The Man Who Befriended Bears

(RYAN PERUNIAK)

Charlie Russell loved to fly, and he seldom phoned first those times when he would fly his Kolb ultralight airplane north from Hawk’s Nest ranch on the boundary of Waterton Lakes National Park, to our “ranchette” near the Crowsnest Pass. We would hear the thrum of the plane’s Rotax motor bouncing off the nearby Livingstone Range, then the tiny white two-seater, looking like a giant lawn dart, grew suddenly loud as he buzzed the place, wagging his wings close enough for us to see his snaggle-toothed grin. Our horses would tear down the field, eyes rolling from his low approach. He would circle over the road, then sail in under the Fortis power line, set the plane down on the gravel and taxi up to our cattle guard. Then he’d get out, grab a length of rope from the cockpit and tie off the plane to a fence post with a cowboy slip knot so the wind couldn’t blow it over. He had long promised to take my wife Myrna for a ride, and one day she called him on it. “Well, I guess today’s the day then,” he grinned. I didn’t like the look of the clouds over Centre Peak, but Myrna’s face said, “You don’t get a vote.”

“Just tell me that you don’t have a halibut jig tied to the tail wheel this time.”

“What’s he talking about?” Myrna demanded.

“Ha!” laughed Charlie. “He’ll tell you later.”

Charlie Russell died on May 7 in Calgary due to complications following a five-hour surgical procedure. Charlie used up his nine lives long ago, but his death at 76 was still shocking to those who knew him well. Few people have lived as intensely as this man, or as dangerously. He has flown in some of the worst conditions on earth and walked or crawled (with a broken back one time) away from both a hang-glider and an ultra-light crash, and over time he prevailed in a number of forced landings. He is, he was, internationally famous for the ground-breaking work he and the artist Maureen Enns did at Kambalnoye Lake, Kamchatka, in Russia, living in close proximity with brown bears and raising orphaned cubs which not only survived the wilds but eventually reproduced. A mentor to many naturalists, his experiments in “exploring the possibilities of trust” challenged the prevalent orthodoxy of his day, which held that bears that have no fear of humans are always extremely dangerous, and that all bears are unpredictable and therefore always a threat to humans. Yet he was wise enough to know that what he learned working with those wild bears in BC and Kamchatka, in true wilderness settings, should not be applied by the layman to human-influenced bears in our southern national parks.

Charlie was raised in bear country and learned all the skills of mountain bush craft and horsemanship guiding hunters on his father’s pack-train. In 1960 Charlie and his brother Dick roughed it through Canada and Alaska to help Andy Russell make his groundbreaking film Grizzly Country. After studying photography in New York, and a stint living in New Zealand with his first wife, Margaret, Charlie took up ranching at Hawk’s Nest, his family home. But his heart wasn’t in it and he spent a lot of his time working on conservation projects, such as the Waterton Biosphere Reserve initiative. Many bears were dying at the hands of ranchers and hunters in southwest Alberta at that time. This bear of a man, Russell, was angered by the carnage, for as he often growled, “Anything that hurts the bears, hurts me.” He became the first Canadian rancher to deliberately move cattle carcasses to safe places on his ranch near the park boundary, so that bears could feed on them without being shot.

Eventually Charlie gave up on ranching, and in the 1990s he took a job guiding tourists on grizzly-bear-watching tours in the Khutzeymateen inlet of BC. Charlie’s superb talent at reading ursine body language, and his sensitive, ego-free approach to all wildlife, allowed for close encounters of the ursine kind. Myrna and I are two of the many people that have sat with him on a big driftwood log at the water’s edge as a female grizzly grazed on sedges at our feet, unafraid of us, and offering no threat to us. As a former park warden, I helped to capture many bears, but I never felt as reassured around them as I felt in Charlie’s company. His skill as a bear guide led to an offer in 1991 to work with filmmakers Jeff and Sue Turner of Princeton, BC. With Charlie’s help, they shot a famous BBC documentary on the Kermode “Spirit Bears” of Princess Royal Island. Charlie worked on documentaries, wrote books, collaborated with conservation groups and biologists and helped shape public opinion to push for a grizzly sanctuary in both the Khutzeymateen and Kamchatka and a protected area for Kermode bears on Princess Royal Island.

In 1993 the Turners’ plan called for Charlie to provide and pilot an ultralight plane, capable of water landings, to be used as an aerial camera platform. Charlie and his late son Anthony Russell began building the plane at Hawk’s Nest—all over Hawk’s Nest, since he didn’t have a big enough barn for the project. Every building on the place had a piece of the plane in it and Charlie was getting increasingly frantic to get the thing riveted together as a deadline for departure for the island loomed. On a snowy March day, I joined filmmaker Jeff Turner to help Charlie with some last-minute detailing. We worked all day; darkness found us riveting the cockpit canopy carefully onto thin steel tubing. I suddenly stubbed my toe on a snow-covered object. “Shit! What’s this thing, Charlie?” Charlie peered down at it for a second, distracted, bent down and swept the snow off it with his boot. “It’s just the in-flight computer.”

“Oh, is that all it is? Wow. I thought I had stepped on something important.”

I worried about that computer later that spring, when Canadian Geographiccommissioned me to write a feature article on the Kermode bears with Charlie to supply the photos. As a result I spent about four weeks that summer and fall on the island, hosted by the Turners at their camp. One did not just swan around taking notes with the hard-working Turners, and I soon found myself humping camera gear through the rainforest with Charlie. The white bears were living up to their reputation as ghosts of the rainforest, staying out of sight and waiting for the coho to run. Charlie had already befriended both black and white bears he encountered in the bush, and could identify individuals by size, shape and colouration. One day, we were sitting on a log taking a break while a black bear fished in a desultory manner nearby. The rains, and the main run of salmon that rain would trigger, had not yet begun. Charlie grinned at me, ran his fingers through his thick black hair, then leaned over in a bear-like manner and stirred the water with a calloused paw, peering  intently into the stream. The black bear splashed over and took up a position next to him almost touching his shoulder. I froze, too startled to get my little Balda camera out of my pack. The bear peered intently into the water, and then, realizing there was no fish in sight, backed away slowly, giving Charlie a sidelong glance. His body language said, “Dude—that is not funny.”

We were working one day in a creekbed, picking our way among slimy boulders and fish guts, stringing up a thousand feet of climbing rope between fir trees for an overhead camera sequence. Charlie pointed out a giant flat topped boulder in midstream. “I was playing with a bear on that rock one day, and things got out of hand.”

“Playing?”

“Yeah. I was up there taking a break, and he came down the bank, spotted me, and came up to visit.”

“To visit?”

“Yeah. I’ve come to know him pretty well. I could tell he was feeling playful. He was really inviting me to wrestle. I wasn’t sure if I should, but he was so friendly. Anyway, he stood up. He had a really mischievous gleam in his eye, and I thought what the heck. So I got ready to grapple with him. God, they are so strong! He just knocked me right over. I landed on those boulders.”

“Jesus Christ!”

