Bad news for Banff bears

Thursday, Jun 01, 2017 06:00 am

By: Cathy Ellis

Banff National Park’s wildlife staff had its hands full last weekend trying to keep people and bears safe, while also investigating a possible grizzly bear strike on the train tracks near Bow Valley Parkway.

A bold black bear that got into a bag of garbage at a backcountry campsite along Lake Minnewanka led to the evacuation of several people in the area and a closure along the lakeshore from Stewart Canyon to the Banff National Park boundary.

Wildlife managers were also called to downtown Banff after grizzly bear 136, a 553-pound male bear nicknamed Split Lip for a scar that led to a disfigured lip, attempted to take a stroll across the Bow River pedestrian bridge, Friday (May 26).

Canadian Pacific Railway train crews then reported a westbound freight train may have struck a grizzly bear on the tracks west of Muleshoe about 6:45 a.m. Sunday (May 28) – an area scientists refer to as “a killing field” for grizzly bears.

Bill Hunt, Parks Canada’s resource conservation manager for Banff National Park, said Parks is currently waiting to look at CP’s footage from a camera mounted on the train.

“Staff attended the site and weren’t able to locate anything yet … nothing at all,” said Hunt, noting they are heading back to the area to do a more fine-scale search.

“Hopefully we’ll get some footage, although sometimes it doesn’t tell us much. The bear can disappear from view.”

Grizzly bears are a threatened species in Alberta and trains are the single biggest killers of grizzly bears here, with at least 17 bears killed on the tracks since 2000, taking a toll on the slow-reproducing population of about 60 bears.

Salem Woodrow, a spokesperson for CP, said no evidence has been found so far of a bear being hit.

“We continue to investigate with Parks,” she wrote in an email.

Meanwhile, a closure is in place in the Lake Minnewanka area after an unmarked black bear got into garbage at Mount Costigan campground (Lm20), 18.8 kilometres along the lake.

The closure now includes the Minnewanka lakeshore trail from Stewart Canyon to the Banff National Park boundary, including Aylmer Pass trail. All backcountry campgrounds are closed, including Lm8, Lm9, Lm11, Lm20, Lm22 and Lm31.

Hunt said a group of about 10 people was packing up to leave Lm20 campground on Saturday (May 27) morning when the bear came into the campsite and rummaged through a bag of garbage.

“It’s unusual for a bear to come in with a group this large. They were hollering and yelling and backed off and maintained distance from the bear, but the bear came right in,” he said.

“It wasn’t super aggressive and did not bluff charge or anything like that. They were packing up to head out. It was a difficult situation and, unfortunately, the bear got a food reward.”

The campers, who did have bear spray, flagged down a passing boat, which took them back to the Lake Minnewanka day use area where they were able to call Parks staff to let them know what happened.

Resource conservation officers scoured the area for any sign of the black bear, but were unable to locate it. It was described as a cinnamon coloured bear with a unique dark pattern down its front.

Hunt said they did, however, spot one black bear with a cub and a grizzly bear with cubs in the region.

“We cleared out everyone along the lakeshore, and all the backcountry campsites,” said Hunt, noting boat tour operators on Lake Minnewanka helped in getting people back to the day use area.

Hunt said Parks Canada has ramped up patrols in day use areas at Lake Minnewanka and nearby Two Jack Lake, educating people about the need to keep food secured and put away if they are not at their picnic sites.

“If a bear has gotten a food reward it’s more likely to want more,” he said.

Grizzly bear 136, thought to be about 12 years old, caused some anxious moments when he tried to cross the pedestrian bridge in the Banff townsite on Friday about 8:45 a.m.

Hunt said he showed up on the south side of the pedestrian bridge, but staff were able to haze him back the way he came and move him slowly westward under the vehicle bridge and out behind the horse corrals.

“Certainly he’s a big male bear and he doesn’t worry too much about anything,” he said. “He was fairly reluctant to be hazed.”

Bear 136 has an interesting history.

He possibly killed, but definitely ate, a black bear in the remote Mystic Pass area of Banff in 2015. In 2014, it was suspected he killed cubs belonging to bear 130, whose home range includes an area from Banff to Castle Mountain, as well as bear 138 in the Lake Louise and Skoki region.

