Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

Help was fortunately close at hand for a humpback whale that found itself entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off Nanaimo yesterday.

Paul Cottrell, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Marine Mammal Response Program coordinator, said fisheries officers happened to be working just off Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10, following up on reports of suspected whale entanglements, when an emergency call came in from a commercial fishing vessel just five minutes away that had discovered an adult humpback whale entangled in its prawn trap line.

Cottrell was linked in to the call and advised crews at the scene to stay back and monitor the situation.

The animal, an adult estimated at about 12 metres long, had become so entangled it was anchored in place, possibly for as long as 24 hours, when it was discovered.

“It was a 50-string trap line with anchors on either end on 3,000 feet of rope, so there was a lot of gear that was holding this guy down, a lot of weight,” Cottrell said.

The marine mammal response boat and team rushed to the scene from the mainland and started assessing the situation with an aerial drone and remote-control submersibles. The commercial fisher provided information about the equipment that ensnared the whale.

“We don’t go in and cut things until we know exactly the gear configuration because you can make things worse if you cut the wrong line and also it can hurt the animal, so we took our time,” Cottrell said.

The whole operation took about six hours, including about four hours to disentangle the whale, which had the rope wrapped about four times around its tail.

“The rope that’s used is Polysteel. It’s nasty stuff and it’s fairly abrasive and the animal had injuries on the dorsal side, on the dorsal ridge, from I think when it became entangled … and it was just anchored in place,” Cottrell said. “Its tail stock was down and the animal was just breathing, maybe every five to 10 minutes, just holding position and trying to breathe. It was something.”https://blackpress.tv/embed/47852/Rescuers_free_humpback_anchored_down_by_prawn_traps_near_Nanaimo

With the assessment done, Cottrell’s team was able to move in and cut the rope from around the whale’s tail as well as some loose lines and then they watched the animal for about 30 minutes.

“When it was freed … it took it a while to get back the tail fluke movement pattern, so it was slowly moving and we were just making sure all the gear was off,” Cottrell said. “There was one small piece of loose rope that’s left that we’re going to be monitoring, but there’s no tension on it and we believe it’s around the left pectoral fin. So, that’s something we’re going to watch over time, but it’s not considered life-threatening and it was loose, so we’re almost certain it will fall off on its own … By the end of about an hour after it was acting normally again and was moving on. It was fantastic.”

READ ALSO: B.C. getting a second chance to coexist with humpback whales

Cottrell said there are a large number of humpbacks in the area that have returned to the Salish Sea. The whales winter in Mexico and around Hawaii and return to the Salish Sea in the summer to feed on shrimp and other food sources. Last year about 30 whales returned, but a count for this year hasn’t been completed yet.

Humpback populations have been recovering after they were nearly hunted to extinction before whaling was halted in Canada in 1959.

The whale rescued Thursday has not been identified and its sex is unknown. That information will be gathered later with further observations.

“It couldn’t have worked out better,” Cottrell said. “I’m just still so happy.”

READ ALSO: Young killer whale untangles itself from trap line off Nanaimo’s Rocky Point

Georgian Bluffs reminding residents of how to avoid attracting bears

https://www.owensoundsuntimes.com/news/local-news/georgian-bluffs-reminding-residents-of-how-to-avoid-attracting-bears

Author of the article:Rob GowanPublishing date:Jun 03, 2021  •  1 day ago  •  4 minute read  •   Join the conversation

A black bear that made its way into Owen Sound in May 2015.
A black bear that made its way into Owen Sound in May 2015. PHOTO BY SUN TIMES FILES

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Georgian Bluffs is informing its residents about bears after sightings of the animals in the municipality this spring.

The municipality intends to post some information on its website about what people should do when encountering the animals and how to prevent bear encounters. The move comes after the animals were spotted in the municipality in recent days, particularly in the northern areas around Lake Charles, Kemble, Big Bay and beyond.18 best online deals in the Canadian retail space right now about:blankhttps://c5x8i7c7.ssl.hwcdn.net/vplayer-parallel/20210408_1900/videojs/show.html?controls=1&loop=30&autoplay=0&tracker=dd232393-332c-4f91-a9f7-ab0b8af74069&height=300&width=529&vurl=%2F%2Fa.jsrdn.com%2Fvideos%2Fcdgv_nationalpost%2F20210604054241_60b9bb8242865%2Fcdgv_nationalpost_trending_articles_20210604054241_60b9bb8242865_new.mp4&poster=%2F%2Fa.jsrdn.com%2Fvideos%2Fcdgv_nationalpost%2F20210604054241_60b9bb8242865%2Fcdgv_nationalpost_trending_articles_20210604054241_60b9bb8242865_new.jpg

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Clerk Brittany Drury said during Wednesday’s council meeting that staff had reached out to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry about best practices pertaining to bear sightings. They have received some messaging that will be posted on the municipality’s website.

“We see this regularly every spring so we try to do a spring reminders commentary section on our website,” Drury said, adding they hope to have the information posted this week.

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Among the steps people are reminded to take are storing garbage in a bear-proof location until it is time for pickup, cleaning barbecues and grease traps, putting away bird feeders until winter months and keeping pet food indoors.

Mayor Dwight Burley reminded residents in rural areas to place their garbage out or in the bin at the end of their laneway on the day of pickup only.

“A bear tends to want to go where the foodsource is and if there is garbage sitting in their bins for quite a while it will probably attract them,” said Burley.

Council discussed the possibility of signs informing residents of numbers they could call to report bear sightings and damage or in the event of an emergency.

It was suggested that the municipality could include information on its digital signs at its municipal office in Springmount and at the Shallow Lake Community Centre.