“Yeah. I could tell he was surprised. I looked up, and he was peering down at me. I think it really puzzled him, how weak humans are. He didn’t mean to hurt me. I was really banged up for a while there.”

“Jesus H. Christ on a crutch. You were playing King-of-the-Castle with a bear?”

“Yeah. I think I went a bit too far that time,” he added, sheepishly.

Those who know Charlie’s books might say he should have known better. He had wrestled with a bear before, in Waterton Park in the ’80s when he and his son, Anthony, then age 11, wandered in between a black bear sow and her cubs. The little sow attacked, and Charlie and Anthony were soon in a tag team bout with her. She knocked Anthony down and Charlie went after her with fists and boots. When she got on top of Charlie, Anthony, armed with a piece of elk antler he had found earlier, whacked her over the head. She then bit Anthony on the behind, and Charlie again attacked until the sow finally retreated. The sow was fine, and the humans escaped with bruises and puncture wounds, but Charlie always said that Anthony had saved his life that day.

As a former park warden I helped capture many bears, but I never felt as reassured around them as I felt in Charlie’s company.

But about that halibut jig. We were sitting in the cook tent over coffee one morning with Sue, Jeff and their daughter Chelsea, when Charlie popped the question I had been dreading. “Will you fly with me?”

Charlie knew I hated flying. I nearly choked on the coffee, set the cup down. “I’d be happy to,” I lied.

The two us, both heavyweights, climbed into the little plane and strapped in, while Jeff Turner pushed us away from the pier. We had a windscreen in front of us, but were otherwise open to the weather. The motor sits behind the passengers on this craft. There was no intercom, so once the motor started conversation was by sign language. We taxied down the inlet and I could see why it was going to be hard to keep this plane aloft just by force of my willpower alone, since there were no armrests to grip in white-knuckled fear while will-powering. Charlie punched me in the shoulder, a big grin on his face, and opened the throttle as we raced down the inlet. This is a short takeoff plane, but our run seemed to go on forever, and we did not lift off the water. Frowning, he slowed down and we taxied back to try it again. I can’t recall how many times we attempted take-off; it seemed like 10 but was probably only three. At last we returned to the pier, the motor idling. “Well, I guess it’s just not in the cards today,” I said, happily.

“No problem,” said Charlie. “I know what we need. Just stay in the plane while I get it.”

He hurried up the beach to camp, and soon returned with his fishing tackle box in one paw. As I watched, puzzled, he pulled out a lead halibut jig with its attached hook, and tied it to the tail-wheel with some fishing line. “We’ve got it now,” he said with a happy grin as he settled back behind the controls.

“We’ve got it? Are we trolling for halibut now?” I asked, mystified.

“Ha! We’re going to catch some air.”

Once more we hurtled down the inlet, two porkers making the ultralight nose heavy. But this time, the halibut jig was just enough tail weight (at 17.6 ounces) to pull the tail down allowing the wings to catch some lift. And we flew around and around up above Princess Royal Island and Laredo Inlet looking for white Kermodes, and scared the hell out of some tourists in a yacht in an 80-mph swoop. And except one time when I took a ride in a sailplane, I felt about as close to being an eagle, and like an eagle, oblivious to fear, as I have ever been.

In Kamchatka Charlie learned how to find a hole in the fog and spiral his plane up into the clear sky. He made many personal sacrifices in choosing to devote his life to finding a way through the foggy notions people have about bears and our relationship to nature. The best way to honour Charlie is to make some new holes in the fog of misunderstanding that keeps people from living at peace with nature, and therefore with ourselves.

This article was originally published in The Tyee, June 1, 2018. Sid Marty is a writer and long-time resident of southern Alberta. He has published five books of non-fiction and three of poetry. His Leaning on the Wind: Under the Spell of the Great Chinook andThe Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek were finalists for Governor General’s Awards.

Pt. 2: https://albertaviews.ca/part-2-tribute-charlie-russell/?fbclid=IwAR1LNBXAWPNf3NDVk30jyuBCv3QgJUyh9N3O88T1ejmWHyGATKchaCFKYZo

Cormorant Hunt Is the Single Worst Wild Game Management Decision in Canadian History

 from All-Creatures.org

FROM

Barry Kent MacKay, BornFreeUSA.org
December 2018

This move is a response to lobbying by the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH), who must now abandon any pretense that hunting isn’t cruel and wasteful.

Cormorants
Pair of cormorants in flight. Drawing by Barry Kent MacKay / Born Free USA. See more of Barry’s art – Art by Barry Kent MacKay.

To oppose this monstrous legislation, GO HERE TO LEAVE A COMMENT.
Deadline for comment is January 3, 2019.

Ontario’s newly elected premier, Doug Ford, in many ways as Trumpian as the Donald himself, has just proposed what is, I believe, the worst single wild game management decision in Canadian history. Did I say “game”? “Gamey” barely describes the essentially inedible double-crested cormorant, a species that was twice nearly wiped out in Ontario, and is not “game” by any traditional definition. And yet, so it is to be called, except that for the first time since game laws came into being, it will be legal to leave the carcasses of birds who have been shot as “game” to rot. The bag limit is 50 per day with no limit to possession. The season will be from March 15, the start of the cornmorant nesting season, to December 31, when all but a few stragglers have migrated south.

Ford’s government is a majority (which is like having control of both the House and Senate in U.S. politics), so there can be no effective opposition, and Ford’s term is four years. I doubt he’ll be re-elected, but it will take further years to undo damage he’s doing in this and other similarly Draconian legislation. I hate to think what’s to come.

This move is a response to lobbying by the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH), who must now abandon any pretense that hunting isn’t cruel and wasteful. “Hunting” has to be redefined, literally, with the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act being amended so hunters can allow the meat of “game” to spoil. The birds are easily shot and highly vulnerable. There is no “fair chase” or “sustainable use” involved.

Cormorant chicks
Born unfeathered, so ugly only a mother can love them, which she, and dad, do, protecting them from the elements. Drawing by Barry Kent MacKay / Born Free USA. See more of Barry’s art – Art by Barry Kent MacKay.

Cormorants nest in colonies of mixed bird species. Both parents need to tend the young, born naked. Would it not be deemed cruel to put a baby bird in the oven, turn the temperature to 90 or more Fahrenheit and leave it to die? That degree of abuse will be the fate of who knows how many hundreds, or thousands of baby cormorants, whose parents tend them with such great care – feeding them, shading them, warming them, and even bringing them water to cool them in the heat of the day.
Ford (brother to Toronto’s late crack-smoking Mayor Rob Ford) is not the sharpest knife in the drawer and probably bought into the much-debunked belief that fish consumed by cormorants would otherwise be available to commercial and sport fishing interests. A search of peer-reviewed scientific literature by ornithologists showed otherwise, but facts don’t matter to authoritarian right-wingers. Natural predation is usually “compensatory,” taking individual prey that would otherwise not survive, and only under exceptional circumstances is predation “additive,” meaning that it is above the number needed for the prey species numbers to continue. If this were not the case, all predators would wipe out their prey and go extinct. As The Department of Natural Resources for Minnesota puts it, compensatory mortality “…is common in all animal populations and this type of mortality [by cormorants] does not decrease fish populations.”