That same year, 136 and the Bow Valley’s dominant male bear, known as 122 and nicknamed The Boss, also forced temporary closure of Vermilion Lakes Road during breeding season. Because the two big bears were on the road – which was busy with vehicles, bikers and hikers – at the same time, Parks Canada didn’t want anyone in the vicinity if they got into a fight over a female bear.

Split Lip also caused some anxious moments last August. While he wasn’t aggressive, he wasn’t interested in moving away and continued to move along the trail at Johnston Canyon despite about 20 hikers heading in his direction.

After he was hazed out of the Banff townsite last Friday, he was later captured in a bear trap intended for female bear 148 sometime Sunday evening. Parks took the opportunity to put a GPS collar on him.

“Because of his history and his recent foray into town, it makes sense we have a collar on him,” said Hunt.

http://www.rmoutlook.com/article/Bad-news-for-Banff-bears-20170601

Bears, chickens a lethal mix, conservation officer says

by Lori Garrison Friday May 26, 2017

This bear was killed by conservation officers in Hidden Valley May 19 after entering a pen and killing a goat. Another bear was shot by a property owner after it raided chicken coops.

Six bears have been killed in the Whitehorse area in recent weeks after coming into conflict with humans.

Two of the most recent kills — one on May 19 in Hidden Valley and one in Mount Lorne on May 22 — involved bears attracted to livestock, said conservation officer Ken Knutson.

The Hidden Valley bear entered a pen containing two goats, one of which was killed, before the bear was “destroyed for safety reasons” by conservation officers, said Knutson.

The Mount Lorne bear was lawfully shot by a property owner after it raided three other chicken coops in the area, said Knutson. The property owner lost 15 chickens.

Chickens are particularly tempting to bears, Knutson said, because they are high in fat and calories. Once a bear gets a taste for chicken it is very hard to deter them in the future which can be a death sentence for the animal, he said.

“I often say, ‘chickens kill bears,’” Knutson said. “We’ve destroyed many bears over the last five years over chickens. We have yet to see an instance of a bear that has gotten into chickens and doesn’t come back.”

The best way to protect chickens and other livestock from bears — and bears from being shot for eating chickens and livestock — is to use electric fencing, said Knutson.

“A shock from a fence is a deterrent, it’s not a very comfortable feeling … you don’t want to do it again,” he said.

It’s the responsibility of people to try to deter animals from entering their property in search of food, said Knutson. Livestock should be secure and people should take steps to manage bear attractants such as garbage or unlocked outdoor freezers.

“Just because you haven’t had a problem doesn’t mean you won’t,” he said. “No one is immune to bears.”

The number of bear interactions and bear kills from previous years in the Whitehorse area were not readily available for comparison.

Bear-human conflicts can occur at anytime outside of the animal’s hibernation period, Knutson said.

Bear sightings were reported earlier in the month along the Riverdale trail, a popular hiking area within city limits, although those bears — a sow and cubs — haven’t been seen recently Knutson said.

“We haven’t had any calls about that sow in a while — she’s being a good mama and keeping her cubs away from people,” he said.

People can report bear sightings or problem animals to Environment Yukon at 1-800-661-0525.

The department is also currently running a survey on grizzly bear management and conservation. The online survey closes May 27.

“We’re hoping a lot of Yukoners will contribute to it,” Knutson said.

Contact Lori Garrison at lori.garrison@yukon-news.com

Climate change playing a role in growing list of species at risk

‘The North is one of the areas facing the greatest potential risk from climate change,’ officials say

By Nicole Riva, CBC News <http://www.cbc.ca/news/cbc-news-online-news-staff-list-1.1294364> Posted: May 10, 2017 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: May 10, 2017 5:00 AM ET

One herd of the Atlantic walrus is already extinct and two other herds could have the same fate, according to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. <https://i.cbc.ca/1.4107280.1494368091%21/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/16x9_620/atlantic-walrus.jpg>

One herd of the Atlantic walrus is already extinct and two other herds could have the same fate, according to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. (J. Higdon/Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada)

The list of species at risk of extinction in Canada has grown to 751, and the effects of climate change may put those species even more at risk — especially the 62 species in the North.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada recently completed a meeting on at-risk species — which include animals, plants and lichen — adding another five to its list <http://www.cosewic.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=en&n=03E6BEA6-1> , and reassessing the status of several others.