On Monday, a bear was also spotted on Owen Sound’s west side. The animal was not acting aggressively and was last seen wandering into the bush area of the escarpment.

The public is reminded that should they see a bear they should not approach it or feed it. Remain calm as the bear is often just passing through and will move on if no food source is found. Pets should be kept inside if a bear is spotted and if personal safety is at risk, 911 should be called.

If a bear slowly approaches, a person is advised to slowly back away, watching the bear. Do not turn and run – make noise, throw rocks or sticks and make yourself appear as big as possible.

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The MNR says bear attacks are rare, however if a bear does attack do not play dead unless you are sure it is a mother bear attacking you in defence of its cubs. Fighting back is the best chance of discouraging a bear from continuing to attack, so use a large stick, a rock, or anything else that you can to deter the bear.

If a bear is wandering around checking garbage or knocking down bird feeders, the public should call the administration line of their local police department or the Bear Wise reporting line at 1-866-514-2327.

More information on what to do if a black bear is encountered and how to prevent such encounters, visit ontario.ca/page/prevent-bear-encounters-bear-wise.

Mama grizzly bear killed on highway in Yoho National Park orphans two cubs

https://www.rmotoday.com/banff/mama-grizzly-bear-killed-on-highway-in-yoho-national-park-orphans-two-cubs-3836288?fbclid=IwAR3wlQPSczNkFAuj1IqXzmBoE37X_OQMoONAhafDJXJyebsB0r4vHX901Zo

The orphaned cubs, a male and a female, were relocated by wildlife specialists into a remote backcountry area within their mother’s traditional home range, which included parts of Banff and Yoho national parks.a day ago By: Cathy Ellis

  • Two yearling grizzly bear cubs have been orphaned following the death of a well-known mama bear on the busy Trans-Canada Highway in Yoho National Park.

Photo by Parks Canada
  • Two yearling grizzly bear cubs have been orphaned following the death of a well-known mama bear on the busy Trans-Canada Highway in Yoho National Park.

Photo by Parks Canada
  • The bear cubs are transported by helicopter to the new location.

Photo by Parks Canada

PreviousNext1 / 3 Two yearling grizzly bear cubs have been orphaned following the death of a well-known mama bear on the busy Trans-Canada Highway in Yoho National Park. Photo by Parks CanadaExpand

Two yearling grizzly bear cubs have been orphaned following the death of a well-known mama bear on the busy Trans-Canada Highway in Yoho National Park.

Photo by Parks Canada
Two yearling grizzly bear cubs have been orphaned following the death of a well-known mama bear on the busy Trans-Canada Highway in Yoho National Park.

Photo by Parks Canada
The bear cubs are transported by helicopter to the new location.

Photo by Parks Canada

FIELD – Two yearling grizzly bear cubs have been orphaned following the death of a well-known mama bear on the busy Trans-Canada Highway in Yoho National Park.

Female grizzly bear No. 156, who produced two litters of cubs in her nine years of life, was struck by a car on the highway about one kilometre east of Field at 2 a.m. on Saturday (May 29).

The cubs, a male and a female, were relocated by wildlife specialists into a remote backcountry area within their mother’s traditional home range, which included parts of Banff and Yoho national parks.

Parks Canada wildlife experts say they wanted to give the one-and-a-half-year-old cubs every possible opportunity to remain in the wild, adding the young bruins were continuing to hang around the collision site on the weekend.

“There was a very high risk that they were going to get struck and killed as well,” said Jon Stuart-Smith, a human-wildlife management specialist for Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay.

A team of trained wildlife responders and experts assess individual situations and respond with management interventions aimed at the best possible outcomes for wildlife.

Previous research has indicated cubs in this region, on average, typically stay with their mothers for about four years. However, previous experience has shown one-and-a-half-year-old cubs have survived on their own in this area.

In 2011, two other cubs the same age were orphaned when their mother was struck by a train on the Canadian Pacific Railway line.  One of the cubs survived four years before getting run over on the Trans-Canada Highway in Yoho in 2015. The male bruin sustained serious injuries and had to be euthanized on site.

Stuart-Smith gives bear No. 156’s cubs a greater than 30 per cent chance of making it on their own.

“There is precedent that they can survive on their own at this stage of their life,” he said.

“Every year the chances of surviving into adulthood get greater and greater.”

The siblings’ chances of beating the odds also get better if they stay together. They can forage for food together and be vigilant and on the look-out for predators.

“Siblings together often have a higher survival rate than when they’re on their own,” Stuart-Smith said.

The cubs weighed about 50 pounds, which is on the low side, but otherwise appeared healthy.

After the wildlife specialists handled them and put ear tags in each of them for future identification, the cubs were flown by helicopter to the release site.

“They were doing well and we let them go,” said Stuart-Smith said.

The bears are too little for GPS collars, which track where the animals travel. As bears grow quickly at this age, any collar would have had to come off in short order.

“Although it would have been very important information to get, we wanted to put their well-being and their chance of survival as the first priority,” Stuart-Smith said.

The biggest risk to the young bears is a large male grizzly bear predating upon them. Adult male bears are known to kill cubs that are not theirs – and it’s the mother that typically defends them.

The other great risk is if the cubs return at some point to the deadly stretch of highway where their mother was killed in search of the easy-to-get roadside dandelions and vegetation.

Stuart-Smith said although there were limited relocation options because of snow in the high country, the bears were taken to an area with natural foraging opportunities.

He said he’s optimistic the cubs will find enough nutrition to sustain themselves through summer and fall in order to den up and make it through the winter with enough reserves to come out in the spring.

