SUNDRE – Wildlife compensation claims will be among several topics of discussion during an upcoming town hall for residents in the Bergen area.
That includes not only predatory wildlife such as black or grizzly bears that kill livestock, but also herbivorous animals such as elk and white tail deer that are also known to feast on hay, said Levi Neufeld, Fish and Wildlife district officer for the Sundre-Olds region.
“There has been in the past lots of issues of grizzly bears around that area,” he said. “That’ll be a huge topic.”
The elk population can also be another cause for concern for ranchers and farmers who want to protect their hay bales.
“We’ve been having lots of elk getting into hay stacks down there,” he said.
“It’s a huge issue. We’re probably sitting at 14 claims for the district so far this year,” he said during a phone interview on Feb. 23 when the Sundre Airport was reporting temperatures of roughly -25 C.
“Today alone, we got three different phone calls with this cold snap,” he said.
“With all this snow and the cold weather, they just hit the hay stacks,” he said, adding white tail deer are also known to help themselves to hay when grass becomes harder to reach in deeper snow.
“And they can cause quite a bit of damage. So, there is compensation for that and there’s also fencing that is available on a case-by-case term,” he said, adding the process to submit claims will be outlined in detail during the town hall.
The town hall is scheduled for Monday, March 13 at the Bergen Hall starting at 6:30 p.m. and will include representatives from Fish and Wildlife, the Sundre RCMP, Alberta Conservation, Mountain View Bear Smart as well as a wildlife biologist.
“The whole intent is to get stakeholders and individuals from the community out so they have an opportunity to ask questions,” said Neufeld. “It’s a very a positive environment the way I try to run them.”
His objective is to ensure participants are not only able to express frustrations but also hear from officials regarding “some of the trends and issues that we’re seeing (and) why there might be certain management actions in place, like tag allocations – those types of things.”
From there, he said the focus broadens outward on keeping open the lines of communication to improve working relationships and tackle issues such as night or closed-season hunting.
Neufeld, who in 2021 took on the position full-time following about a year as acting district officer, emphasized the importance of community engagement.
“I’m huge for community involvement; our job relies heavily on our community,” he said, later adding, “We’re nothing without stakeholders and the members of the community.”
Conservation as well as Fish and Wildlife officers are able to do a much better job when people in a community demonstrate an interest for wildlife and provide timely, detailed information about any number of infractions such as trespassing, he said.
“My whole entire intent is a positive open communication for them to address some of their concerns and frustrations and then work together and communicate,” he said.
Responding to a question about the main operational differences between Fish and Wildlife and Conservation, he said the former deals primarily with wildlife-related matters as well as fisheries, while the latter’s new updated mandate essentially amounts to a focus on issues pertaining to public lands, such as ensuring off-highway vehicle operators ride in approved areas and that campers do not exceed the 14-day stay limit on Crown land or build any permanent structures.