This is all too technical for Ford and OFAH, but even if they did understand such basic ecology, I doubt they would care. Numbers of hunters are in freefall decline, if “hunting” is defined in terms of science-based regulation, “fair chase” and utilization. The term has shifted to simply mean killing. The fact that cormorant guano, rich in nutriments, can kill off trees, plus the absurd belief that fish eaten by cormorants would otherwise wind up on hooks, in nets and creels, or glued to wooden plaques hung on walls, is all the excuses needed. With slob hunters now legitimized by Mr. Ford, watch, too, for killing of loons and other birds that dare to eat fish and are easily mistaken for cormorants.

To oppose this monstrous legislation, GO HERE TO LEAVE A COMMENT.
Deadline for comment is January 3, 2019.

Why So Many People Hate Cormorants 

https://www.animalalliance.ca/news/

The late American poet-philosopher Maya Angelou said: “Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.”

I think it’s a safe bet that the quote, and Angelou, are both unknown to newly elected Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who once said: “If she walked by me, I wouldn’t have a clue who she is.” His ignorance in that case was in reference to possibly Canada’s most famous, easily recognized living writer (and a resident of the city whose mayor was Ford’s own brother and who Ford, as a councillor, was helping to govern), Margaret Atwood. She had corrected Ford’s absurd assertion that his ward contained more libraries than Tim Horton’s coffee shops.

That level of ignorance is no virtue. If I may quote Angelou once more: “ <https://www.azquotes.com/quote/1567235> The root cause of all the problems we have in the world today is ignorance of course. But most, polarization.”

To the “populist” politicians and their “base”, their core supporters, it is not what is factual, but what you feel, what your intuition, your “gut”, tells you, that counts.

And in answering the question posed at by the title of this blog, it is important to first understand that hate, ignorance and polarization are not only handmaidens (all puns intended) of each other but exactly what Ford’s plan to wipe out Double-crested Cormorants in Ontario, encompasses. He indeed polarizes.

The issue is that, as is the inclination of authoritarian political leaders, without consultation Ford has proposed a series of Draconian legislative steps that will greatly damage Ontario’s environment, and wildlife, in various ways.

This includes a plan to re-define the Double-crested Cormorant as a “game” bird, with an open season that lasts from March 15 to December 31, and no limit on “possession”.

For the first time in Canadian game management, hunted birds won’t have to be utilized as food. Any hunter with the correct small game hunting license could legally kill well over 13,000 birds per year. At that rate it would take only about 18 hunters to eliminate all the cormorants in the Great Lakes basin in a single year, and with a very few more able to eliminate the species from the entire province. No one hunter could kill that many, but then, while hunters’ numbers are in precipitous decline, there are still a many times more than enough to again eliminate the species in most of Ontario.

In an excellent commentary published by The Toronto Star on December 10, 2018 (see: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/star-columnists/2018/12/10/why-are-cormorants-in-progressive-conservatives-crosshairs.html) political commentator par excellence, Thomas Walkom, asks a similar, related question, why are cormorants in the crosshairs of Doug Ford’s party, the provincial Progressive Conservatives?

Having a majority in provincial parliament, Ford and his party has free rein to enact regressive laws. The party is neither conservative nor progressive, but they can do what they want, so why do they want to kill cormorants and cause horrific suffering and deaths to their orphaned nestlings? What game species is deliberately and legally shot when it has dependent young? Why hate cormorants?

While the answer to the uninformed minds of Ford’s base would simply be “because cormorants eat all the fish”, meaning fish otherwise available to both sport and commercial anglers, as is well known by those who actually study cormorant diets, it is wrong. I think that inaccurate belief is only part of the answer.

But it is not quite what Walkom asked. We’ll get to that.

There is often excessive antipathy toward predators, seen by the environmentally illiterate as competitors for what we humans need or want. Among fish-eating species, seals, sealions, porpoises and other cetaceans, sharks and other mammals have been scapegoated – blamed for declines in commercially “harvested” fish stocks. Among native Ontario birds, Ospreys, pelicans, herons, Belted Kingfishers, loons, grebes, mergansers and other species have, at various times, been targeted for organized killing. They are all now protected, to varying degrees, in response to increasing understanding of basic ecological principles.

But none evoke as much sheer detestation as cormorants; they really are hated, to an irrational, visceral degree, by a significant minority of people. It is not all that unusual, especially for people who lived prior to about the mid-twentieth century, before there was much knowledge about wildlife population dynamics and predator-prey interrelationships and the importance of apex predators to biodiversity, to want to kill all predators. And a few species, like wolves, can still too often arouse such levels of irrational fear and hatred.

It has been suggested that some of the excoriation directed against cormorants reflects deep-seated bigotry of the worse kind. The theory points to the fact that cormorants were once called nigger goose in some quarters (you can imagine which) and to a situation in Australia, where there are two small cormorant species very similar in size, shape and diets, but one is black and white while the other is all black, the latter being far less tolerated than the former. Other black birds, such as crows, grackles and starlings, also seem to attract disproportionate dislike, where they dare to be common. “Black” is, as people in support of civil rights have been known to observe, seen as negative, the colour that depends on an absence of light, thus the antheses to what light represents, as symbolized in the word, “enlightenment”, or in religious texts associating light with grace, goodness and God. White pelicans, which eat more fish per bird than any cormorant (because they are bigger; they need more) are, like swans and egrets, more fondly considered.

Maybe, but that didn’t stop assailants from killing both cormorants and American White Pelicans at a mutual nesting colony Manitoba, stomping on eggs and babies, and has not prevented demonization of Mute Swans and Snow Geese, both white.

The “blackness” theory is all too speculative for me and I think the answer is simpler, although not entirely simplistic.

To help understand the hatred, we need a little history.

The species was twice reduced to virtually endangered status in Ontario. The first reduction happened, I theorize, hot on the heels of colonization by European “settlers”. They carried with them guns and a combination of fear and ignorance about the wilderness, which was to be tamed and conquered. Because of their devotion to their nesting duties cormorants are extremely vulnerable to persecution. It’s inconceivable that they would be found from Alaska to Florida and the West Indies, and from Newfoundland to California and Mexico, and yet be absent from the largest source of fresh water fish in the world, quite near the centre of that vast range. As mostly European “pioneers” filled the land, cormorants, and a vast number of other wildlife species, gave way. Cormorants were easily destroyed.

Following the end of the War of 1812, commercial fisheries began in the Great Lakes and no cormorant nest site would have been safe from persecution, happening before qualified naturalists arrived on the scene to record the presence of nesting birds. This led to the oddly absurd belief that cormorants therefore were never present!

But they were, and there are indications of them nesting in Sandusky Bay, Ohio, which is part of Lake Erie, late into the 19th Century. By the time qualified observations were being made, direct evidence of Great Lakes nesting was scarce to absent, east of Lake of the Woods, until some were found in Lake Superior in 1913, where locals said they had nested all along.