“Getting them away from the highway was important for us, but now it’s just a matter of them figuring out how to survive and feed themselves,” said Stuart-Smith.

“We’re hoping the conditions that we found for them are enough to keep them there and away from human habituation and the highway where they would have a higher risk of being struck or getting into trouble.”

Bear 156 spent most of her life in the backcountry, but historically brought her cubs down to the valley bottom by the Trans-Canada Highway for a few weeks each spring to feed on roadside green-up.

It is hoped No. 156’s cubs have learned the lessons she has taught them, including following the green-up as snow melts and feeding on natural food sources previously shown to them.

“She would spend most of her time in the backcountry in Banff and Yoho, and amazingly enough, not really run into anybody back there,” Stuart-Smith said.https://9033353bdaee190a7d5260c5f8e269d9.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

“She probably would have moved them on to other habitat shortly, so it’s quite unfortunate she was struck at this time.”

Bear No. 156 was captured and fitted with a GPS collar as part of the joint Parks Canada-Canadian Pacific Railway five-year study on ways to reduce bear mortality on the train tracks.

This is her second litter of cubs. Her previous litter of two, which includes a rare white grizzly bear, has been spotted again this spring. Those bears are now in their fifth year.

“We have seen them periodically and thankfully most visitors have been respectful of their space,” Stuart-Smith said.

“Hopefully they continue to make a living and go on to produce offspring themselves as well.”

Parks Canada urges motorists to consider not stopping when they see bears by the side of the road if it is unsafe, but to stay in their vehicles if they do decide to pull over.

Following the death of bear No. 156, motorists are also reminded to observe speed limits and to drive with extra caution in the early morning and evening hours when wildlife are most active.

“These are really important things in order to avoid tragic incidents like this,” Stuart-Smith said.

Please report all wildlife sightings on the roads or any wildlife incidents to Parks Canada dispatch at 403-762-1470.

‘It’s bizarre’: Almost two dozen seals found decapitated along Nova Scotia beaches

https://nationalpost.com/news/its-bizarre-almost-two-dozen-seals-found-decapitated-along-nova-scotia-beaches

‘I was in disbelief … I’ve never seen anything like it’Author of the article:Samantha PopePublishing date:Apr 16, 2021  •  1 day ago  •  4 minute read  •   71 Comments

Kimberly Hayman said she hopes an investigation will get to the bottom of what happened to the headless seals she found along the shores of two local beaches.
Kimberly Hayman said she hopes an investigation will get to the bottom of what happened to the headless seals she found along the shores of two local beaches. PHOTO BY KIMBERLY HAYMAN

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A Cape Breton resident has made a disturbing discovery: Almost two dozen decapitated seals dotting the shores of two beaches.

“I was in disbelief … I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Kimberly Hayman, who’s lived in Dominion, Nova Scotia for three years. “I don’t like to see any animals suffer. I was just really disturbed.”

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While on a midday stroll along Big Glace Bay’s shoreline on Sunday, Hayman said she and some friends were startled to find 10 headless seals — all with holes in their torsos — sprawled along the pebbly beach. There was no odour and the bodies still looked pretty fresh, she said, with dogs curiously running over to investigate.

Though she said she felt upset by the sight, she didn’t think much else of it. Then the next day, while out on her usual sunrise walk along nearby Dominion Beach, Hayman said she counted 11 more of these decapitated animals and began to wonder what was going on.  

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“I just kept taking pictures because I was thinking, ‘This can’t be normal — that’s 21 in total,’” she said.  

Twenty-one decapitated seals were found along the shores of two Cape Breton beaches, all with a “hole in their torso,” Hayman said.
Twenty-one decapitated seals were found along the shores of two Cape Breton beaches, all with a “hole in their torso,” Hayman said. PHOTO BY KIMBERLY HAYMAN

Fisheries and Oceans Canada confirmed it is aware of the headless seals, though it said Nova Scotia’s Marine Animal Response Society (MARS) is taking the lead on the situation. It’s a familiar incident to the group, as several hundred dead seals were also found washed up near Cape Breton and Sambro shores in April last year. 

In that case, the society’s response co-ordinator told CBC News it didn’t appear like the seals were killed as part of the seal hunt, as their skulls were intact and had not been crushed. This time around, Hayman said she saw no skulls nearby.

Similar issues have also persisted on the west coast of Canada, with headless sea lions found along British Columbia shores instead of seals. Last June, marine mammal zoologist Dr. Anna Hall said she believed decapitated sea lions along eastern Vancouver Island shores were deliberately beheaded by humans, with one incident being filmed on camera.

As for what’s happening on Nova Scotia beaches, Hall said she believes a similar crime may be happening. There appears to be consistencies among the carcasses, she said, reminding her of what she saw last summer on Vancouver Island.

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“The carcasses have a distinct similarity to them,” she said. “While we can’t say definitely that the seals on the east coast have been decapitated by human efforts, it does seem that is a distinct possibility looking at the photographs.”

However, MARS’s executive director and marine mammal biologist Tonya Wimmer said it appears to be a natural occurrence that happens every year to varying degrees, especially when sea ice has not been particularly thick or prevalent.

Though she hasn’t received images of all the seals yet, Wimmer said the holes don’t appear to be man-made, despite people assuming they have been caused by gunshots or other human-related trauma.

“From the images and information we’ve received, many of the holes are where the umbilicus would have been and is likely scavenging by other animals,” she said, explaining how it’s quite common for scavengers to target the area around the belly button, genitals or eyes.

Though there have been different theories about what happened, including that seal heads are being crushed by moving ice, Wimmer said she can’t say for certainty that’s what’s happening this time around.