“The North is one of the areas facing the greatest potential risk from climate change, many of these species are already behind the eight ball,” according to committee chair Eric Taylor.

Two species that live in the North that Taylor highlighted are the Atlantic walrus and eastern migratory caribou, both of which reside in the North and have had “significant changes” in their populations.

“Particularly the caribou,” Taylor told CBC News. “Part one of the large herds, the George River herd, that one had a precipitous decline up to about 99 per cent over three generations.”

The Eastern migration caribou, has seen a 99 per cent decline in its population in three generations, the committee reports. (Submitted by Katrina Noel)

The massive decline is partly from hunting and also because of a destruction <http://cbc.ca/1.4038199> of habitat in part because of climate change.

The walrus population in the Atlantic has already lost one herd to extinction, Taylor said, while the two others are listed as special concern, which means if things don’t improve they are also at risk of becoming extinct.

The committee identifies species at risk and advises the Canadian government on what needs to be added to the official list <https://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/sar/index/default_e.cfm> , which brings protective measures and recovery plans, Taylor said, but it all takes a long time.

‘That could take years’

It can take years for a species to land on the official list, he said, which is concerning for species with fast population decline such as the caribou.

“Who knows what’s going to happen in the time it takes to actually consider their listing and design a recovery strategy that could take years,” Taylor said.

He acknowledges that there are many challenges such as resources and Canada’s vast landscape in helping at risk populations, but “we’ve got to get moving.”

“The longer we delay doing something about these plants and animals the greater is the risk that what we do won’t be effective,” he said.

Climate change adds an element of the unknown for the protection of these species, he said.

“Climate change presents sort of a moving target. It’s hard to know what the extent will be and how that might impact our recovery actions right now.”

Another big unknown is how different species will adapt to changes in climate, especially if climate changes or other activities destroy a species’ habitat, Taylor said.

“It’s all intertwined, which adds to the enormous complexity,” he said.

The five newly identified at-risk species, not all of which live in the North, are the Ord’s kangaroo rat, some populations of lake sturgeon, the butternut tree, Harris’s sparrow and shortfin mako sharks.

Harris’s Sparrow <https://i.cbc.ca/1.4107282.1494366195%21/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/original_620/harris-s-sparrow.jpg>

Harris’s Sparrow, a northern songbird breeding only in Canada, was among the new species added to the committee’s list. (G. Romanchuk/Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada)

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/cosewic-climate-change-at-risk-species-1.4107238

Yukon looks to preserve and manage grizzly bear population 

‘There’s been many places where grizzly bears have gone extinct,’ says biologist Tom Jung

By Paul Tukker, CBC News Posted: May 25, 2017 7:22 PM CT Last Updated: May 25, 2017 7:22 PM CT

‘Even within the Yukon, there are areas where they may be doing better than in other areas. And part of the plan is trying to look at ways that we can monitor the situation,’ said government biologist Tom Jung. (Government of Yukon)

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Grizzly bears are generally doing “quite well” in Yukon, according to government biologist Tom Jung — and wildlife officials are aiming to keep it that way.

The territorial government is developing a conservation and management plan for the species, and it’s asking Yukoners to weigh in on what that plan might look like.

The goal, Jung says, is to ensure that Yukon’s grizzlies don’t go the way of their cousins down south.

“Their populations often decline, and there’s been many places where grizzly bears have gone extinct — a lot of the lower 48 [states] for example, some of the prairies provinces,” he said.

The goal, Jung says, is to ensure that Yukon’s grizzlies don’t go the way of their cousins down south. ‘Their populations often decline,’ he said. (Mike Rudyk)

“So, the writing’s on the wall that this is a species that if we’re not careful … we could be in that situation.”

The plan would apply only to grizzlies, not black bears which are also common in Yukon.

Grizzly bears once ranged as far east as the Mississippi River, and as far south as central Mexico. Today, it’s considered a threatened species in much of the U.S., and the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) lists Western grizzlies as a species of special concern. The prairie population is considered extinct in Canada.

2013 status report by COSEWIC estimated there were about 26,000 grizzly bears in Western Canada, with the majority of them in B.C. (approximately 15,000). Yukon had an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 grizzlies.