The “official” version is that from there they spread eastward, reaching Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence River by 1945.

On its website Environment Canada says, “Historically, it is thought that the Double-crested Cormorant did not nest in the Great Lakes. Archaeological excavations in aboriginal settlements have not shown any evidence of the bird. Although cormorants have nested in Lake of the Woods (in northwestern Ontario) for hundreds of years, the first suspected nesting on the Great Lakes did not occur until 1913, at the far western end of Lake Superior. From there colonies spread eastward to Lake Nipigon in the 1920s, to Lake Huron and Georgian Bay in the early 1930s and finally to Lakes Ontario and Erie in the late 1930s (Figure 1: Cormorants first nested on Lake Superior in 1913, and spread eastward to Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence River By 1945.”

Environment Canada’s website ignores any evidence contrary to what it says and misstates that there is no archeological evidence of the bird in the Great Lakes prior to then. That is simply not true (their bones have, in fact, been found in kitchen middens – remains of animals eaten by native peoples centuries ago, albeit not often; they are not good to eat) but it promotes the idea that the bird did not historically occur in the Great Lakes, and thus is an intruder, an “invader”, an immigrant, as it were.

Then Minister of what was at the time called the Ministry of Natural Resources, David Ramsay, said, in 2004, that the cormorants were not native, but an “invasive” species. Again, that is not remotely true. That ridiculous claim has since been dropped by the provincial government although it seems still to be believed by some who so thoughtlessly hate cormorants.

Following the end of WWII, DDT was introduced into the environment with disastrous results, as the pesticide bioaccumulated up the food chain, to render several fish-eating bird species unable to produce viable eggs. The same Environment Canada website is probably far more accurate in saying, “The cormorant disappeared as a nesting bird on Lakes Michigan and Superior and only about ten pairs remained on Lake Ontario.”

However, by 1973, recovery was well underway, again.

And there is what is a significant part of the real origin of fear and hatred directed against Double-crested Cormorants. The ecological niche that cormorants occupy was already there, and in fact had increased. Cormorants tend to eat coarse fish species that are abundant, and several such species had newly entered the ecosystem, including the herring-like Alewife, a truly invasive species.

I saw my first cormorants, as a kid, in 1957, and the beach I was standing near, at Presqu’ile Provincial Park, Lake Ontario, was covered in rotting piles of dead Alewives. Alewives’ food consists of plankton and other tiny organisms at or near the base of food chains upon which larger fish depend, along with small fish and other organisms of various other species, including the young of species of interest to anglers.

Alewives spawn at the same time cormorants are feeding, and spawning Alewives are an ideal size for cormorants. As cormorant numbers went up, on average the number of dead and rotting Alewives on the beaches went down, and the kinds of fish that anglers pursue had more food, to their benefit. The return of the cormorants was good news indicating environmental healing.

No one now alive was around when cormorants were here prior to nearly vanishing at the end of the 19th century, and few if anyone alive would recall their growing numbers prior to World War II. Thus, the perception is that the “normal” number of cormorants is what is remembered from our youth, which in many lakes and rivers, would be none at all.

Thus the “norm” to such folks is not what a healthy ecosystem looks like, cormorants, fish and all, but what it looks like when a key species, the cormorant, is endangered or absent. Add to that, a lack of understanding that in naturally evolved predator-prey relationships, prey population size determines how many predators there are, not the other way around.

Currently most water that cormorants could occupy lacks them; most fish cormorants could eat don’t get eaten by them; most islands and headlands where cormorants might nest, they don’t.

However, when and where they do occur, they may do so in large numbers. They are a species that is very “social” and that tends to occur in large concentrations. Large numbers of wildlife is not a sight anyone alive today is used to seeing. We might read about the vast numbers of wildlife that greeted the first European settlers, but we have no memory of them. The vast seabird breeding colonies, the schools of cod so thick they impeded the progress of ships, the massive herds of bison whose sheer weight shook the earth, the unimaginably enormous numbers of Passenger Pigeons eclipsing the sun, the wide flocks of migrating Eskimo Curlews and other shorebirds, the expanses of caribou across the tundra, numbers of deer, bear, moose, waterfowl…and cormorants…gone now, many, including some that were once the most numerous, are extinct, extirpated or endangered.

But some do recover. When a species does occur, even locally, in large numbers, it tends to be perceived as an anomaly, an abomination, an affront to our own self-important domination of an environment we still want to control, to dominate. The number of people in the Greater Toronto Area is more than the number of Double-crested Cormorants continent-wide, and yet Premier Ford thinks there are “too many”.

There is also the “squeamish factor”. With our cellophane-wrapped meat and air-conditioned or gas-heated homes and the support of unprecedented technologies upon which we have rapidly become dependent, we are isolated from the true nature, the texture, the essence of life and life processes. The concentrations of excrement that are so normal and typical a part of any concentration of any species, our own included when modern plumbing is not to be had, offends us. The un-sanitized world is just too “dirty”, it can smell unpleasant; the reality of life and death is disagreeable and disturbing, dangers lurk…an unwelcome intrusion into our technologically barricaded womb of equanimity.

But while I think all of that goes into explaining hatred of cormorants, where it exists, it does not answer Thomas Walkom’s more probing question: why are cormorants in the crosshairs of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives?

The key to the answer is, I believe, embedded in the question. Crosshairs is a reference to shooters, and while we don’t have the “gun culture” to be found in the U.S., it is not entirely missing. Whereas our southern neighbours have the National Rifle Association, the NRA, a major political force down there, in Ontario we have the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, OFAH. Both organizations share a problem and do so with the respective governments of the jurisdictions in which they operate and with various business interests.

That problem is a precipitous decline in hunters. Hunters pay license fees that go into government coffers, and membership fees and donations that fund the NRA and OFAH and payments to outfitters, and equipment suppliers such as gun, ammo and hunting gear producers and retailers. It’s a symbiotic relationship of intertwined and interdependent interests.

I can’t think that the more knowledgeable of OFAH’s advisors really are as ignorant of ecology as their anti-cormorant indicates, but they know they depend on the hook and bullet fraternity for

The Unintended Consequences that Could Stem from Ford’s Ignorance of Cormorants

https://www.bornfreeusa.org/category/blog> , Canada
<https://www.bornfreeusa.org/category/canada> on December 13, 2018

My last two blogs have been about the horrific plan by Ontario’s newly
elected Progressive Conservative government (although it is anything but
either progressive or conservative) to wipe out as much as possible, and
certainly most, of the province’s population of double-crested cormorants
(read these blogs here
<https://www.bornfreeusa.org/2018/11/26/cormorant-hunt-is-the-single-worst-w
ild-game-management-decision-in-canadian-history/> and here
<https://www.bornfreeusa.org/2018/12/05/these-hunters-must-stop-pretending/>
) by allowing holders of small-game licenses to kill up to 50 of the birds
per day from March 15 to December 31. As a colonial nesting species, the
cormorant is extremely vulnerable to extirpation – it has happened before –
and the whole idea is predicated on concerns, which have been repudiated by
scientists many times over, that the birds are damaging to the environment.