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“The cause remains unknown,” she said. “(But) for the majority of animals we’ve examined during the incidents we’ve documented, it doesn’t appear to be due to human interactions.”

Hall said she doubts sea ice is to blame.

“I would be very surprised that this many seals would be decapitated by sea ice,” she said. “I’ve never heard of that before. That being said, I’m in Pacific Canada where we don’t have that issue.”

Either way, Hall said it’s disturbing to see that many decapitated seals in one localized region — which she said is cause for suspicion. While she said it could also be a result of shark predation, she said she still believes there might be something more to it.

“The sheer number of animals discovered within such a short time frame — 21 animals in three days — suggests that there is a possibility that those numbers could actually be higher,” she said. “It seems more likely that there is a human element to this, and I would really hope that DFO will take the appropriate steps to determine definitively what the cause of death of these animals were.”

For Hayman, she said coming across these seals was quite an unsettling experience, especially not knowing for sure what happened to them. She added she would hate to see it happen each year.

“I just feel like if this isn’t happening naturally, then what the heck is happening?” Hayman said. “To me, it’s bizarre.”

Raccoon caught in trap in West Vancouver prompts renewed calls for change

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Trapping legislation outdated, according to The Fur-BearersMar 18, 2021 3:43 PM By: Ben Bengtson

egg trap pic (Wendy Roberts)A raccoon was discovered with a trap around its front paw in West Vancouver on March 15.Wendy RobertsWildlife advocates are once again asking for B.C.’s trapping rules to be overhauled after a raccoon was caught in a trap earlier this week and was forced to crawl in pain for an unknown amount of time, eventually landing on a deck in West Vancouver.

Wendy Roberts, who lives with her family in West Van’s Bayridge neighbourhood, says she and her husband overheard an unusual rattling sound on their back deck at around 10 p.m. Monday. “It did sound odd,” she said.

They found the raccoon with its front paw ensnared in a cylindrical holding trap. The raccoon had apparently got caught in the trap and dragged itself onto their property, according to Roberts.

“There was a chain attached to the trap where you would secure it to the ground,” she noted.

Roberts called the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, which dispatched an officer from Squamish to West Vancouver at 10:30 p.m.

By the time the officer arrived, the raccoon had climbed onto a small treehouse in the family’s yard, and the chain had become stuck in the wooden structure, holding the animal in place.

The conservation officer was able to release the critter from the trap and determine that its injuries were non-life threatening before releasing it back into the wild. Roberts commended the COS for their late-night effort.

While it’s illegal to set a trap in B.C. within 200 metres of a dwelling, it is legal to trap and relocate a raccoon without a licence if it’s causing damage to a person’s private property, according to the COS.

In this instance, someone in the neighbourhood had likely set the holding trap because they were dealing with a nuisance raccoon, or raccoons, that were causing damage to their property, said COS spokesman Simon Gravel.

“The investigation did not allow us to know where this trap was coming from,” said Gravel.

While there are exceptions when it comes to trapping on private property, Gravel said it was important for people to education themselves about their options if they’re dealing with a raccoon problem.

“The technique of trapping chosen is very important,” said Gravel, who noted the style of holding trap that the raccoon in West Vancouver got caught in was likely one designed to hold an animal in place with the intent to destroy it – not a live trap method used to relocate and release the animal back into the wild. “That leads me to think that this is not the right tool in an urban setting.”

Gravel recommended always calling a professional when dealing with problem raccoons and visiting the WildSafeBC website for details on non-invasive and non-lethal removal methods.

Lesley Fox, executive director of The Fur-Bearers, a non-profit society dedicated to stopping trapping cruelty, praised the efforts of Roberts and the COS but said the incident reflected a larger issue concerning B.C.’s trapping regulations.

“We’re dealing with legislation that’s really old, and in the current legislation I think most British Columbians would be surprised to learn the majority of traps are still legal – leg-hold traps are still very much legal in the province of B.C. Trapping is not up North in the middle of nowhere. Traps can be set anywhere,” said Fox. “Traps continue to be a problem for all British Columbians and our wildlife trapping regulations need to be overhauled.”

Anyone with information related to cases of illegal trapping is asked to contact the COS Report All Poachers and Polluters line at 1-877-952-RAPP (7277).

Goose cull cost questioned

goose cull will cost up to $40,000

David Wylie – Feb 8, 2021 / 7:00 pm | Story: 324484File photo

Vernon is moving ahead with its plan to kill at least 100 Canada Geese at a cost of up to $40,000.

https://www.castanet.net/news/Vernon/324484/Why-Vernon-s-goose-cull-will-cos

Coun. Scott Anderson says he’s been asked why the program costs so much.

“We know why it costs so much, but I don’t think the public does,” he said at Monday’s council meeting.

A memo included in the council agenda package does break down the spending somewhat:

  • $7,000 covers planning and permits
  • $27,000 covers catching the birds
  • $4,000 covers killing and disposing of the birds

The cull will take about three to four weeks to complete. About 10 people in kayaks will cover beaches including Paddlewheel, Lakeshore and Kin to roundup the birds.

Once killed, the federal government doesn’t allow for the donation of the meat, which means the bird carcasses will either end up in an animal compost or the landfill.

Anderson says they were allowed to offer the meat to the Okanagan Indian Band, but the OKIB turned it down. One group has requested the goose cull meat be donated to hunters as bait, and city staff have been asked to investigate that use.

City staff believe Vernon is the first city in the Okanagan to actually kill Canada Geese, rather than addling eggs or scaring them away. Municipalities on Vancouver Island have used lethal force.

The geese are considered a nuisance because of their prolific amounts of poop and their potential to destroy habitat.

