Sunday, August 24, 2008

Animals removed from closed zoo

The London Free Press - Saturday August 23, 2008


Wildlife authorities and police raided an infamous London roadside zoo yesterday, carting away unknown numbers of animals.

Members of the London Humane Society, Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources and police swooped down on the Lickety-Split Ranch and Zoo to search for and rescue native species such as deer or foxes under Ontario's Fish and Conservation Act.

Officials had no power to seize exotic animals under the provincial law, however, and at least one zebra and a donkey were left behind.

The ministry wouldn't disclose what types of animals or the number carted away in a trailer to a safer place.

"We had reason to believe there were some animals that fall under the description of wildlife that were in captivity illegally," said Russell Brandon of the ministry's Aylmer office. "It is our belief there is no licence."

Lickety-Split owner Shirley McElroy had a zoo licence from 1996 to 2006, but failed to renew it in 2007, prompting yesterday's ministry action.

Officials had to tranquilize one deer to remove it from the property.

The zoo has a spotty history.

Earlier this year, McElroy was fined $4,000 for having two lynx captive with no licence.

Lickety-Split grabbed international headlines in 2006 when pictures surfaced of Tyson, a kangaroo cramped in a small cage. Tyson has since disappeared from the property, without explanation.

Lickety-Split has been closed for more than a year.

The zoo owner was nowhere in sight yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

The grass was overgrown on the property, and rusted machinery, strewn wires, truck parts, empty trailers and tires littered the site.

"It's the worst case of animal husbandry I've ever seen," said activist Vicki Van Linden of Friends of Captive Animals. "We need to pass Bill 50 to give greater protection for all animals in Ontario."

The bill, proposed Ontario animal welfare legislation, introduced in April, would allow officers to search a property without a warrant if they have reason to believe an animal is in distress.

Yesterday's raid on Lickety-Split was done with a warrant.

Londoner Florine Morrison remembered taking her daughter to the zoo more than 15 years ago and seeing a black jaguar in a tiny pen with no shade, cowering in the corner to stay cool.

"They squirted him with a hose to make him get up for the visitors. I thought that was so cruel," said Morrison, a member of the London Animal Alliance.

"It's important for the city to make the McElroys follow the same rules as the rest of London."

Because the zoo no longer has a licence, it should be subject to a city bylaw that prevents people from keeping wild animals, Morrison said.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Farmer wants Grimsby to allow coyote hunting

The St. Catharines Standard - Thursday August 7, 2008


West Lincoln farmer Ken Durham keeps his dairy cows in a barn, safe from hungry coyotes.

Still, he’s heard the accounts of coyotes attacking 181-kilogram calves on Mud Street just south of Grimsby.

The 68-year-old has found sheep skulls on his 30 Road property - even though there’s no sheep around.

He hears howling at night.

“We know they’re there,” Durham said.

“We know they’re out taking chickens from piles of chicken manure and chasing wildlife out there whether it’s a skunk or raccoon. There’s just too many.”

Durham wants the Town of Grimsby to do something about it.

Durham recently asked Grimsby town council to consider lifting a ban on discharging firearms from the south boundary (Mud Street) to the top of the escarpment.

He’s able to shoot coyotes in West Lincoln, but once they cross the road into Grimsby, they’re home free, the 68-year-old dairy and cash crop farmer said.

This year, Durham and a group of farmers and hunters shot 63 coyotes in Lincoln and West Lincoln between January and March.

“We know when we hunt they go across the border between Grimsby and West Lincoln. They can turn around the field and look back.... They get to know where they’re safe.”

Currently, the town’s firearm bylaw, which dates back to 1976, prohibits guns from being fired within its boundaries, with a few exemptions.

One is for a property owner or someone he has appointed in writing to act as his agent to “shoot pestiferous birds or animals,” but not within 150 yards of a building.

“That would prevent anybody from the urban area from shooting a firearm, but it would basically allow it up on the escarpment,” said Grimsby town clerk Kathy Vout, who has received one complaint about a coyote this year.

Vout said a public meeting will likely be called to address any possible changes to the bylaw.

The bylaw may have to be clarified, Grimsby Mayor Bob Bentley said.

Bentley said wild dogs, coyotes, foxes and cross-breeds can all be found on the escarpment.

“If we were to go ahead and create a bylaw that it’s fair game to shoot certain things, without really understanding the DNA of the creatures that are stirring up there, I don’t know that we could do that effectively,” Bentley said.

Town staff are looking at the bylaw and consulting with the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Agriculture, he said.

Bill Murch, a spokesman for the MNR, said it’s up to the town to determine what to do with its bylaw.

Various municipalities in Ontario have different rules when it comes to firing a gun, Murch said.

This isn’t the first time coyotes, or what could be wild dogs or a cross of the two species - has been an issue in Grimsby.

In 2004, council hired a wildlife control company to recommend how to discourage coyotes from wandering into town after 12 to 16 of the animals were spotted roaming town streets.

Bill Dowd of Humane Wildlife Control in Hamilton, who made the recommendations, said there’s several non-lethal ways of handling a coyote problem, such as getting rid of road kill and extra care in cleaning up park areas.

Dowd said people in rural areas, outside urban boundaries, are within their rights to protect their properties.

“I think every situation is unique why they want to shoot their animal. Is it coming around their property? Is it killing livestock?”

Coyotes became a problem in Grimsby, in part, after a surge of development that left behind piles of dirt and cut trees that attracted field mice and brought coyotes into town, Dowd said.

Last year, Niagara farmers made 88 claims to the province for compensation as a result of 123 animals killed or injured by predators like coyotes, according to provincial statistics.

The province handed out about $18,000 in compensation last year, up from $16,000 in 2006 for 63 claims and 103 animals injured or killed.

- with files from Matthew Van Dongen