The whole concept of this hunt is wrong on many different levels and for
many different reasons, including the hideous cruelty of leaving an
unpredictable number (certainly in the thousands) of orphaned baby birds to
die of dehydration and other forms of exposure. This is an exceptionally
ill-conceived notion by a premier, Doug Ford, with an authoritarian mindset,
who has been called “thuggish” and “bullying” by pundits, but like his
apparent role model, U.S. President Donald Trump, he does not seem to care.
Authoritarian mindsets tend to be blind to unintended consequences.

I get that the less informed among those who hunt and fish tend to see
predatory animals as their competitors who need to be killed. They neither
know or care about the importance of apex predators within healthily
functioning environments. And, I realize that cormorants, like wolves,
sharks, and other predators, can evoke irrational levels of fear, hatred,
and loathing. If such attitudes did not lead to cruelty and destruction, I’d
pity the people who have them, cut off, as they are, from the joy that comes
from knowledge of the intricate interactions of the web of life within the
ecological whole; a web that humans seem so eager to destroy.

As my friend, Buzz Boles, points out:

“In 1934, J. A. Dymond, Acting Director, Royal Ontario Museum of Zoology and
Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology, University of Toronto,
reacting to loon hunting he observed on Ontario’s Rideau waterway pointed
out that Sir Arthur Thomson, an eminent British biologist of the day,
related the following story that is indicative of killing cormorants and
destabilizing a lake and river system.

“‘In Australia, on the Murray River swamps, several species of cormorant use
to swarm in the thousands, but ruthless massacres, based on the supposition
that the cormorants were spoiling the fishing, reduced them to hundreds.
But, the fishing did not improve; it got worse. It was then discovered that
the cormorants fed largely on crabs, eels, and some other creatures that
devour the spawn and fry of desirable fishes. Thus, the ignorant massacre of
the cormorants made for the impoverishment, not the improvement of the
fishing. The obvious moral is that man should get at the facts of the web of
life before, not after, he has recourse to drastic measures of
interference.'”

Sadly, we never seem to learn.

Double-crested Cormorant Slaughter

double-crested cormorant

For more than 10 years, Animal Alliance of Canada, Born Free FoundationZoocheckEarthroots and other groups have been working to gain protections for cormorants. These unfortunate birds have been scapegoated for everything from water pollution to environmental destruction to the decimation of fish populations. All of these claims are false.

Double-crested cormorants are native Ontario birds that have repopulated parts of their former range and they fulfill a valuable ecological role. Not only do they benefit biodiversity, they help generate healthy fish populations and should be considered a integral component of Ontario’s natural heritage.

Now, Premier Ford and his government are proposing one of the most regressive wildlife “management” decisions in Canadian history.  The proposed changes are rooted in an irrational hatred for cormorants that will fuel their persecution and drive them back to the brink of extinction, or worse, in the province.

A recent Environmental Registry of Ontario posting (https://ero.ontario.ca/notice/013-4124) announced that the Government is seeking input on a proposed change to the province’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act that will:

  • designate double-crested cormorants as a “game” bird species,
  • create a province wide annual hunting season from March 15 until December 31,
  • allow anyone holding a valid Ontario Outdoors Card and small game hunting license to kill up to 50 cormorants per day (1,500 per month or more than 14,000 per season) and,
  • allow the carcasses to spoil (i.e., rot).

The Government’s proposal would:

  • cause unimaginable cruelty by allowing the wholesale, uncontrolled, impossible to monitor, slaughter of cormorants across the province,
  • devastate and possibly eradicate a recovered native wildlife species,
  • result in disturbance, destruction and death of numerous federally protected non-target bird species such as Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets and White Pelicans,
  • irreparably damage natural ecosystems,
  • encourage the worst form of “slob hunting,” and
  • endanger the public by allowing hunters to discharge firearms throughout the spring, summer and fall season when lakes and natural areas are populated by cottagers and tourists.

Why?

The Government of Ontario says it is responding to concerns about too many cormorants, depleted fish stocks and environmental damage. But those concerns are largely just anecdotes, complaints from a small, radical segment of the fishing community, and unsubstantiated claims that were debunked long ago. There is no substantive body of evidence proving that cormorants are depleting fish stocks or causing any ecological problems whatsoever.

The reality is that cormorants are a natural part of Ontario’s rich biodiversity and an ecologically beneficial species, being major predators of invasive fish species, like round gobies and alewives, attracting other waterbirds to their nesting sites, and serving other important functions in the ecosystems they inhabit.

A Recovered Species

Persecution by humans and pesticide poisoning all but wiped out cormorants in Ontario on two previous occasions but, in recent years, they have returned and populated those habitats that will support them.  They are a recovery success.

Far from being overabundant, cormorant numbers are relatively modest, have stabilized and are dropping in some areas. The entire North American double-crested cormorant population is estimated to be less than the population of Toronto, with about 250,000 in the entire Great Lakes Basin and considerably less residing in Ontario.

At Risk of Extinction

Because they are conspicuous birds that congregate in colonies to nest on exposed islands and peninsulas (only about 3% of potential island sites in the Great Lakes are suitable), they are particularly vulnerable, being easily targeted and killed. Small congregations could be wiped out in just a few minutes or an hour, while larger colonies could be destroyed in just a few days or a week.  Years of effort and thousands of dollars to recover the species will have been for nothing.

Radical cormorant-haters have already attacked colonies under cover of night, destroying nests, stomping on chicks and killing adults. Once the proposed changes to the law come into effect, people will be given free rein to destroy as many cormorants as they want. It wouldn’t take many people very long to wipe out most cormorants in the province, leaving just a tiny remnant of their population in a few protected areas. And driving them back to near extinction or even worse in Ontario is a real possibility.

How You Can Help:  Oppose This Plan!

  1. Comment on the Environmental Registry posting.  There’s a 45 day comment period which ends on January 3rd , so please visit https://ero.ontario.ca/notice/013-4124 to submit your comments.  It’s critically important that the posting receive as many comments as possible.  You can say as much or as little as you want (even a single sentence will be helpful).  If you want to send comments by mail, see address below this alert.
  2. Call or Write to the Premier. Let Premier Doug Ford know what you think of the plan to allow the mass killing of cormorants in Ontario.   See Premier’s contact information below this alert.  A quick phone call or a brief email are the most effective.
  3. Contact your Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP). It doesn’t matter what party they represent or what their views (pro or con) are.  Let them know what an unnecessary, outdated, environmentally damaging, wasteful and cruel idea this is.   Ask what they’re going to do about it.  Find your Ontario MPP using your postal code at elections.on.ca
  4. Spread the word.  Tell everyone you know who loves birds, wildlife and nature about what’s going on.  Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or, if you can, an Opinion Editorial or article.  Make sure you mention your MPP and what they are doing, or not doing, to protect cormorants and other wildlife in your letter.
  5. Donate.  Opposing this Draconian, destructive and completely unnecessary plan to allow the unfettered killing of cormorants won’t be easy or cheap.  That’s why we’re asking you to make a contribution of whatever you can afford in support of our efforts to protect cormorants.  Donate to Zoocheck at www.zoocheck.com/donate/ or donate to Animal Alliance of Canada at www.animalalliance.ca/donate