Two petitions have been launched to stop the Vernon cull.

Mayor Victor Cumming was opposed.

The idealistic life and violent death of Hamilton animal rights champion Regan Russell

By Jon WellsSpectator Reporter

Sun., Aug. 2, 2020timer12 min. read

On her last evening alive, on the cusp of summer, Regan Russell sat in her backyard under a towering maple worthy of the Garden of Eden.

This was off Locke Street South, around the corner from St. John the Evangelist church, where as a girl she had asked the minister if animals had souls, and why they were sacrificed to God in the Bible.

Russell felt a weariness, and also foreboding, at what lay ahead.

She planned to attend her latest animal rights protest the next morning, June 19, outside Fearmans Pork on Harvester Road in Burlington.

Activists call the weekly demonstrations “vigils,” at which they “bear witness” to pigs hauled in trucks for slaughter, talk to the animals through gaps in the ventilated trailers, and squirt water into their mouths, as drivers pause before entering the facility.

She felt despair about a law passed two days earlier in the Ontario legislature — Bill 156 — that she knew would make it harder, even dangerous, to fulfil her calling to advocate for the pigs’ living conditions and work toward stopping the killing of animals altogether.

In her backyard, Russell, who had recently turned 65, sipped a glass of wine and talked with her spouse Mark Powell.

She had been active in animal rights for 40 years.

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She cared for rabbits, raccoons and wounded squirrels; she protested at Marineland in Niagara and a sled dog breeding operation in Quebec.

She pushed the envelope in her activism and was arrested nearly a dozen times.

“Maybe it’s time for you to pass the torch to the younger generation,” Powell told her. “We can still support them any way we can.”

He was worried for her safety more than usual.

But he also knew there was no stopping her. All he could do was say his piece.

The next afternoon, a woman stood at his door.

“There’s been an accident,” she said, tears in her eyes.

“Slaughterhouse,” Powell said.

“Yes.”

“It’s not good, is it?”

“No.”

One of the trucks carrying pigs had hit and killed Russell.

Her body had been taken to hospital for an autopsy.

The ripple effect of her death was about to be felt far beyond Hamilton.

The 28-year-old driver of the truck has been charged with careless driving causing death by Halton Regional Police under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act, and police say “there were no grounds to indicate this was an intentional act.” But questions remain about exactly what happened that morning.

The answer to the deeper question of why Regan Russell took her final breath standing athwart a truck loaded with farm animals, moments from their inevitable end, is both simple and complicated.


The notion that farm animals like pigs are sentient — that they feel pain, at least as acutely as a dog, cat or an infant child — is the philosophical bedrock on which activists stand.

And it’s not mere faith, suggests University of Guelph behavioural biologist Georgia Mason.

“Pigs are considered sentient by the European Union and the National Academy of Science, and every animal welfare research group in the world,” she says.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture recently issued a statement questioning animal sentience, adding: “We simply don’t know if animals are capable of reasoning and cognitive thought.”

But cognition — the ability to understand and acquire knowledge — is distinct from the ability to feel, and it’s a red herring to raise it, Mason says.

“Most recognize that animals are sentient, and it’s not the same as saying they have cognition like humans. It just means they have feelings.”

She says the issue of sentience is more controversial when considering animals such as reptiles, fish, and mammals in a developmental stage — including humans.

“There are questions about at what point a fetus becomes sentient.”

The belief that animals deserve rights in line with humans was popularized 45 years ago in the book “Animal Liberation” by Australian philosopher Peter Singer.

He argued that if one accepts that unequal treatment between humans due to differences in race, gender or intelligence is immoral, then so too is poor treatment of animals, who are physically different from people, but “morally equal.”

It would be “speciesism” to think otherwise, he wrote, and: “We have to speak up on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves.”

Regan Russell read the book in her early 20s. Its message found a hungry mind and open heart.

And then, in 1977, she read about the seal hunt in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, that had attracted international attention including a visit from French film star Brigitte Bardot, who condemned “Canadian assassins” clubbing the animals.

Russell had always loved animals but now the spark was lit.

She was living in Winnipeg at the time and made a sign and stood on a street corner.

“I thought, I’ll make a sign and protest and it will all stop,” she said to a journalist in a documentary. “I thought, when everyone knows, how could it possibly continue?”

Russell was idealistic, driven, and just getting started.

She grew up in west Hamilton in the 1960s. Bill and Pat Russell named their first of two children after one of the daughters in Shakespeare’s “King Lear” — a rare name for a girl then.

Bill, a music teacher at Regan’s elementary school, took a political science degree at McMaster University on the side, during the ascendance of feminism and civil rights.

There was always lots of conversation around the dinner table.

Regan read on subjects from Socrates to Gandhi and Roman history, but did not attend college or university after graduating from Westdale high school.

She married at 19, and when her husband’s job took him out west, she followed, and worked modelling for Eaton’s. (She refused to model fur, and was ultimately arrested at a fur protest in a department store in Toronto, along with her father.)

The “Animal Liberation” book is a gateway for many activists; a “moral shock” according to Emily Gaarder, an anthropologist at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, who wrote a book about the predominance of women in the animal rights movement.

But, she adds, there are other influences, as well.

Russell married twice before meeting Mark Powell in 2001. They knew each other as kids; she was six years older and had taught him Sunday school at church.

She chose to never have children. Powell says she talked of her fear that she would never develop a strong enough connection with a child.

Instead, he says, she directed her nurturing instinct toward animals.

One of Powell’s two sons from his first marriage called Russell, his stepmother, “Snow White,” after watching her talking to animals.

