The Beast that Burns; the Saviors We Kill

Canadian Blog

by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate

Born Free USA’s Canadian Representative

Barry is an artist, both with words and with paint. He has been associated with our organization for nearly three decades and is our go-to guy for any wildlife question. He knows his animals — especially birds — and the issues that affect them. His blogs will give you just the tip of his wildlife-knowledge iceberg, so be sure to stay and delve deeper into his Canadian Project articles. If you like wildlife and reading, Barry’s your man. (And we’re happy to have him as part of our team, too!)

The Beast that Burns; the Saviors We Kill

Published 05/19/16

Beaver© U.S. Department of Agriculture

May 19, 2016. Last night, The Beast was headed toward the border, with about three miles to go.

“The Beast” is the name of the giant wildfire that erupted in northern Alberta and, growing as I type, has now consumed some 423,000 hectares (1,633 square miles) of boreal forest. It has forced the evacuation of nearly 90,000 people. We’re seeing massive destruction of infrastructure and the deaths of uncounted thousands of wild animals, toxifying the air and defying Herculean efforts to bring it under control.

And it is, tragically, only one of hundreds of fires raging in forests throughout so much of the continent, their numbers increasing as global climate change results in an ever warmer climate—drier in some places and wetter in others, but heating up the planet more rapidly than even the most pessimistic research indicated.

What is of great value, what is needed in our woods and forests, is water: reservoirs of water, high water tables, ponds, and impoundments.

But, we are not a rational species. If we were, we’d listen to scientists like Glynnis Hood and Suzanne Bayley, whose published research* (and that of other scientists and studies) shows us that there is a hedge against the drying effects of global climate change and its ability to trigger massive, deadly fires…

And, that is the beaver!

When beaver fur was widely used by the fur industry, populations of the species were supressed by trapping. With decline in fur values, beavers are repopulating. This can cause problems, as when, building dams, beavers block culverts, cause flooding, or even chew down valuable trees. Most such conflicts can be easily resolved without harming the beavers: valuable allies in protecting the environment.

So, what did the province of Saskatchewan do? It allowed a “beaver derby”: a 40-day contest in which 601 beavers were killed (out of an annual, province-wide kill of about 38,000). It is Saskatchewan’s border that The Beast was approaching last night.

The argument was made that these were beavers who would have otherwise been killed and wasted, and that many carcasses are left to rot. I don’t doubt that, but this is the 21st Century and it’s past time for us to stop demonizing wildlife and start learning to co-exist.

The work by Hood and Bayley, in 2008, showed that the beaver was the single most important factor in the amount of open water in the very place where it is most needed—the place where the hot Beast prowls, burning its way through our staggering wall of willful ignorance, illuminating our base, self-destructive ways.

There have always been beavers, fires, and forests. What’s new is our levels of technology, connected to unbearable hubris, as we impose our collective madness onto a world increasingly under siege (ironically, a world that is also increasingly losing its ability to support us and our demands upon it).

As we look into the glowing eye of The Beast, it is our reflection that stares back.

Keep wildlife in the wild,

Wildlife officer who spared bear cubs denied return to job

Featured Image -- 11003
Jeff Bell <> / Times
April 20, 2016 06:00 AM

bs-denied-return-to-job-1.2235136#story-carousel> Next

Bryce Casavant’s actions last July came after the cubs’ mother was judged to
be too habituated to humans and was killed for twice raiding a freezer at a
Port Hardy-area home.
The decision not to kill the cubs led to Casavant’s suspension.
That sparked an online petition for his reinstatement that reached close to
310,000 supporters. The case attracted international attention, which
included comedian Ricky Gervais sticking up for Casavant via Twitter.
Casavant, 33, returned to work in late August in a different job at an equal
pay grade.
He said he and the government have reached an agreement that sees him become
a natural-resource officer with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural
Resource Operations, while at the same time pursuing a PhD at Royal Roads
“The province of B.C. is fully supporting me in my educational endeavours,”
he said.
The general duties of a natural-resource officer include enforcement and
patrol relating to resource-management laws, which can cover such areas as
the Wildfire Act, the Forest Act and the Water Act.
Casavant described the combination of work and school as “a different
He said he accepted the consequences after the action he took with the cubs.
“Generally speaking, people are faced with difficult decisions every day in
their lives and I made one, and I was willing to be held accountable
professionally and legally for that decision,” he said. “This is now the
outcome of that.”
Casavant said his PhD research will focus on “the social aspects of conflict
“I think there’s different social perceptions within society of predators,
and how that relates to the urban interface, how that shapes our prevention
and response measures,” he said.
“It’s not just conservation officers – you have a lot of police responding
to conflict wildlife throughout the province.”
The cubs, who have been named Jordan and Athena, were taken to the North
Island Wildlife Recovery Centre where they are doing well in the company of
other bears.
“It looks very positive,” said centre founder Robin Campbell.
Campbell said the pair will be released this year, likely in the summer or
“They’ll have transmitters on them so we’ll be able to follow them.”