The federal government says loss and fragmentation of habitat is one of the biggest threats to Canada’s grizzly population. A naturally low reproductive rate adds to the population’s vulnerability.

“Even within the Yukon, there are areas where they may be doing better than in other areas. And part of the plan is trying to look at ways that we can monitor the situation,” Jung said.

“So we’re trying to be proactive here.”

A 2013 status report by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) estimated there were about 26,000 grizzlies in Canada, about a quarter of them in Yukon. (Government of Yukon)

Online survey

Environment Yukon, along with the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, is asking Yukoners to fill out an online survey about grizzlies. It asks about people’s experiences hunting the bears, or seeing them in the wild. It also asks opinions about bear conservation and protection.

“Grizzly bears are kind of a species of national interest, and so if there’s going to be a national recovery plan — as it’s a species of special concern — then we want [Yukon’s] plan to be able to inform the national discussion,” said Tecla Van Bussel of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board.

“We’re hoping to hear from folks across the territory … and make sure it’s representative of everyone’s perspectives.”

The survey asks about specific issues, such as roadside hunting and camping restrictions, but Jung said the resultant management plan “may not get down into the weeds”.

“It’s meant to really be a foundation, or framework, piece that we can use to manage bears from, so that when we do hit certain issues that we want to discuss … that we have this piece and we can [look] back and see whether our actions are consistent with our overall management direction.”

The deadline to fill out the online survey is Saturday.

Why won’t the provincial government give injured animals a fighting chance?

http://globalnews.ca/news/3478909/danielle-smith-why-wont-the-provincial-government-give-injured-animals-a-fighting-chance/

Alberta Fish and Wildlife needs to seriously rethink how it manages injured and orphaned wildlife.

Last week, a woman in Sherwood Park had a young moose limp into her yard with a broken ankle. She tried to get Fish and Wildlife out to assess whether it could be rehabilitated and, if not, at least euthanized humanely.

Fish and wildlife did neither, and the homeowner watched in despair over 10 days as the moose slowly got weaker and died. Not exactly what you expect when you call government wildlife officers for help.

Then there is the story of the three bear cubs found in a bathroom in Banff.

READ MORE: Confusion over fate of 3 bear cubs found in Banff bathroom from government, rehab societies

They had to be shipped out to Ontario via BC, after it was revealed Alberta has a policy against releasing rehabilitated bears back into the wild. I guess we should be thankful the bears were found in a federal park. Presumably if mama bear was killed by hunters, or run over on provincial crown land, the official policy would be to just let her cubs starve to death.

I’ve also received several stories from listeners who report widely different responses when they’ve called in injured animal reports, mostly for deer.

READ MORE: Orphaned or injured wildlife

Typically they are told to “let nature run its course,” no matter how cruel that is. If the caller asks if they can put down the animal themselves, they are told no. If they want to call in a rehabilitation centre for help, the centres are forbidden to in most cases, with the threat of losing their permits to operate.

It didn’t always used to be this way. Alberta has seven rehabilitation centres and Clio Smeeton has been involved with operating the Cochrane Ecological Institute for over 50 years. She told me stories of the success they have had in saving and releasing moose and bears back to the wild. But starting in 2010 the rules changed.

WATCH BELOW: Bear encounter in Banff highlights issue of human activity in animal habitat

They are now forbidden from accepting for rescue and release bighorn lambs, mountain goats and pronghorn antelope kids, elk calves, grizzly bears, black bears, wolf fox, coyote cubs, lynx, bobcats, skunks, raccoons and cougar kittens. With all these exclusions, you have to wonder if the government wants to save any distressed wildlife at all.

Considering most animals become orphaned or injured due to human causes, it seems preposterous that these private agencies, who operate with no government funding, wouldn’t be allowed to give these animals a fighting chance to survive.

What can you do to get the government to change its policy? Listen to my full interview with Clio Smeeton to find out.

 

If you want to know know more about reporting injured wildlife in Calgary click here.

 

Proposed wildlife management plans alarm BC’s naturalists

April 13, 2017

Press release from BC Nature – for immediate release

Nature-lovers across BC are expressing concern over a proposed new method for managing wildlife in the province. Speaking on behalf of BC Nature, the federation of naturalist clubs across BC, president Dr. Alan Burger said “Our members are alarmed by recent statements by government ministers indicating that wildlife management might be handed over to an external agency supported by special interest groups, specifically hunters and guide- outfitters”. This model of wildlife management will undoubtedly work against the interests of the vast majority of British Columbians, added Burger.