Ideology is another influence on activists. Gaarder says women emboldened to vigorously advance their cause are “political thinkers making political choices.”


That was true for Anita Krajnc, who joined Russell at many animal rights protests.

Krajnc earned several university degrees including a doctorate in political science.

Into her 20s, Krajnc says she was still a meat eater who “salivated at pig roasts.” She converted to veganism after reading “The Sexual Politics of Meat,” but an incident in her early 40s flipped a switch to her calling.

She lived near a slaughterhouse in Toronto and one day, walking her dog, she came across pigs on a truck. Later that year, she helped found Toronto Pig Save.

“I never took action until I saw the pigs,” she says. “I couldn’t believe how scared and sad they were. It looked like they were in a dungeon. A pig looked at me, and I promised him three vigils a week. And we kept that promise.”

In 2015, Krajnc was charged with criminal mischief for giving water to pigs. She was found not guilty, with Regan Russell offering moral support in the courtroom.

The pair campaigned against Bill 156, the Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act. Activists believe it is a draconian “ag-gag” measure that will prevent them from exposing inhumane animal treatment.

While the vigils at Fearmans are held just outside the property, at other times, including last summer, Russell and fellow activists entered the grounds to give water to pigs, as workers yelled at them to leave.

In other incidents in Ontario, members of the group “Direct Action Everywhere” have broken into animal breeding barns to retrieve ducks and pigs.

Supporters of the bill say that when activists give water to pigs or trespass on private property, it creates dangerous situations for workers and farmers and is potentially harmful to the food supply.

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Ernie Hardeman, Ontario’s minister of agriculture, told The Spectator the bill will not prohibit demonstrations, “but it will be illegal to interact with livestock. It’s dangerous when they put things in the trucks, whether it is water or something else.”

He says the bill won’t prevent whistle-blowing, and if anyone at a farm or meat processing plant “sees something inappropriate, we want it reported. I have no tolerance for animal cruelty.”

Activists believe that not only are pigs and other animals mistreated prior to killing, but that eating meat is wrong.

Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice, says the food system needs to “undergo a massive shift away from eating animals and toward eating plants, to spare billions of animals from unimaginable suffering, to tackle the climate crisis, and because eating animals is a serious risk to public health.”

In an email to The Spectator, she added: “Most people are shocked to learn animal welfare on farms is almost completely unregulated in Canada, and the government doesn’t inspect or monitor the conditions the animals like pigs are kept in … The industry gets to police itself; the figurative fox is guarding the literal henhouse.”

“That is an inaccurate statement,” counters Cameron Newbigging, a spokesperson with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, who says the Canadian Food Inspection Agency enforces regulations for the humane transport and slaughter of animals, and “provincial inspectors go onto farms where irregularities are suspected or complaints are received.”

What constitutes humane treatment is spelled out in Ontario’s Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act passed in 2019, and the federal Health of Animals Act.

One example is regulations for herding animals. Activists lament the use of electric prods to force pigs off trucks; the regulations say prods are permitted on pigs at least three months old, so long as “it is not applied to a sensitive area including the belly and the anal, genital and facial regions of the animal.”

Another regulation is that pigs and other animals cannot be trucked when the shipping time is longer than 12 hours.

Sofina Foods, owner of Fearmans Pork since 2012, said in a statement to The Spectator that its pigs come from farms within a three-hour radius of the plant, “well below the travel time permitted and recommended by regulators.”

For Regan Russell and other activists, the point of opposing Bill 156 was to ensure they remain free to comfort farm animals, and keep a close eye on transport and killing techniques in the industry.

On her Facebook page on June 18, Russell called the bill “evil.”


The protest on June 19 was different than the routine vigils. In addition to bearing witness, it was intended to draw attention to the bill.

That morning, just after 10 a.m., one of the trucks hauling pigs stopped on Harvester Road before it reached the gates of Fearmans.

Activists waited on the sidewalk for their chance to give water to the pigs.

Enforcement under the new law had not yet come into effect; they could still interact with the animals as usual.

Activists say that in the past, drivers have mostly co-operated with the vigils, but occasionally have confronted protesters.

Krajnc, who was not present that day, says she was told by witnesses the truck idled further away from activists than usual, disrupting traffic, “and creating a sense of chaos.”

At the same time, she said, Russell stood apart from the others, in the driveway closer to the gates of the property, and at some point the truck started to move again.

A news release from Pig Save Toronto says Russell “tried to jump from the path of the truck before it plowed into her.” Halton police said in a news release that it was not an “intentional act.”

video documentary about Russell, posted on the Pig Save Facebook page, says she was hit and dragged by the truck and her body mangled underneath.

“One of our activists has been killed,” says a man filming the aftermath on his phone. “Jesus Christ. It finally f—ing happened.”

Within days, animal rights activists held tributes in Russell’s honour, from Argentina to the U.K. and Italy, and in Germany, where protesters hung a banner on a slaughterhouse in Berlin bearing Russell’s likeness.

In Los Angeles, actor Joaquin Phoenix held a sign at a rally that read “Save Pigs 4 Regan,” and said in a statement: “Regan Russell spent the final moments of her life providing comfort to pigs who had never experienced the touch of a kind hand.”

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) announced it had acquired two six-week old pigs from a farm in Iowa, and took the rare step of naming them after an activist: One is named Regan and the other, Russell. They will live in an animal sanctuary in upstate New York.

A march was held in Toronto, where activists called on the province to implement “Regan’s Law,” a bill of rights to protect farm animals.

Powell was among the speakers.

“It is a horrible, life-changing tragedy, for everyone she knew and touched,” he says.