– See more at:

Lone wolf in northern B.C. destroyed after stalking walkers, killing dog

copyrighted wolf in water

The wolf on the header of this site:                  looks like part of a pack we saw in that area in 2005 or so….


Locals tracked wolf and warned neighbours on Facebook

By Betsy Trumpener, CBC News
<> Posted:
Apr 12, 2016 9:10 PM PT Last Updated: Apr 12, 2016 9:10 PM PT

Prince Rupert resident Mariana Hülsen spotted this wolf, which approached
and growled at her.

Prince Rupert resident Mariana Hülsen spotted this wolf, which approached
and growled at her. ( Mariana Hülsen/Facebook)

Conservation officials have killed a lone wolf that was prowling city
streets in Prince Rupert, B.C.

Conservation officer Ryan Gordon says the wolf had been approaching people
and recently killed a dog in a backyard. He says the wolf was severely
underweight and coming too close for comfort.

“It was showing elevated levels of interest in people and increased
habituation levels towards people, especially people out walking their
pets,” said Gordon, who fielded numerous complaints over several months.

In March, a woman walking her dog in daylight was stalked by the wolf.

Neighbours share wolf warnings

Prince Rupert residents tracked the wolf’s movements and posted sightings on
a special Facebook page
<> to warn
neighbours when the wolf was nearby.

Recently, the wolf was spotted pacing near a red van, playing near a
Petro-Canada station, and prowling a hotel parking lot.

One resident posted that the wolf approached from the local fish plant and
<> “growled at

A mother asked, “Any more wolf sightings? I would like to go running with my
child today.”

Conservation officials had advised people to keep small children close by,
leash their dogs, carry bear spray, and avoid wooded areas at dawn and dusk.

The wolf was destroyed April 7, and Gordon says wolf complaints have stopped
since then.

Gordon says wolves are common on the fringes of Prince Rupert and are often
drawn in to the city while chasing deer. He says the city’s wolves tend to
be more habituated to humans than in other parts of the northwest.


Petition on BC Wolves

Nearly 200 wolves are going to be shot from helicopters over the next few weeks — a bloody attempt to save an endangered caribou herd in western Canada. And these killings are likely to go on for five years.

Oil, gas, mining, and logging companies have been trashing the mountain caribou’s habitat for decades — but instead of curtailing this industrial habitat destruction, the British Columbia (BC) provincial government is scapegoating wolves, condemning them to a gruesome death.

This cull is just a stopgap measure and not a viable long-term solution to the caribou’s problems. It will, however, cause immense suffering to the wolves, who are highly social and intelligent creatures.

Tell the BC government to stop the industrial encroachment of the caribou’s and wolves’ territory!

Decades of habitat destruction and human encroachment have led to this tragic situation. The BC government needs to be protecting the caribou’s critical food and natural habitat, such as lichen-rich interior forests.

Part of the problem is the caribou’s natural protection from wolves has been undermined by commercial activity. Normally, thick winter snow is enough to keep them safe from most predators, but the wolves have been using the industrial infrastructure of pipeline corridors, roads, railways and snowmobile trails to move through the landscape and hunt. Some feel the cull is awful but necessary to save the caribous, and others feel the cull should be canceled outright — but fundamentally, the BC government should never have let the problem get to this point.

We need to stand up for nature against profit-making companies who are destroying our wildernesses all over the world. These innocent wolves, who are right now being hunted from the skies, are a powerful symbol of how the long-term future of the natural world is being sacrificed for short-term profit.

Please add your voice to ask BC to place responsibility at the feet of the oil, gas, mining and logging companies who are causing the real damage to caribou and wolves.

Sign the petition asking the BC government to protect caribous and wolves from industrial encroachment.