Recent statements by Ministers Steve Thomson (Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Management) and Bill Bennett (Energy and Mines) suggest that, if the BC Liberals win this election, much wildlife management will be handed over to an independent agency, funded in part by hunting and fishing licences. Both ministers made these statements while flanked by members of the BC Wildlife Federation, the influential hunting and fishing advocacy group. It is well known that BCWF has long been lobbying the government for a greater say in wildlife management, citing the millions of dollars paid in hunting and fishing licences as the reason for greater input.

“This proposal is flawed at several levels” stated Burger. First, the economic argument is false. Hunting and fishing licences are an important source of revenue and BC Nature agrees that there should be a greater share contributed to wildlife management. But, there is much greater input to the BC economy from the non-consumptive users of wildlife – the tourism and wildlife-watching industry, people selling binoculars, camera gear, field guides, outdoor gear etc. and, most importantly, the vast majority of British Columbians that spend money traveling and camping to simply enjoy seeing animals alive in the wild.

BC has not undertaken research recently to investigate the economic benefits of wildlife- watching, but in neighbouring Washington the research shows that wildlife-watching contributes five times the economic benefit ($1.5 billion) that hunting does. A study in 2006 by the US Fish and Wildlife found that over 71 million Americans spent nearly $45 billion on retail sales while observing, feeding or watching wildlife in the US. Canadians are likely to spend even more per capita. Wildlife viewing is a growing business and BC is becoming a world-class destination for this highly sustainable activity.

Second, the proposed method for implementing wildlife management is flawed. There is no doubt that much more money is needed to enhance wildlife and ecosystem management, secure critical habitat and deal with the increasing impacts of industrial and human footprints in our province. Habitat loss, in particular, is a huge issue across many ecosystems in B.C. But this needs to be done by government and not through some external agency, which might be heavily biased towards consumptive users of wildlife. The B.C. Fish and Wildlife Branch and related departments within the provincial government have a long and proud history of serving the people of this province. They haven’t always made the right decisions and their hands are often tied by the political goals of the ruling party, but

they are professional, accountable to the electorate, can bring in expertise and resources from other government departments and outside consultants, and remain independent of powerful lobby-groups like the BCWF. “This new proposal verges on privatization of our wildlife management” said Burger.

Proponents of this new wildlife management plan indicate that it will follow the model of the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC, which currently manages recreational fishing as well as freshwater hatcheries in B.C. “There is a fundamental difference between recreational fishing and terrestrial wildlife management”, continued Burger, who taught wildlife ecology at UVic for many years, “Wildlife, like mammals and birds, is enjoyed for many more reasons and in a much wider range of habitats and locations, than the fish taken by recreational fishing. One cannot equate the two management scenarios”.

Third, the words of the two ministers and the enthusiastic endorsement of the hunting lobby indicates that there is a very real risk of wildlife management in BC being more narrowly focused on big game. This is a retrograde step, because the BC government has been slowly moving towards a more scientifically sound ecosystem-based approach, giving appropriate value to the 99% of organisms that are not game animals. This proposal pulls out one component of our ecosystems (big game) and plans to manage it separately. Nature is not compartmentalized. We cannot manage one aspect of the system in isolation.

Finally, it appears that only the hunting-fishing lobby was consulted on this proposal. The ministers’ announcements came as a complete surprise to BC Nature. There is also no evidence that the tourism and wildlife-watching industries, First Nations or the general wildlife-enjoying public was consulted.

People who enjoy viewing wildlife and who endorse a broad ecological approach to managing our province will be watching closely to see where this proposal goes. “It will be good to see wildlife management become an election issue” concluded Burger, “It has been a neglected topic by all major political parties for too long. But this new proposal by the current government is clearly not in the interests of the BC public and seems to serve only a narrow interest-group”.

For further information contact:

Alan Burger – president BC Nature (Federation of BC Naturalists)

Canadians Killed More Than 750 Million Animals For Food in 2015

 

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Slaughter reports from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada reveal that we killed at least 750,409,569 land animals for food in 2015.This is an increase from previous years, mostly due to an increase in the number of chickens killed. In recent years, we’ve killed roughly 620 million chickens each year. This number jumped to 640 million in 2014 and 660 million in 2015.

