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A bounty on Blue Jays and stallions at large: The list of animal “pests” in early British Columbia

October 9, 2015
Steller's Jay - Described by the Government of British Columbia as "lively, smart and cheeky," bounty of 5 cents.

Steller’s Jay – Described by the Government of British Columbia as “lively, smart and cheeky,” 5 cents bounty offered. Photo original at WikiMediaCommons.

In late 19th century British Columbia, farm produce — be it grain, chickens, or other — was an enticement to hungry wildlife of all kinds. The farm-bush frontier became a battleground and settlers ruminated over the source of their losses. Measures were taken and a bounty placed on the least desirable of the farmers’ adversaries.

 

One of the most oft-cited nuisances was the coyote, and panthers, bears and wolves were high on the list, but also included were rabbits, squirrels and robins.

 

HT Thrift of Hazlemere, Surrey, erstwhile Clerk of Municipal Council and man-about-the-prairie, chirped in with his own “most wanted” list of pests, which included the gregarious Steller’s Jay, now an official emblem of our Province.

 

 

“A few panthers and a large number of bears, on which the Municipal Council, until the last few years, paid a bounty of $2.50; settlers have suffered in consequence of its being taken off; suggest blue-jays should be added to the list of animal pests and a bounty of 5 cents per head paid.”

Many farmers concurred with Thrift’s complaint, and although the ministry appeared reluctant, blue jays were drawn into the sights of the bucolic bounty-hunter:

“Blue Jays – The overwhelming mass of evidence adduced and the universal verdict of condemnation by all classes of our agriculturalist leaves me no course but to recommend that a bounty be offered for the destruction of these pests. I have accordingly done this,whilst I am not by any means convinced of the wisdom of the recommendation. I hope during the coming year, if a sufficient number can be procured, to ascertain more conclusively the exact nature of the food that these birds consume.”

Sorry, but it was “ask questions later” for blue jays.

Amos Bowman of Sumas, on the other hand, was troubled by “young stallions running at large.”

No laughing matter, after 1896 wild horses could be shot.

“It shall be lawful for any person licensed by the Government, to shoot or otherwise destroy any unbranded stallion over the age of twenty months, which my be running at large upon the public land provided that such person shall theretofore have unsuccessfully used reasonable endeavours to capture such stallion.”

Again, while some in the ministry had misgivings about individuals taking advantage of this regulation, the Wild Horse Act was passed into law.

Here is the official no-fly, no-run, no-tunnel list of animals named as “pests,” constituting a threat or impediment to agriculture in the year 1896, from the British Columbia Report on Agriculture.

  • Coyotes
  • Wolves
  • Panthers
  • Bears
  • Dogs
  • Lynx
  • Deer
  • Wild Horses
  • Foxes
  • Minks
  • Skunks
  • Rabbits
  • Raccoons
  • Porcupines
  • Bush Tail Rats
  • Rats
  • Weasels
  • Pocket Gophers
  • Gophers
  • Ground Squirrels
  • Squirrels
  • Chipmunks
  • Field Mice
  • Musk Rats
  • Moles
  • Hawks Great, or Dusky
  • Horned Owls
  • Crows
  • Pheasants
  • Blue-Jays
  • Robins
  • Blackbirds

 

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