One of her oldest friends, Katherine Wightman, who Russell met through modelling in Winnipeg, says Regan used to talk about being ready to die for her cause.

“She died a martyr,” says Wightman. “She could have worked until she was 100 and never accomplished what this tragic death has.”

Russell’s death has become one of those moral shocks: her face a symbol, her alliterative name a rally cry.


At a pig vigil held three weeks after the incident, flowers from a tribute to her remained hanging on a fence outside Fearmans, having wilted and dried in the heat.

About 18 activists were there, and for some it was their first time.

Nancy Robertson drove 40 minutes from Cambridge where she works as a nurse, wearing a shirt with Russell’s likeness on it.

“(Russell) opened my eyes to doing more for the animals, being in public, having a united front and speaking up for them … Seeing the animals in distress deeply affected me. I’ve never seen one up close before. We would never treat a dog or cat or human that way.”

Jessie Watkinson drove an hour to attend, also inspired by Russell. She cried after offering water to the pigs.

“They were too hot and exhausted to even drink. You connect with one, they look at you, and in that two minutes you show them the compassion. I just wish we could do more.”

At her final protest, Russell had taken her turn spraying water into the mouths of the pigs. And she held a sign that read: “The truth should never be illegal.”

After she was killed, pigs in the truck that hit her were herded onto another, while police officers investigated.

There had been so much commotion in the moment: blood, sirens, and screams from an activist recorded on a phone: “No! No!”

If what Regan Russell believed to her core is true, that pigs feel and have perception beyond our understanding, then it was not just the humans who felt it deeply that morning: that something gentle and beautiful had been lost, on the road to slaughter.

Jon Wells is a Hamilton-based reporter and feature writer for The Spectator. Reach him via email: jwells@thespec.com

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The idealistic life and violent death of Hamilton animal rights champion Regan Russell
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Global: Ontario announces annual double-crested cormorant fall hunting season

ByGreg Davis Global NewsPosted July 31, 2020 12:08 pm

The province of Ontario is introducing a fall harevest of the double-crested coromorant.
The province of Ontario is introducing a fall harevest of the double-crested coromorant. File

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The province of Ontario is introducing an annual fall harvest of the double-crested cormorant as a step to protect fish stocks and natural habitat.

In Fenelon Falls on Friday morning, John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, announced that the hunting season will run annually from Sept. 15 to Dec. 31, beginning this year.

Yakabuski says Ontario has a healthy and sustainable cormorant population. The fish-eating bird — which consumes up to a pound a fish a day —  is known for its droppings called guana which can kill trees and other vegetation in which they nest and roost. They are notorious for destroying traditional nesting habitats of other colonial waterbirds.

READ MORE: Ontario government proposes full return of annual spring black bear hunt

“We’ve heard concerns from property owners, hunters and anglers, and commercial fishers about the kind of damage cormorants have caused in their communities, so we’re taking steps to help them deal with any local issues,” Yakabuski said. “In large amounts, cormorant droppings can kill trees and other vegetation and destroy traditional nesting habitats for some other colonial waterbirds, so it’s critical that we take action to strike a healthy balance in local ecosystems.STORY CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Following public consultations, the province has made changes to its initial proposal so as not to interfere with waterway users and other migratory birds.

“We listened to those who provided comments about the cormorant hunting proposal, and as a result, we are introducing only a fall hunting season to avoid interfering with recreational users of waterways and nesting periods for some migratory birds,” Yakabuski said. “We have also reduced the maximum number of cormorants a hunter can take to 15 a day, which is a similar limit to one for federally regulated migratory game birds such as mourning doves, snow and Ross’s geese, rails, coot and gallinules.”

Laurie Scott, MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock, says cormorants have been a growing problem on Sturgeon Lake and Balsam Lake in her riding. “They have covered islands with their guano, killing trees and vegetation,” Scott said.

“We’re listening to local residents who have voiced their concerns and asked for additional tools to address the issue.”TWEET THIS

Last year, the ministry and partner agencies surveyed cormorant colonies across the Great Lakes and select inland lakes in Ontario. Based on nest count surveys, the province says there are an estimated minimum of 143,000 breeding cormorants in 344 colonies across the province.

The province says combined with historical data, trends suggest that cormorant populations are increasing in Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and Lake Superior and are stable on the St. Lawrence River and Lake Huron.STORY CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENThttps://8f291139c8c942b58d8e426919dedfa0.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

“Growing up in North Bay and spending many summers fishing on Lake Nipissing, I have seen firsthand the issues that cormorants have caused in some local areas,” said Mike Harris, parliamentary assistant to Yakabuski.

READ MORE: ‘What they’re doing is potentially illegal’: Kingston MPP wants investigation into Bill 197

“A new fall hunting season will help communities manage cormorant populations where they have negatively impacted natural habitat and other waterbird species.”

The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters applauds the bird harvesting announcement.

“We are pleased to see a provincial government finally take action to control overabundant cormorant populations to help protect Ontario’s ecosystems,” said executive director Angelo Lombardo. “We are encouraged to see that the MNRF has made adjustments to the original proposal in response to concerns expressed by the OFAH and others.”

The Ontario Commercial Fisheries’ Association echos the sentiment.

“We strongly support the government’s decision to introduce a fall hunting season, which will help to control damaging cormorant populations,” said Jane Graham, executive director. “Our position has not been to seek the extinction of cormorants from Ontario but for the management of cormorants to promote a balanced ecosystem, which is in the best interests for all Ontarians.”

The province says hunters will be responsible for appropriately identifying their target and ensuring they are harvesting only double-crested cormorants. Cormorants can be consumed but if not, the province says the harvested birds must be disposed of properly.