Here are the total number of animals slaughtered in Canada in 2015 by species:

Meat chickens: 660,959,987

Egg-layer hens: 36,526,578

Turkeys: 21,477,602

Ducks and geese: 5,989,919

Pigs: 21,186,243

Adult cows: 2,672,806

Calves: 225,530

Sheeps and lambs: 557,851

Goats: 61,048

Bisons: 14,186

Rabbits: 669,873

Horses: 67,946

These numbers don’t include:

  • More than 90 million tonnes of fin fishes like salmons (they are only counted by weight) killed in Canadian fish farms.
  • Tens of millions of male chicks killed at birth in the egg industry.
  • Millions of animals who died of disease or injuries on farms or en route to slaughter.
  • Thousands of deers, elks, and wild boars killed in Canadian slaughterhouses for which 2015 data is not available.

Photo: Louise Jorgensen, taken outside a chicken slaughterhouse in Toronto.

Grizzly bear that approached hikers in Banff won’t be relocated: Parks Canada

© 2017 Global News

Parks Canada says they will not be relocating a grizzly bear that approached three people in Banff National Park over the weekend.

The three hikers were on the Cascade Trail near Mount Norquay when they were chased by a female grizzly — known as Bear 148.

READ MORE: Grizzly crossing: grizzly bear stops traffic in Kananaskis

“I was terrified, that’s for sure,” Kenzie Campbell said Tuesday, remembering the encounter.

“We just ran up on a bear — we were about 20 feet away and we walked away, but the bear comes charging, comes closer to us.”

The hikers’ dog, Momo, is being hailed with saving their lives, after she chased away the bear.

“[Momo] actually chased the bear away from us and then came back to us,” Campbell said. “I know that’s not usually how it’s supposed to go with grizzly bears, but it worked in this case.”

WATCH: Parks Canada will not relocate grizzly that charged three people and dog in Banff – Gary Bobrovitz reports

 Parks Canada says the six-and-a-half-year-old bear has had hundreds of encounters with humans in the park, all without serious consequences, therefore, she won’t be relocated.

“She will do bluff charges to protect her space or indicate she needs some room, then she typically wanders off or heads off in the other direction,” said Bill Hunt, from Parks Canada.

READ MORE: ‘It’s an experience you hope nobody has’: Grizzly encounter in Banff prompts bear warning

Parks Canada says this encounter doesn’t warrant a warning, because “she moved through the area,” and nothing is tying her to the particular location.

The hikers say the bear followed them to the parking lot from the trail they’d been hiking on, leading them to get into a Parks Canada truck to be safe.

The hikers took video while sitting in the Parks Canada truck, and in it the grizzly can be seen strutting back into the woods nearby.

“That bear just chased us!” they can be heard saying. “That bear just chased us through the woods. We’re in a Parks Canada truck right now.

“And this little dog right here, saved our life!”

They say Momo was on a leash while they were hiking, which is required by Parks Canada, but they took her off the leash when the bear continued to approach them.

Last month, Parks Canada issued a warning after a grizzly bear followed a woman kick-sledding with her two dogs in Canmore.

Parks Canada recommends you always travel in groups in the mountain parks, and that you carry bear spray.

— With files from Global’s Gary Bobrovitz

Why did the Crown waste resources prosecuting woman who gave water to pigs?

Animal rights activist Anita Krajnc gives water to a pig in a truck

Christie Blatchford: Why did the Crown waste resources prosecuting woman who gave water to pigs?

by Christie Blatchford

These days, you can hardly pick up a paper or click on a news site without reading another story about the woes of the Canadian criminal courts.

They’re chronically short of judges! There aren’t enough Crown prosecutors! Legal aid is a mess and no one qualifies to get a lawyer any more! The buildings are old and crumbling!

And delay: Such a hue and cry about delay in the courts.

Since about six months ago, when in a case called R v Jordan the Supreme Court of Canada pronounced upon the unacceptable length of time it takes to get a case to trial in this country, and blamed what it called “a culture of complacency,” knickers have been in a knot across the land.