Environmental Registry of Ontario

Proposal to establish a hunting season for
double-crested cormorants in Ontario

*45 day comment period ends January 3, 2019*

Submit comments by mail to:

Public Input Coordinator
Species Conservation Policy Branch
300 Water Street, Floor 5N
Peterborough, ON   K9J 8M5

Submit comments online:    https://ero.ontario.ca/notice/013-4124


Premier Doug Ford Contact Information

Website Feedback Form:  https://correspondence.premier.gov.on.ca/en/feedback/default.aspx

Mailing Address:  Premier of Ontario, Legislative Building, Queen’s Park, Toronto, ON, M7A 1A1

Phone:  416-325-1941  /    TTY/Teletypewriter: (for hearing impaired):  1-800-387-5559


Find Your Own Member of Provincial Parliament by using your postal code

www.elections.on.ca

(If you are not computer accessible, please call Animal Alliance at 416-462-9541.)


Additional Information

Animal Alliance of Canada (416) 462-9541

Zoocheck (416) 285-1744

Fighting for cormorants:  Talking and Letter Writing Points

  1. The Ontario government’s proposal will allow individuals with a small game license to kill up to 50 cormorants per day. That works out to approximately 1,500 cormorants per month or up to 14,250 cormorants for the entire proposed annual hunting season.
  2. The presence of cormorants benefits other colonial water birds, such as federally protected herons, egrets and pelicans, all of which are stable or growing populations where cormorants are found.
  3. The mass killing of cormorants will not be beneficial. In fact, the process of killing them will force other bird species to vacate the colony sites they share.
  4. There is no way to kill cormorants humanely. Even controlled, organized culls in other regions have resulted in large numbers of injured and crippled birds being left to die of their wounds or starve to death, including nestlings.
  5. Cormorants are beneficial because their diet consists of very large numbers of primarily invasive fish, such as alewives and round gobies, as well as other non-commercial, non-forage species.  It is the commercial fisheries in Lake Erie and other lakes that are depleting fish populations, not cormorants.
  6. The mass killing of cormorants will damage the environment and disrupt natural ecosystem processes.
  7. The return of cormorants, a native wildlife species, to the Great Lakes Basin is part of a natural process and should be celebrated
  8. Cormorants are not overabundant in the Great Lakes. In fact, their numbers are modest, now stabilized and are dropping in many areas.
  9. Changes in the composition of vegetation in and around bird colonies are a sign of  vibrant, healthy, dynamic natural ecosystem processes.
  10. The number of trees that die in colonial waterbird colonies across the province is minuscule and wouldn’t even equal the number of trees in a single modestly-sized woodlot or taken in one day by Ontario’s logging industry.
  11. Only a small number of islands (less than 3%) and peninsula sites are available for cormorants and other colonial waterbirds to nest on.
  12. The mass killing being proposed by the Ontario government is a political response to anecdotes, unsubstantiated claims and complaints by a small group of radical fishermen, supported by special interest groups. There is no substantive body of scientific evidence supporting their position.
  13. Instead of making cormorants a scapegoat for environmental problems they have nothing to do with, attention should be given to addressing the issues that actually do affect fish populations and aquatic environments, such as climate change, pollution, shoreline and habitat destruction, over-fishing and a broad range of other issues.
  14. The proposed designation of cormorants as game animals, along with a non-utilization exemption that allows the carcasses to rot should be an affront to every hunter who believes in sportsmanship, fair chase and ethics.
  15. There are very real safety issues where hunters are permitted to discharge firearms throughout the spring, summer and fall season when lakes and natural areas are populated by cottagers and tourists.
  16. The proposed “hunt” will cause unimaginable cruelty by allowing the wholesale, uncontrolled slaughter of cormorants across the province, wounding adults (video of cormorant with a broken bill:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0pBs6XjtSg&list=PL1asTRKubtRuAy7LWUpMFubz97ydJTEhM&index=3) and orphaning thousands of baby birds who will die from starvation and exposure to the elements.

READ MORE ABOUT THE HISTORY OF OUR FIGHT TO PROTECT THIS NATIVE BIRD

Opinion Wolves valuable part of ecosystems 

By: Sadie Par
Posted: 11/16/2018

<https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/analysis/wolves-valuable-part-of-ecosystems-500660781.html#have-your-say>

A recent Free Press story (“Wolves feasting on cattle: ‘A huge problem,’” on Oct. 31) requires more of a science-based perspective.

To begin, we must recognize that since European colonization, North America’s approach to wildlife management has focused on eradicating large carnivores or maintaining them at artificially low densities. The tools for this included poison and bounties, which continue in parts of Canada to the detriment of carnivores and the ecosystems they have evolved within.

There is growing understanding that wolves and other carnivores are an intrinsically valuable and an ecologically important component of intact ecosystems. In areas where the land is still whole enough, wolves are recolonizing the landscape they belong to. While this may provide some challenges, it is certainly worth celebrating from an ecological perspective.

If livestock-wolf conflicts are indeed increasing, a big part of this likely has to do with changes in husbandry practices after predators were killed off. Cattle have been left unsupervised in many areas following wolf extermination. Gone are the age-old methods of monitoring and doctoring domestic herds, which are often placed in areas that interface with wilderness zones. By maintaining a human presence, range-riders, shepherds and herders can deter carnivores and intervene to “teach” animals to stay away. A combination of new technology and traditional cultural practices are providing many “predator-friendly ranchers” with effective solutions that prevent and minimize losses. But a dead wolf won’t learn anything.

Following the outbreak of mad cow disease in 2003, Canada abandoned government-funded carcass removal programs. This challenge and cost fell on producers. Deadstock can attract carnivores to areas where cattle graze and may facilitate a new and easy meal. This is akin to creating a welcome buffet by baiting carnivores into the proximity of livestock.

The story made claims that an increasing number of depredation events are occurring. How many of these claims were verified by trained professionals? How much conflict prevention is occurring where these situations are unfolding? And how can this be prevented?

Studies across North America and beyond are providing mounting evidence to show that lethal control of wolves is ineffective and can even lead to increased conflicts when compared to changing husbandry practices and utilizing non-lethal preventive measures.

If producers are experiencing high numbers of calves being lost to predators, why are vulnerable calves not being monitored more closely? Several producers experience little or no losses by using a combination of methods that include synchronized and shorter calving periods, night corrals, turbo-fladry (lines with strips of coloured fabric that flap in the wind and deter wolves), livestock guardian dogs and range riding.

I agree with the Manitoba Beef Producers director’s statement that a plan is due; however, a sensible plan would focus on educating producers about prevention-based methods and facilitate support with incentives to make these methods feasible. This is in stark contrast with the stance in the Oct. 31 article that “producers want more incentives to make it worthwhile (to kill wolves),” which often results in more problems, not less. Ignoring the behaviour and biology of wolves leads to negative ecological repercussions, as well as more livestock losses.

