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Wolf-coyote hybrid pack posing threat to Nova Scotia sheep farmers

HALIFAX – A Nova Scotia farmer says he’s worried that a pack of wolf-coyote hybrids appears to have moved into his community.

“They like to hide out in the tall grass, and there could be even one out there just watching us right now,” Bob Ottenbrite, owner of Grass Roots Heritage Breed Farm said Friday.

He says 15 of his 100 sheep have been killed by the pack in the past few weeks.

“[The hybrids are] larger, they can steal livestock and more of it. They’re also very bold,” said Ottenbrite, adding that his sheep have been attacked in the daylight hours.
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“That, of course, hurts our bottom line.”

According Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources, there are 8,000-10,000 coyotes in the province; up to 2,000 have wolf mitochondrial DNA.

“Whether or not the genetic trait would lead to more aggression, we’re not sure about that yet,” said Mike Boudreau, a human-wildlife conflict biologist at the department, on Monday.

He said research by a graduate degree student showed the hybrids are significantly larger but it’s not known how much they’ve multiplied since coyotes entered the province in the 1970s.

The number of complaints of harm or fear of harm to livestock have fallen from about 50 half a decade ago to about 17 this year.

Fred Hamilton owns Milfern’s Holsteins Farm and says coyotes have killed his sheep in the past. He’s put in new security measures, including changing the locations of his sheep enclosures.

“So hopefully the coyotes don’t get used to the same thing all the time, it keeps them on their feet,” Hamilton said Friday.

The enclosure’s fencing is electrified, and fox lights are also used.

“It gives the impression that someone is out here moving around like with a flashlight or something,” said Hamilton.

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“[Coyotes] are so smart that not any one thing is the total answer.”

For Ottenbrite, the answer is strengthening his fences, and bringing in more llamas to his farm.

“The lamas will protect anything that they’re put in with,” he said.