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Hay rustlers strike Lois Hole Park

$10,000 in illegal hay bales stolen, says SPCA
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HAY HEIST? — This image from a July 20, 2021 video captured by Edmonton resident Raf Tenderenda shows a white truck departing Lois Hole Provincial Park with bales of hay. The hay had been harvested illegally. St. Albert RCMP are investigating the apparent theft of 70 other illegally harvested bales from the park that happened between July 31 and Aug. 5. RAF TENDERENDA/Photo

St. Albert RCMP are investigating a theft of some $10,000 worth of illegally cut hay from Lois Hole Park. 

The Alberta SPCA (which manages animal welfare issues outside of Edmonton and Calgary) reported Aug. 16 that some 70 bales of hay were donated to them by Alberta Environment and Parks were stolen from Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park before they could pick them up. 

Big Lake Environment Support Society (BLESS) member Tony Druett said the hay was harvested from about 100 acres near the park’s parking lot between mid-June and early July. BLESS informed the province on July 17, who later confirmed that the hay had been collected illegally.  

BLESS member and Edmonton resident Raf Tenderenda lives next to Lois Hole Park, and said he saw a man collecting some of the illegal bales on July 20 using a white semi-truck and a tractor. The act caught his eye, as the man drove into the park using a utility right-of-way off 137 Ave., which was not a legal entrance to the park. 

Tenderenda took pictures and video of the man, which he shared with The Gazette. 

The videos and images show a bald man in a dark plaid shirt and dark pants collecting hay bales with a tractor. The man later moves a “No vehicles beyond this point” sign commonly found around Lois Hole Park to drive a white semi-truck towing a flatbed trailer loaded with 13 bales onto 137 Ave. 

Tenderenda said he approached the man and asked if he had permission from the province to remove the hay. The man said yes, but refused to identify his contact with the province.  

Tenderenda said he called Alberta Environment and Park’s enforcement branch. Conservation officer Rob Spelliscy soon arrived and confronted the man when he came back for another load of bales.  

A post on the Alberta SPCA Facebook page said that Spelliscy decided to donate the bales to the group, 11 of which were delivered to the organization. 

Alberta SPCA spokesperson Dan Kobe said one of their officers arrived to collect the remaining 70 bales (estimated to be worth $10,000) on Aug. 6.  

“Unfortunately, by the time we got there, they were gone already.” 

RCMP investigating

Kobe said stealing these bales would have required heavy equipment, a large truck, and multiple trips, as the bales weighed about 1,400 pounds each.  

In an email, Alberta Environment and Parks communications director John Muir said the bales were apparently taken by an unknown party between July 31 and Aug. 5. Conservation officers were now working with the St. Albert RCMP to investigate this apparent theft.  

Kobe said these donated bales were meant to feed cows and other livestock taken in by the SPCA over the winter. The group would now have to buy hay, which currently costs about $150 per bale. 

Kobe said the theft was a sign of how desperate some farmers were to get hay this fall, which was in short supply due to record heat and drought. The feed shortage meant many farmers would face tough decisions about culling the size of their herds. 

“If you can’t feed (your animals), you need to take steps to make sure they’re not suffering,” Kobe said. 

Tenderenda said the haying destroyed several trees and bird nests and clear-cut what was once a vast field of tall grass that seemed to dance in the wind.  

“It’s devastating to look at,” he said, and he can’t bear to visit the area anymore. 

Druett called the theft “appalling” and said it had had significantly reduced the amount of animal habitat available in the park.  

“It’s not the right thing to have happened.” 

Muir said anyone with information on this crime should call the St. Albert RCMP at 780-458-6069.  


Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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