By Connor Lynch
GUELPH — Ontario’s wildlife damage compensation program is changing in the new year to allow farmers to submit their own photo evidence.
The standards of evidence for what counts as a wildlife kill haven’t changed, but OMAFRA has made some efforts to simplify and clarify them, said program administrator Adam Meyer.
A valid claim needs: A carcass, or at least part of one; proof that the animal bled during the attack; signs of tissue damage (bruising, lacerations); or signs of a struggle (blood around the site, drag marks).
Municipal investigators are supposed to take their own photos. But if it’s a long weekend and the local investigator can’t come by for a few days, the coyotes might not be interested in waiting. So the program now also allows producers to gather and submit their own photo evidence alongside the municipal investigator’s report. But that doesn’t mean a farmer can take photos and then clean up the carcass, said Meyer. An investigator must be contacted within 48 hours of the animal dying. But if an investigator doesn’t show up, the farmer should take photos but must wait seven days before disposing of the carcass. You can keep the carcass for much longer if you freeze it.
While photographs prove a kill, the photos have to be good ones, he said. A blurry shot from an iPhone through a cab window won’t do.
One of the problems with the program historically, said Meyer, is that a municipal evaluator, chummy with local farmers and aware of the local price for a head of cattle, would submit a good price for the farmer and insufficient proof of a kill. Without evidence, the province won’t pay, and with the current system, by the time the denied claim reaches the farmer, the carcass may have already been disposed of and the evidence destroyed, said Meyer.
OMAFRA will now do all the pricing on livestock, using data from industry organizations and StatCan. The municipal boots on the ground should focus on gathering evidence, not making price decisions, said Meyer. He added that the province was getting wildly different price valuations on similar animals, with local evaluators deciding on their own to base the price off a local high, average, or low. “At the province we can’t be playing ‘find the number,’ before we’ve seen evidence that we should be paying.”
OMAFRA will pay out premiums in some cases, such as for registered or pregnant animals. If the paperwork is tucked away somewhere in the basement, producers can check off a box to allow for an extra seven business days to dig up the paperwork and send it in.
Appealing a decision now has a time limit, Meyer said. “A producer has 20 business days to tell OMAFRA that they’re appealing and what they’re appealing. Once that appeal (is made), OMAFRA has 20 business days to render a decision and send it back to the farmer.”
The bottom line, said Meyer, is clarity and simplicity. “No producer wants to be an expert in understanding this program. It’s the program nobody wants to use.
They just want to know what they need to do and it needs to be clear.”