Canadians want to see a ban on wildlife markets and an end to the commercial wildlife trade



23 hours ago


To date, more than 425,000 people globally have signed petitions to G20
government leaders, urging them to curb the global wildlife trade. In
Canada, 29,000 concerned residents have signed our petition and according to
our latest polling data, Canadians want to see our government act on this
issue.


In July 2020, World Animal Protection commissioned Northstar Research
Partners to conduct an online survey among a nationally representative
sample of Canadian residents to understand the perspective we have on the
wildlife trade.

The results are clear: Canadians care greatly about wild animals and their
fate.

* 75% want the Federal government to support a permanent ban on wildlife
markets.

* 70% support a ban on the commercial trade in wild animals, with 1 out
of 5 Canadians being in support of better regulations and measures to
control the trade.

* A majority does not support the use of wildlife for trophy hunting,
fur, exotic pets, traditional medicine and entertainment.

* Nearly all Canadians agree that the wildlife trade is cruel and can
cause suffering (93%), threatens biodiversity (89%), and public health
(89%).

See the full poll from NorthStar here.
<https://www.worldanimalprotection.ca/Global-Wildlife_Ban-Study-Report-July
2020>

We can no longer afford to ignore the fact that the current pandemic and
previous major epidemics around the world are fundamentally linked to our
poor treatment and exploitation of wild animals and our encroachment on
their habitats. Millions of wild animals are captured, bred and traded every
year for a variety of purposes including food, traditional medicine and as
exotic pets. Animal suffering occurs and zoonotic infections can spread at
every stage of the trade.

The Federal government can take the following steps to answer the call of a
growing coalition of Canadian and international animal protection
organizations, academics, conservationists, zoonotic disease experts, and
concerned Canadians by:

* Urging other G20 countries to support the immediate and permanent
closure of wild animal markets.

* Committing at the G20 to end the international trade in wild animals
and wild animal products that could contribute to the spread of zoonotic
diseases.

Working with provinces and territories to mitigate risks to public health,
animal welfare and our natural environment inherent to the keeping, use and
trade of wild animals and to harmonize and strengthen regulations and
enforcement to drastically reduce captive breeding, transport and the
physical and online trade in wild animals.


Sign the petition to join our campaign


Join us and thousands of other Canadians in calling on the Canadian
government to support and champion a global ban on the wildlife trade. Sign
now:

Ban the wildlife trade

<https://www.worldanimalprotection.ca/news/canadians-want-see-ban-wildlife-m
arkets-and-end-commercial-wildlife-trade>


Read more
<https://www.worldanimalprotection.ca/news/canadians-want-see-ban-wildlife-m
arkets-and-end-commercial-wildlife-trade

Small, But Welcome, Good News From Canada

by Barry Kent MacKay in BlogCanadaCoexisting with Wildlife on July 27, 2020

https://www.bornfreeusa.org/2020/07/27/small-but-welcome-good-news-from-canada/

Matthews, Sue / Public domain.

Amid the worldwide tsunami of bad news and sadness one searches for a trickle of positivity; something to celebrate.

For some time there has been a group, operating under the banner of the Pacific Balance Marine Management (PBMM), that has been lobbying to convince the government, and to garner public support, to legalize a commercial hunt for seals and sea lions on Canada’s west coast. The argument is the usual one – too many sea lions eating too many salmon (of commercial value, of course) in a region in need of employment and revenue. In an effort to seem to be attune to rapidly growing public awareness of just how badly our species has damaged the ecosphere upon which the survival of us all depends, a nuance was added: the seals and sea lions were eating fish needed by endangered orcas, whose own survival was thus compromised.

Fishermen commonly scapegoat any species that eats fish, blaming them for declines in the fish they want, seeing each desired fish consumed by something else as one belonging to them as if by divine right. Governments are motivated to go along with the idea in the hope of absolving themselves from accountability for the real threats to commercial fisheries, such as oil pollution, plastic pollution, toxic waste, nutriment overloading from agriculture and other human waste products, climate change, damage to breeding grounds from politically advantageous commercial development, and, to a huge degree, overfishing.

It is not seals and sea lions that threaten salmon, but deforestation that degrades upstream breeding habitat of salmon, the dams put across rivers, and the relentless pursuit of profit; and lately, it seems, the dissemination of disease and parasites from coastal fish farms. The two species food chains envisioned by the would-be seal killers fail to take into account a complexity of multi-species interactions within a dynamic environment that is difficult for non-scientists to comprehend, and so, it is hoped, is ignored, along with the scientists.

Once we realized that the science did not support PBMM claims, we pointed out that the notorious east coast commercial hunt for harp seals demonstrated that there was nearly no market for seal products, notwithstanding decades of effort in research and development into commercially viable seal products and efforts to find markets, funded by Canadian tax dollars.

Last year, a video that showed fishermen lobbing explosive devices into a pack of west coast sea lions went viral. Charges were laid.

And then, the headless sea lions started to appear. Bodies, reportedly including at least one of the endangered Steller’s sea lion, began to wash ashore along Vancouver Island’s coastline. There is a market for the intact skulls of mature sea lions.

There are only seals, no sea lions, on the east coast (and the seal skulls are often bashed or shot to kill the animal at any rate) but for skulls of the northern fur seal, Steller’s sea lion, and California sea lion, and maybe even the smaller harbor seal, all found on the west coast, there is some demand.

The good news? Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which manages marine mammals, has confirmed that no permits will be issued to PBMM or anyone to allow commercial hunting of west coast pinnipeds – seals, fur seals, and sea lions. Of course, we must remain vigilant. But for now, our west coast pinnipeds remain protected in Canada!