********** More information:

B.C. wolf cull will likely last 5 years, assistant deputy minister says, CBC News,

Alberta coyote kill should be banned, says animal-rights group

An animal protection group has renewed calls to end killing contests in Alberta, like the one scheduled to take place this weekend.

“These inhumane contests glorify killing a species that is essential to ecosystems, and can actually create new, more significant conflicts between wildlife and people,” said Michael Howie of the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals.

Described as “reckless” and “inhumane” by critics, the 2015 contest prompted calls for the province to outlaw bounty hunts.

The organizer of this weekend’s coyote hunting contest said even death threats won’t stop him from hosting the tournament again this year.

The contest on Saturday offers a cash prize to the team of hunters that can kill the most coyotes in a single day.

“The science is clear,” Howie said in a statement issued Tuesday. “When coyotes are persecuted, their populations increase; when their social units or families are disrupted, conflict and depredation on livestock increases; and there is no argument — even if there is a healthy population size — to glorify the mass killing of sentient, ecologically significant animals.”

The organizer of the contest is a man named Paul, who asked that his last name not be used to protect his family from harassment. He said he has heard the critics and doesn’t agree with them.

“Coyotes are pests,” he said. “They’re legal to hunt any time of the year, with permission on farmers’ land.”

Howie said it is the Alberta government’s duty to manage land and wildlife habitat and regulate hunting and trapping.

“By allowing killing contests, Alberta’s leadership is showing a severe lack of stewardship,” Howie said, calling on Environment Minister Shannon Phillips and  Premier Rachel Notley to demand an end to such “inhumane” contests immediately.

A spokesperson for the environment minister’s office said the government is not planning to change the rules around hunting, noting when coyote populations are high they can threaten livestock and move into urban areas.

But the province does have the authority to restrict animal harvests if it is deemed necessary, the spokesperson said.

Oil Lobbyist: We Built the Equivalent of 10 Keystones Since 2010 and “No One’s Complained”

Here’s why the oil industry is not so concerned about the defeat of KXL.

Today President Barack Obama announced his decision, alongside Secretary of State John Kerry and the U.S. State Department, to nix the northern leg of TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

The announcement was the culmination of a years-long nationwide grassroots and environmental group fight against the pipeline project which was set to carry hundreds of thousands of barrels of Alberta’s carbon-intensive crude across several heartland states and into Cushing, Oklahoma.

While the Obama White House Keystone XL decision has been celebrated by most environmentalists and criticized by Big Oil and its front groups, the truth is much more complex and indeed, dirty.

That’s because for years behind the scenes – as most media attention and activist energy has gone into fighting Keystone XL North – the Obama Administration has quietly been approving hundreds of miles-long pieces of pipeline owned by industry goliath Enbridge and other companies.

“Keystone XL Clone”

I’ve called one of these patchwork networks of pipelines the “Keystone XL Clone” in my reporting.

That pipeline system does the very same thing the rest of TransCanada’s Keystone Pipeline System at-large also already does, even without the Keystone XL North piece in place. That is, it brings Alberta’s tar sands oil across the heartland of the U.S. and down to the U.S. Gulf coast.

Enbridge’s system is the combination of the following pipelines: Line 3, Line 67/Alberta Clipper, Line 61, Flanagan South and the Seaway Twin.

This probably explains why Enbridge was so confident that it announced it would be spending $5 billion to build holding facilities down in the Gulf just two days before the White House’s Keystone XL decision.

“Enbridge’s Gulf Coast plan calls for three terminals stretching from Houston toward New Orleans at St. James Parish,” explained The Wall Street Journal. “Each could have crude storage tanks, ship docks, pipelines and other infrastructure to allow for both the import and export of U.S. and Canadian crude as well as processed condensate and refined products.”

TransCanada, for what it’s worth, also will have a new tar sands pipeline in place soon too that’s been lost in the celebratory shuffle. As the company announced in its investor call this week, the Houston Lateral pipeline that connects to the southern leg of Keystone XL will open for business during the second quarter of 2016.

“Today’s victory comes at a huge cost. Here in Texas and Oklahoma, we lost on KXL,” activist group Tar Sands Blockade stated over Facebook. “For almost two years now KXL has been pumping roughly 400,000 barrels per day of tar sands direct from Alberta to the Gulf Coast, bringing toxic emissions and daily insecurity to countless families across our region. Today is not a step forward, its more like slowing the rate of moving backwards.”


