Inuit hunters challenge sex ratio rule for polar bear harvesting

https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/65674kivalliq_hunters_challenge_sex_ratio_in_nunavut_polar_bear_harv/

By BETH BROWN

Arviat HTO chairperson Thomas Alikasua says polar bears are digging up gravesites in his community. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)

Arviat HTO chairperson Thomas Alikasua says polar bears are digging up gravesites in his community. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)

“What’s more valuable, a cabin, a snowmobile, or a human life?” Kivalliq Wildlife Board Vice-Chair Richard Aksawnee asks during polar bear management hearings in Iqaluit on Thursday, Nov. 15. The KWB wants public safety to be a priority in polar bear management, following the death of a man in Arviat and one in Naujaat this summer. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)

“What’s more valuable, a cabin, a snowmobile, or a human life?” Kivalliq Wildlife Board Vice-Chair Richard Aksawnee asks during polar bear management hearings in Iqaluit on Thursday, Nov. 15. The KWB wants public safety to be a priority in polar bear management, following the death of a man in Arviat and one in Naujaat this summer. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)

Inuit hunters should not be penalized for killing more female polar bears than allowed under Nunavut’s current harvesting system, the Kivalliq Wildlife Board says.

The board wants to see a five-year ban on penalties that are currently applied when Inuit hunters exceed a ratio of two males for every one female.

That’s according to a written submission sent on Oct. 12 to the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, giving feedback on the Government of Nunavut’s latest draft plan for polar bear management.

If approved by the NWMB, the new plan would replace an existing polar bear management strategy in Nunavut that predates the territory.

KWB vice chair Richard Aksawnee of Baker Lake presented that submission on Thursday, Nov. 15, the third day of a four-day hearing attended by wildlife delegates from each community in Nunavut.

In giving his submission, Aksawnee asked Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. for advice on how Nunavut hunters and trappers organizations could take legal action under the Nunavut Agreement when Inuit hunting rights are violated.

“It is the HTOs’ mandate to represent the interests of Inuit hunters and their hunting rights,” Aksawnee said. “It is extremely important that Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit be more integrated.”

The KWB is suggesting that after five years without penalties, the GN could then do a conservation review to see how male and female populations are affected.

“After five years, a harvesting analysis and population survey can be done to determine what ratio of males and females were actually caught during the time period and evaluate the impact on the overall [Western Hudson Bay Polar Bear] population to determine whether severe penalizations for overharvesting females need to be reinstated,” reads the KWB submission.

If eliminating penalties on the male-female sex ratio for harvested polar bears cannot be agreed to, then the KWB says it is open to talking about other ideas—as long as those options focus on Inuit knowledge and prioritize public safety.

The hearing comes following two polar bear-related deaths in the Kivalliq region this summer, one in Arviat and one in Naujaat.

“These tragic events led to public outcries about the dangers presented by polar bears and have tested community members’ limits with how polar bear management currently is practiced,” the KWB wrote.

Given this, the KWB is also asking for a more robust polar bear-deterrent program and for conservation officers in every community.

Aksawnee echoed the concerns of other delegates who said the government isn’t treating polar bear management as a life or death scenario.

“We at the KWB, we cannot understand why the government is willing to compensate for property damage, and not a human life,” Aksawnee said. “What’s more valuable, a cabin, a snowmobile, or a human life?”

The GN currently has a program where residents can apply for funding when property is damaged by wildlife. The Workers Safety and Compensation Board does compensate active harvesters injured while hunting, and families of harvesters fatally injured in their work, a GN lawyer said.

The NWMB suggested that a full information package about this program be circulated to community HTOs in Nunavut.

There are 38 polar bear tags for the Kivalliq region now, after Nunavut’s Minister of Environment added four tags to the Western Hudson Bay subpopulation quota this summer.

The Arviat HTO is asking that tags be increased again under the current management system—where defence kills count as one tag, and a female killed outside the allowable sex ratio could count as two tags.

“The polar bears are digging up graves. This is too much,” Arviat HTO chairperson Thomas Alikasua said.

Wildlife monitors in the community see polar bears every day, he added.

As a former Arviat resident, NWMB chairperson, a former Nunavut MLA and cabinet minister, Dan Shewchuk said, “It’s scary to live in that community right now.”

A wildlife specialist for the Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board said on Nov. 14 that Inuit hunters are seeing more unhealthy male bears in Nunavut. Those hunters suggest the male population is over-hunted because of the sex ratio, potentially making polar bears more aggressive without the competition and guidance of older more experienced male bears.

Submissions to the NWMB by federal groups and environmental organizations said the GN’s proposed plan for bear management overlooks the impact climate change has on polar bear populations.