Maintaining the social stability of apex predators, or allowing them to do so, is critical for best management practices when it comes to reducing conflicts between humans and carnivores. Socially stable carnivore populations are easier to coexist with because they are more predictable. We should not ignore the biology and behaviour of carnivores if we want to minimize conflicts and co-flourish.

Aside from their inherent intrinsic values, wolves and other apex predators (species at the top of the food chain) provide invaluable and irreplaceable ecological benefits. They have a disproportionately important role through top-down effects that shape entire ecosystems. Direct influences on herbivores and smaller consumers trickle down to stabilize vegetation structure, maintain diversity and mediate large-scale processes like carbon sequestration and hydrological cycles that characterize the diverse landscapes in our province and country.

No doubt humans will continue to find reasons to justify disdain of predators, but at the end of the day, these beings have evolved over millennia as an integral part of nature. They will continue to play their role in maintaining biodiversity, but only if we have sense enough to allow them to. Non-lethal approaches are proving to have better outcomes for livestock, wildlife and people.

Sadie Parr is the executive director of Wolf Awareness Inc.

https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/analysis/wolves-valuable-part-of-ecosystems-500660781.html

Wolves valuable part of ecosystems – Winnipeg Free Press <https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/analysis/wolves-valuable-part-of-ecosystems-500660781.html

Alberta RCMP investigate ‘disturbing’ video of coyote slowly beaten to death

Warning: This story contains graphic details

<https://i.cbc.ca/1.4289572.1505403581!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/square_140/wallis-snowdon.jpg>

Wallis Snowdon · CBC News · Posted: Nov 19, 2018 11:35 AM MT | Last Updated: November 19

<https://i.cbc.ca/1.4911611.1542653676!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/16x9_780/coyote-beating.jpg>

These stills are taken from the video that was posted on Facebook over the weekend. (Facebook)

RCMP in Grande Prairie, Alta., are investigating after a video surfaced online showing two boys brutally beating a coyote to death.

The video, which appeared on Facebook Sunday, shows a lifeless coyote being piled into the back of a snowmobile. The rest of the 53-second clip shows how the animal died slowly after multiple blows to the head.

In the video, one boy picks up a coyote by its hind legs and smashes its head repeatedly into the back of a snowmobile.

The animal, still alive, is then pictured sitting in the snow, blinking and stunned. Someone off camera laughs.

Then, a boy curses at the animal and kicks it repeatedly in the head. As the coyote stands and begins to limp away, someone in a snowmobile chases after it and grabs it by the tail.

Due to the graphic nature of the video, CBC has decided to only broadcast a few seconds of the 53-second clip.

Warning: Video contains graphic content that may be disturbing to viewers:

<https://thumbnails.cbc.ca/maven_legacy/thumbnails/471/7/edm-coyotebeating-blurred-nov19_2500kbps_852x480_1374888003822.jpg?downsize=1280px:*>

CBC News Edmonton

WARNING GRAPHIC VIDEO: Coyote beating in northern Alberta

WATCH

00:00 00:17

This is a portion of a longer video showing a group of minors allegedly beating a coyote to death. CBC News has blurred the faces and disguised the voices of the minors involved. 0:17

A Grande Prairie man who shared the video with CBC News said he reported the incident to RCMP and Alberta Fish and Wildlife. He asked CBC News to keep his name confidential.

He said the incident happened in Sexsmith over the weekend.

In a news release, RCMP in Grande Prairie said they are investigating an online video “depicting the inhumane death of a wild animal.”

RCMP are in the preliminary stages of their investigation, Cpl. Maria Ogden told CBC News on Monday. She declined to provide further details.

Alberta Fish and Wildlife officials are also investigating.

“We believe we’ve identified the individuals involved, but it’s too early to speculate on specific offences or potential charges,” Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Jason Van Rassel said in an interview.

The man who reported the video described what he saw as grotesque and inhumane.

“Very disturbing,” he said. “That’s some very sociopathic behaviour. It’s blatantly criminal.”

The man said he doesn’t know the boys personally but felt compelled to report them. He said he hopes they are held accountable and “get some help.”

“I mean, just look at how disturbing that video is, especially when the coyote is sitting there with fear in its face and they zoom in on it and laugh.

“It’s just heart-wrenching and disturbing on two ends of the spectrum.

“No sane human would accept that.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

<https://i.cbc.ca/1.4289572.1505403581!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/square_620/wallis-snowdon.jpg>

Wallis Snowdon

Journalist

Wallis Snowdon is a digital journalist with CBC Edmonton. She has nearly a decade of experience reporting behind her. Originally from New Brunswick, her journalism career has taken her from Nova Scotia to Fort McMurray. Share your stories with Wallis at wallis.snowdon@cbc.ca <mailto:wallis.snowdon@cbc.ca>

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/coyote-beating-grande-prairie-rcmp-investigation-1.4911574

<https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/coyote-beating-grande-prairie-rcmp-investigation-1.4911574>

<https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/coyote-beating-grande-prairie-rcmp-investigation-1.4911574> Alberta RCMP investigate ‘disturbing’ video of coyote slowly beaten to death | CBC News

A Grande Prairie man who shared the video with CBC News said he reported the incident to RCMP and Alberta Fish and Wildlife. He asked CBC News to keep his name confidential.

http://www.cbc.ca <http://www.cbc.ca

Ontario wolves to be trapped, transferred in effort to restore population on Michigan island…

Weather permitting, wolves will be moved by helicopter in January

Amy Hadley · CBC News · Posted: Nov 21, 2018 7:30 AM ET | Last Updated: 3 hours ago

<https://i.cbc.ca/1.4847490.1538505763!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/16x9_780/isle-royale-wolves.jpg>

The first female wolf to be transported to the island this fall is captured by a remote camera, before emerging from her crate. The first four wolves to be cleared for transfer were from Minnesota. (U.S. National Park Service)

Wolves from Ontario will soon be moved across the border to try to help restore the dwindling population in Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park.

This fall, officials at the park began a multi-year effort to move wolves from the mainland to the island, to try to restore the balance between wolves and moose on the isolated island, which is located on Lake Superior, not far from Thunder Bay, Ont.

<https://i.cbc.ca/1.4857118.1539187600!/fileImage/httpImage/image.png_gen/derivatives/original_780/isle-royale.png>

The multi-year wolf transfer will involve capturing and moving mainland wolves from Michigan and Minnesota, but Isle Royale National Park superintendent Phyllis Green says they now also plan to move a pack from nearby Ontario.

The first wolves to be moved were trapped in Minnesota, but officials were hopeful that Canadian wolves would also be added to the mix. That plan has now been given the green light, said park superintendent Phyllis Green.

