with seeing grazing animals behind the fence – provided they have some space – as I figure they’re happy just to have food and not be chased by predators.

Double standard?