“We’re not out to slaughter bears,” said the KWB’s Brian Sigurdson, who is also chair of the Rankin Inlet HTO.

But increased quotas now would mean quota reductions later, said Drikus Gissing, director of wildlife management for the Department of Environment.

“My experience in Nunavut is people don’t like decreasing quotas,” he said.

Wildlife officials in Nunavut are now investigating the illegal killing of four bears near Arviat that followed the summer death of Aaron Gibbons.

As Kivalliq communities share polar bear populations with Manitoba, the KWB is also monitoring a growing northern tourism industry around Churchill that could make polar bears more used to being around humans.

“In Nunavut polar bears are hunted by Inuit. In Manitoba, they are a tourist attraction,” Aksawnee said.

‘Large-bodied’ Canadian wolves to help keep U.S. moose population in check

WolvesWolves are seen in a 2009 handout image on Isle Royale National Park, Michigan. (Michigan Technological University, Rolf O. Peterson)

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, January 30, 2019 4:50PM EST 

The transfer of up to six wolves from a northern Ontario island where they were starving to the U.S. is getting underway following a weeks-long delay caused by the federal government shutdown south of the border.

The small pack, including the alpha male and female, will be moved from Michipicoten Island to Isle Royale National Park, on the U.S. side of Lake Superior, where American officials hope the wolves will help keep the moose population in check.

“We need to get these wolves off the island, otherwise they’ll die,” said Aaron Bumstead, director of lands and economic development with Michipicoten First Nation who is co-ordinating the move with the province’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

Last year, the province and the First Nation used several helicopters to move a total of 15 caribou — a threatened species in Ontario — off Michipicoten Island. Nine of the animals were transferred to the Slate Islands, and the other six to Caribou Island.

They were the last remaining caribou from a once-thriving herd on Michipicoten Island that started with just eight caribou in 1982 and grew to more than 700 by 2013, when four wolves reached the island after making the 15-kilometre trek across an ice bridge that formed on the lake.

There they found a bounty of caribou to feast on. But as the small pack grew to more than a dozen wolves in the following years, their food source — the caribou — all but disappeared. Now the wolves themselves are in danger, said Bumstead.

“We’ve been asking (the ministry) for a plan to remove the wolves from the island since last year,” Bumstead said. “And there still is no plan to remove the ones that don’t get moved to Isle Royale.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Natural Resources said she wouldn’t comment on the wolves’ transfer until the animals were captured and transferred to the U.S.

Bumstead said efforts to capture the wolves on Michipicoten Island were unsuccessful Wednesday. The two wolves they saw wouldn’t come out from under cover, he said, so they’ll try again Thursday.

American officials and researchers with Isle Royale are anxious to receive the Canadian wolves because it will help save the park’s current pack, which dwindled this fall to just a non-breeding father-daughter pair.

The move was slated to occur in early January, but that was shelved because of the U.S. federal government shutdown, said Isle Royale National Park superintendent Phyllis Green.

“The Canadian wolves are robust, large and definitely know how to hunt ungulates since they took that caribou herd down to nothing,” Green said.

There is an overabundance of moose on Isle Royale, and without enough wolves to keep their population in check their numbers will continue to grow, said Rolf Peterson, a research professor at Michigan Technological University who has been studying the wolves and moose on the island for the past 48 years.

His research — the world’s longest running predator-prey study — was also threatened by the U.S. government shutdown. On Friday, just hours before U.S. President Donald Trump temporarily ended the government shutdown, the Isle Royale National Park had secured funding from a non-profit organization to go ahead with its part in the wolves’ transfer from Canada. The funding also allowed it to open the park to researchers to continue the predator-prey study.

“The shutdown jeopardized the integrity of the data and of the entire study itself,” said Peterson, who plans to return to the park as soon as the Canadian wolves are moved.

“These large-bodied Canadian wolves are incredibly important,” he said. “They can help save both the wolf pack and the balsam fir.”

The moose on the island, with a population of about 1,600, have decimated the balsam fir trees on the island.

Twenty-two years ago, a lone wolf, likely from Canada, made its way on an ice bridge onto Isle Royale, Peterson said, and was a wildly successful mate with offspring in every pack and eventually his genes made their way into every single younger generation wolf on the island.

“Then the kill rate of moose by wolves reached a level we hadn’t ever seen before in 50 years. They were killing 20 per cent of the moose every year, which had implications for the forest,” Peterson said.

“We saw forest regeneration we had never seen before.”

But that wolf, dubbed the “Old Grey Guy,” Green said, was so successful that inbreeding became very severe. Eventually the wolf population crashed and bottomed out at two, which is when the park decided it needed outside help. Four wolves were brought in from Minnesota in the fall, but one died of pneumonia a month later.