Defence lawyers are pressing to have charges against their clients dismissed because of egregious delay, years sometimes. Prosecutors say no, wait a minute – we’re doing our best here with limited resources. Judges are all over the map, here throwing out cases, there throwing up their hands. There is wild talk of such drastic measures as doing away with preliminary hearings.

Halton Region, west of Toronto, is no different, and maybe worse.

A simple Google search reveals that for the past five years, there’s been a steady drumbeat of whingeing emanating from the bar and the judiciary in the area, particularly about the “unmitigated disaster” that is the Milton courthouse, as one local lawyer has called it.

Area judges have taken judicial notice of the situation, meaning they’ve worked criticism of government into their decisions.

“Let the ministries that fund and operate the various arms of our court system be forewarned,” Ontario Court Judge Stephen Brown said in a March 8, 2012 decision in which he tossed a case of impaired driving. “Failure to increase judicial and physical resources to match the growing population will quite possibly result in a floor of delay applications being granted.”

Seven months later, Brown was at it again: “Because of the chronic persistent and growing demands on the limited resources in Halton Region, we are slipping further into a crisis situation where the lack of allocation of government resources by way of an increase in judicial resources and a proper physical plant and infrastructure to deal with the explosive growth in this region is leading to a breaking point.”

So the point is made, and undoubtedly legitimate: There’s no time or resources to waste in the justice system.

It’s in this light that the trial of animal rights activist Anita Krajnc might be considered.

On June 22 two years ago, Krajnc and other activists on a traffic island took advantage of a stopped tractor trailer (it was stopped at a red light) to talk to and pet the 190 pigs inside being taken to a nearby slaughterhouse in Burlington.

As a short video that was played at trial shows, the pigs were clearly thirsty and some of them were panting, and breathing open-mouthed.

Krajnc began giving some of them water.

The truck driver got out of the vehicle, approached her and asked what she was doing, told her to stop, and then phoned 911. He later went to the local police station to file a complaint, and Krajnc was charged.

(In the interests of full disclosure, let it be known that I have a white-and-pink English bull terrier, aka “a pig dog”, so named for its magnificent resemblance to a pig – big pig ears, piggy sort of snout and body, sort of dogs in pig skin. Balancing off that bias, I eat bacon, or at least I did until I read the expert report of Dr. Lori Marino, a neuroscientist who testified at trial. Her evidence was that in fact pigs are dog-like, every bit as sentient and capable of feelings as dogs are. They are also ridiculously cute, but that’s just my view.)

In any case, however one sees Krajnc’s cause, the fact is that the overburdened and impoverished justice system nonetheless allowed this prosecution not only to proceed, but also to eat up seven full days of court time, and all the public resources that entails – seven days of salary for the judge and prosecutor Harutyun Apel, court officials and security officers, court reporter and clerk, etc.

Blessedly, both for Krajnc and the taxpayer, she was represented pro bono by lawyers Gary Grill and James Silver.

Prosecutors had offered to settle the case with a peace bond, Grill said in a phone interview, but that was hardly reasonable given “she believes she’s done absolutely nothing wrong” and also recognized a PR and public education opportunity when she sees one.

A request for comment to prosecutor Apel Thursday resulted in a referral to the spokesperson for the attorney general’s ministry, who at first referred the query to the agriculture ministry, but when pressed – this is an issue which is clearly within the AG’s bailiwick — then declined to comment until the appeal period is over.

The government is considering an appeal? What, insufficient public funds haven’t yet been squandered?

As Gary Grill said, “There’s definitely real money being spent on this. Nobody in Milton can ever say they don’t have the resources.” Amen.

My Trip to the Ice: Visiting Baby Harp Seals with Sea Shepherd

http://www.animaljustice.ca/blog/my-trip-to-the-ice-visiting-baby-harp-seals-with-sea-shepherd/

By Camille Labchuk, Executive Director

The commercial seal slaughter has long been a bloody stain on Canada’s reputation. Every spring, the Canadian government lets sealers club, shoot, and skin baby seals in Atlantic Canada—most of them only a few weeks or months old—simply so their fur can be turned into luxury products for foreign markets.