* Canadian wolves may be added to U.S. park service’s work to revive island population <https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/isle-royale-wolf-transfer-1.4846093>
* U.S. National Park Service will soon transport wolves to Isle Royale <https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/isle-royale-wolves-moose-1.4701281>

“Actually we were fortunate that Michigan’s Governor [Rick] Snyder had a conversation with [Ontario’s] Premier [Doug] Ford and talked about the importance of the project,” she said.

“And so after that conversation we were able to have further conversations and we’re definitely going to be — weather providing — receiving wolves from Ontario this winter.”

The wolves will come from Michipicoten Island in northeastern Lake Superior, where a very different wildlife management problem has made headlines. While Isle Royale’s wolf population has faced near extinction, wolves on Michipicoten were weakening the caribou population.

* Dwindling caribou population being moved off Michipicoten <https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/sudbury/michipicoten-caribou-relocation-1.4487408> Island — by air

If weather permits, suitable wolves will be trapped during a normal collaring exercise done by Ontario researchers in January and transferred to Isle Royale by helicopter, Green said.

<https://i.cbc.ca/1.4847451.1538505093!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/original_780/phyllis-green.jpg>

Phyllis Green, superintendent of Isle Royale National Park in Michigan, stands in front of an empty crate that held one of the first wolves to be transported to the island. (National Park Service/John Pepin)

‘Robust’ Canadian wolves desirable for genetic strength

The Ontario wolves are desirable for several reasons, said Green, including the fact that the animals on Michipicoten are well-studied by Ontario researchers who will be able to identify alpha males and females that might be well suited to the trip.

“And also we actually know that they’re actually pretty prolific on pups, and that’s certainly what you would hope to see when you start a new population.”

“And the other positive is that they’re very robust genetically,” Green added.

“On the U.S. side, we’ve had situations where the wolf population has dropped and then there’s some incursion of coyote or dog genetics into the population.”

<https://i.cbc.ca/1.4913655.1542748542!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/original_780/isle-royale-wolf.jpg>

A trail camera photo shows one of the female wolves transferred to Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park this fall, as part of a multi-year effort to restore the population and balance the ecosystem. (U.S. National Park Service)

Two wolf fatalities so far

The wolf transfer is not without risks. During the first phase of the project this fall, a wolf that had been cleared for transfer died before it could be moved to Isle Royale, prompting changes to protocols in an effort to reduce stress on the animals.

One male and three females were successfully moved to the island, but in November, the National Park Service confirmed that the male wolf had been found dead. The cause of death is not known, Green said, but necropsy results expected in December should yield more information.

Some natural mortality is to be expected, Green said.

“It’s unfortunate but in the wild population about 25 to 30 per cent of the wolves die annually,” she said.

“It’s a tough life out there for them.”

The transferred wolves are being monitored using GPS technology and the other three are doing well, Green said.

The Isle Royale wolf relocation effort is expected to take three to five years, with the eventual goal of moving up to 30 animals.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/ontario-wolves-isle-royale-1.4913527

<https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/ontario-wolves-isle-royale-1.4913527>

Ontario wolves to be trapped, transferred in effort to restore population on Michigan island | CBC News <https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/ontario-wolves-isle-royale-1.4913527>

The first female wolf to be transported to the island this fall is captured by a remote camera, before emerging from her crate. The first four wolves to be cleared for transfer were from Minnesota.

http://www.cbc.ca <http://www.cbc.ca

Wolves on the rebound across B.C. — here’s how to live with them

Once widely hated and killed, the wolf is making a comeback across the province. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

It took a close encounter to twig Paula Wild to the charm — and danger — of the once-threatened wolf.

After crossing paths with the carnivore while driving her car near a remote Quadra Island hiking trail, Wild wondered about her initial “tingling up the spine” reaction, she told On the Coast guest host Margaret Gallagher.

“There was this huge wolf in the middle of the road,” she said. “And I thought, how would I have felt if I had been walking back on the trail all by myself? What would I have done?”

That feeling spawned the author’s upcoming book, Return of the Wolf: Conflict and Co-existence, a guide to living with a wolf population that has been steadily increasing across the province for the last 50 years.

The grey wolf has disappeared from broad swathes of the world, including most of western Europe. But the B.C. population began to return to healthy levels during the 1970s, according to a 2015 provincial report.

There are an estimated 8,500 in B.C. today.

Wild’s encounter with a wolf led to a book about how humans can learn to live with the storied carnivores. (Rick James)

Once ‘demonized’, now photography fodder

Wolves are now returning to areas they haven’t inhabited for decades, Wild said, making encounters with them more likely. Despite a “misconception” that healthy wolves won’t attack humans, it does happen, she added — and it’s usually due to human interference.

“People aren’t used to wolves. They’re not sure what to do,” Wild said. “Wolves are proving capable of adapting to living near human settlements.”

But Wild warns that humans don’t always share the same skill. Feeding wolves, or even getting close enough for a photograph, can habituate a wolf to humans and make bold behaviour more likely.

Keeping wolves wild

She thinks more education could teach nearby residents to keep their distance, make noise to scare away the more curious pack members and keep dogs on-leash when walking through wolf territory.

Poisoning wolf packs was widespread practice during the first half of the 20th century, and culling programs remain in place today.

But the centuries-long relationship between humans and wolves, Wild said, has been defined by shifting perceptions.

The wolf pops up in myths, fairy tales and common expressions, Wild said, pointing out their importance to language and culture.

“We’ve demonized wolves, but now people tend to either fear them or idolize them,” she said. “And we’re maybe not giving them the respect they need as wild animals that do have potential for danger.”

“I hope people will learn to see wolves for what they are, not for what we want or perceive them to be,” she said.

“Wolves will survive on our landscape today if we allow them to, if we learn how to live with them.”

B.C. didn’t do enough to protect rare fishers in the Interior, board says

Fishers said to be at high risk of decline or elimination in Interior

A fisher is shown in this handout image. An investigation by British Columbia’s forest practices watchdog has found the provincial government didn’t take steps to protect a local species at risk when it allowed for extensive logging in the central Interior. (Loney Dickson/Handout/Canadian Press)

An investigation by British Columbia’s forest practices watchdog has found the provincial government didn’t take steps to protect a local species at risk when it allowed for extensive logging in the central Interior.

The Forest Practices Board says the investigation of a complaint by two trappers in the Nazko area has determined that the fisher is at a high risk of decline or elimination in the region.

The forest in the area near Quesnel was devastated by the pine beetle and the government allowed extensive salvage harvesting between 2002 to 2017, but the trappers complained that impacted the fisher and other fur-bearing mammals.

The animal is a member of the weasel family and is about twice the size of a marten.

A fisher kit is seen up a tree in an undated photo. (Holly Kuchera/Shutterstock)

Board chairman Kevin Kriese says it found the government didn’t take steps to ensure the protection of fisher habitat, and while forestry firms did make some efforts, it wasn’t sufficient given the unprecedented scale of salvage.

He says the board is concerned that unplanned salvage of fire-damaged stands could make a grave situation worse and it recommends the government take steps to restore the local fisher population.

Fishers like older forests stands with lots of large trees and the board says even areas of mostly dead timber may still provide habitat for them.

Read more from CBC British Columbia