Green said they knew about the issues facing the wolves on Michipicoten Island and Michigan’s governor at the time, Rick Snyder, reached out to Ontario Premier Doug Ford to ask for “an infusion of Canadian wolves.”

Ford agreed.

“Let’s hope everything goes well with the move,” Bumstead said.

Felix defies the odds; on road to recovery

Jim Moodie The Sudbury Star
An injured cub found on the railway tracks north of Sudbury is now being cared for at the Bear With Us sanctuary in Muskoka. He was initially treated at Wild At Heart in Lively. JIM MOODIE/SUDBURY STAR
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Felix Beartholomew is back on his feet.

The resilient cub, who got that impressive name from his rescuers, is now on the mend at a Muskoka bear sanctuary after being struck by a train north of Sudbury last month.

Found concussed and bleeding on the tracks by rail workers, the bear was initially treated for his injuries at Wild At Heart in Sudbury.

Larry Burkholder of Capreol said he and his partner Joe Nadeau, of Garson, were in a high-rail truck performing maintenance duties on Dec. 9 when they spied the animal.

“We came around the curve and saw something between the rails,” he said. “We stopped about 40 feet away and got out and walked up on it, and there were little balls of snow on it, like marshmallows, so it had been lying there for some time with trains passing right over top.”

The cub wasn’t moving and neither man would have been surprised to find it deceased — not too many animals survive a collision with a train, let alone an extended period of time stuck between the rails — but this was one tough little bear.

As they got closer, “it blinked at us,” said Burkholder. “We looked at each other and it was just, you know, our hearts went out to the poor thing. We had to try to do something.”

The cub had a skull fracture and couldn’t use its legs, so the two scooped him up in a jacket — Burkholder said he weighed less than 20 pounds — and placed him in the back of the truck, although it wasn’t long before he was riding in the cab.

“We drove about four miles with him in the box, but there was no movement from the animal so we brought it inside,” Burkholder said. “We made him a spot on the floor of the backseat with my co-worker’s parka and he was compliant the whole way back.”

They had collected the bear near Felix, a train stop about 200 kilometres north of Sudbury. That provided a good name — or half of a good name, anyway — for the animal, but it was a long haul to get him to Wild At Heart.

The co-workers had to pull aside to let trains pass and then transfer the bear to another truck. In all, the trip took about five hours. En route they called Wild at Heart and kept up a kind of conversation with their passenger.

“We made some noises and he would groan back a little,” said Burkholder. “But he had a severe concussion. As we got closer to Lively he wasn’t making much of a sound, and you could tell his breathing was getting shallower.”

Luckily veterinarian and Wild at Heart director Rod Jouppi was there to help right away, stitching up the bear’s head wound and providing antibiotics and painkillers.

About a week later he had improved enough to be transferred to Bear With Us, a facility near Huntsville that specializes in rehabbing orphaned and injured bears.

Mike McIntosh of Bear With Us said Tuesday the cub has made significant strides.

“He’s coming along quite well and I think he’s going to be fine,” he said. “He’s still a bit disoriented but his motor skills have improved a lot.”

The cub was “very underweight” when he arrived, said McIntosh, but is packing on some pounds now, thanks to a steady diet of raw eggs, yogurt and blueberries.

“It will be a month before he hibernates because he still has to put on weight,” he said. “Once he’s fat enough, he’ll be comfortable, curled up in a mound of straw, but right now he’s still looking for food all the time.”

He doesn’t have to look far for friendship, however, as McIntosh recently installed another cub in the same space with Felix Beartholomew.

“I integrated him a week or so ago with another cub I got from Blind River on Christmas Eve,” he said. “The day after I put them together, they were cuddling up.”

McIntosh said he’s had other bears with head injuries that took longer to recover, so he’s quite optimistic about this one’s chance of leading a normal life and making a return to the wild.

“The credit goes to those two rail employees,” he said. “If they had assumed he was dead, he would be dead. It’s amazing he survived with those trains going over, straddling him — if anything was hanging down, he would be whacked. He’s a lucky cub in more ways than one.”

Burkholder said he’s just glad he and Nadeau were able to act before it was too late.

“If the ravens had got on it, the eyes would be gone and it would have been a different story,” he said. “So we were lucky there.”

Starvation would have kicked in, too, if a train hurtling over its head hadn’t struck sooner.

“That’s what really gets me,” he said. “Some trains are 10,000 feet long, and with this poor thing inches away, who knows how close it was to being finished off. But luck was with it.”

Burkholder said he and Nadeau named the bear because it was such a unique experience, and they were moved by its ability to hang on and beat the odds.

They are still following his progress, too, through updates from Wild At Heart and Bear With Us.

“Sometimes you don’t have to be with something very long to get a bond,” he said.

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

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

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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:

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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

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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