I was pleased to team up this year with our friends at the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society as a crew member for Operation Ice Watch 2017. Sea Shepherd and its founder Paul Watson have been fighting to save seals for over 40 years. On this trip our mission was to visit seals on the ice with Hollywood actress Michelle Rodriguez, and remind the world to keep pressuring Canada to end the bloody slaughter of baby seals.

The seal slaughter has always been devastating to me. I grew up in Prince Edward Island—not far from where the killing takes place—and I can still remember the shock and sadness I felt as a child when I first saw footage of gentle baby seals seals being chased and clubbed by sealers.

Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to meet harp seals in their icy nursery. Spending time with these creatures is an incredible experience, but meeting them makes it even more heartbreaking to return to the ice a few short weeks later when sealing season opened. Working with Humane Society International/Canada, I’ve helped document the slaughter, expose its cruelty to people around the world, and push other countries to ban seal product imports. Fighting to save seals helped inspire me to become a lawyer and use the law as tool to protect animals.

© Bernard Sidler

Ten years after my first visit to the ice, I returned. On our first day the Sea Shepherd team took off from the Charlottetown airport and flew out to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, hoping to find the seal nursery. Searching for seals is akin to finding a needle in a haystack. The Gulf is around 155,000 square kilometres, and spotting a patch of seals that may be only a few kilometres wide can sometimes feel impossible.

But as I looked down from the helicopter, not only did I not see seals, I didn’t even see any ice. I saw large expanses of dark, open water instead of the solid, packed sea ice that should be there at that time of year. Harp seals are an ice-dependent species; they need thick sea ice to give birth to their babies on, nurse them, and let them learn to swim and fish on their own. If mother seals can’t find enough ice to give birth on, or if it melts from underneath them, seal pups will drown.

Camille Labchuk, Yana Watson, Brigitte Breau, Clementine Palanca. © Bernard Sidler

After hours of flying, we finally found a small patch of packed ice and a harp seal nursery with only a few thousand seals—a far cry from the tens of thousands we expected. We landed on the ice and stepped out into the icy wonderland in the midst of hundreds of baby whitecoat seals—newborn animals who were still nursing their mothers.

Whitecoat harp seal. © Camille Labchuk

No matter how many times I visit seals, it always feels magical. Baby seals are incredibly trusting; they have never seen humans before and don’t fear us. They look up with black, liquid eyes, make soft noises, and if you lay still on the ice they may even come up to have a closer look. It’s especially incredible to watch them doze in the sun, warm in their thick fur.

Beater seal. © Camille Labchuk

We also saw a few “beater” seals—still babies, but slightly older as they have shed their white fur in favour of a silvery, spotted coat. (They’re called beaters because they beat their flippers in the water while learning to swim.) Whitecoats are protected from being killed, but once they begin to moult at only a few weeks of age and become beaters, they will be clubbed and shot. Their silver, spotted fur is what sealers are after.

On our second day, we returned to the area where the nursery had been only to find the solid ice was broken up by warmer weather and strong storm winds. After hours of zigzagging back and forth in search of the nursery, we feared the worst—that the babies drowned when the ice smashed and melted beneath them.

On our third and final day, we cheered after finally spotted a small scattering of seals, but the ice was still broken and thin. The helicopters couldn’t land on the precarious ice pans, so they dropped us off and hovered nearby. Our worst fears were confirmed—the larger patch of seals we saw on the first day was still nowhere to be found, suggesting they likely perished in the melting and broken ice.

Sealing, 2009, © Camille Labchuk

Harp seals have endured centuries of being clubbed and shot to death for their fur, but now they’re also facing global warming, which is literally melting their habitat out from underneath them. Sea ice has declined drastically over the past few decades, yet even with so many drowned seal pups, the Canadian government opened the hunt up early. It’s heartbreaking to think of the peace and beauty of the harp seal nursery being shattered by industrial sealing boats, gunfire, and hakapiks, with the baby seals bloodied and dead.

The good news is that dozens of countries around the world, including the entire European Union, have closed their borders to products of the cruel commercial seal slaughter. With markets shrinking, pelt prices are lower and fewer seals are being killed.

The seal hunt is an outdated, dying industry that is being kept on artificial life support by massive cash subsidies from taxpayers—even though most Canadians oppose commercial sealing. Please ask Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to end the East Coast seal hunt, buy back sealing licenses, and support humane ecotourism instead of brutal seal killing.