Friday, June 03, 2016

Hunting the hunters

ROBLIN, Man. — Gary Fletcher looks exactly how a cattleman should look. 
 With a greying mustache and the eyes of someone who has spent countless hours peering into the distance looking for cattle, Fletcher wore cowboy boots, spurs, chaps, a black hat and a scarf on a stormy afternoon in late May. 
 Fletcher, manager of a community pasture near Roblin, Man., chooses to dress in the customary cowboy gear, but he also carries a traditional tool for the job: a rifle. 
 The gun isn’t a decoration. He has used it more than 20 times to shoot wolves that attacked cattle in Manitoba’s Parkland region.
 Fletcher was a pasture manager near Ethelbert, Man., for 17 years before taking a position at the Roblin community pasture this year. Standing by a corral at the pasture, Fletcher said there’s been an upsurge in wolf attacks over the last five to 10 years near Manitoba’s Duck Mountain Provincial Park.
 “There was the odd kill (17 years ago, but) it gradually started increasing…. This past season there were certain areas of the (Ethelbert) pasture where we were having one kill a week,” Fletcher said inside a shed next to the corral as hail hammered down on the metal roof.
 “That’s a 350 to 400 pound calf on a weekly basis until we were able to target that one (wolf) and got him.”
 However, the increase in wolf attacks isn’t limited to cattle ranches adjacent to Duck Mountain and Riding Mountain National Park. Wolves have also moved well outside their traditional range and now populate southern and western parts of Manitoba, Fletcher said.

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