The Canadian Federal Election and Wildlife

From:  Born Free USA Canadian Blog by Barry Kent MacKay

 27 Oct 2015 10:13 AM PDT

Wildlife© Mazzali

On October 19, we Canadians went to the polls, in large numbers, to vote in the federal election. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, after holding that position for nine years, went down to a stunning defeat. Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party won a majority of the seats in parliament, giving them power that may help to partly undo the truly horrific environmental record of the Conservative Party. To what degree they do so, the future will determine.

But, things could not be much worse for the environment and wildlife than they were under the steadily more authoritarian Harper regime. He did not want to be factually informed and, in 2008, eliminated the Office of the National Science Advisor. In 2010, Harper prevented scientists from talking directly to the media, or to people like me, who seek information in order to help us protect wildlife. (The “war on science” waged by Harper is far too long to list here.)

Friends of long standing who were on the federal payroll were suddenly afraid to talk to me about work they were doing with funding from my taxes! The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) scientists were not allowed to publish research without screening it to assure it did not counter government policy. Unbelievably, in 2010, geologist Scott Dallimore was not allowed to talk to media about a paper he published in Nature about a flood that had occurred 13,000 years ago. I never even got a response from a scientist about what species co-existed with a long-extinct, ice age camel!

The 25-year existence of the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, critical of Harper’s policies, was axed in 2013. In 2014, seven (of nine) research libraries of the DFO, many containing unique, century-old baseline data of previous fish population sizes, were closed, and irreplaceable documents were trashed or burned. Yes, book-burning in 21st century Canada… with scientists blindsided.

And, the following January, Environment Canada tried to stop an investigation into whether tailing ponds in oil-rich Alberta were contaminating fish habitat, contrary to the Federal Fisheries Act. Fishery scientists whose findings indicated certain environmental problems were continually thwarted, often not allowed to speak about their own findings, with Harper’s government media even keeping close to Environment Canada scientists at the International Polar Year Conference in 2012, lest they say the wrong thing. Work was impeded that indicated infectious salmon anemia and parasites could spread from “farmed” salmon to wild stocks, researchers muzzled. DFO scientists working on a shared Canadian-U.S. Arctic research endeavor had to promise confidentiality.

But, worse things happened, including Canada being the first nation to leave the Kyoto Protocols and its greenhouse gas emission targets. And, in 2012, Canada repealed key parts of the Fisheries Act, leaving previously protected fish habitat vulnerable to destruction by oil and other economic interests. Harper greatly weakened both the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the once-effective Species at Risk Act (the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. Endangered Species Act). The Harper government was particularly opposed to legislation requiring public consultation and independent assessment of any project that might benefit short-term economic interest at the expense of wildlife and the environment.

By 2012, emboldened, Harper slashed some $222.2 million out of the Environment Canada budget, cutting 1,211 jobs—thus weakening many prior endeavors to protect the environment. For me, a dangerously low blow came early in 2012, when Public Safety Canada said that environmentalists were identified as “issue-based domestic terrorists” in its counter-terrorism strategy, as Harper sought to conflate many existing crimes as “terrorism” while also seeking harsher penalties for conviction. We seemed to be heading toward an authoritarian state with divisive and mean-spirited decisions coming out of Ottawa almost daily.

I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that Harper is now gone. As a peculiarity of our parliamentary system, his party never did win the majority of votes from Canadians; Canada never did fully share his values; and, finally, after a campaign long enough to allow even naïve Harper supporters to understand what was happening, it was all over.

It is not that I have great expectations of Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party—but, the bar is low. I have little doubt that we will be able to again communicate with government employees, partake in communicating our views, perhaps undo some of the damage Harper did, and provide fact-based information without being labeled enemies of the state. It is a new chance for Canada, for the Canadian environment, and for Canadian wildlife… and we intend to make the most of it!

B.C. man persuaded to give up coveted licence to hunt grizzly bears

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 3.17.28 PM

Brent Sheppe grew up in a family of hunters, and for almost as long as he can remember he wanted to kill what some people regard as the biggest trophy of all.

“It’s been a dream of mine to get a grizzly bear. You know, to be able to hunt something that could hunt you back is pretty intimidating, is pretty awesome,” Mr. Sheppe said in a recent interview as he sat at home watching a hunting show on television.

This fall, after 10 years of trying, Mr. Sheppe got lucky, and for the first time his name was drawn for a grizzly bear licence in a limited entry hunt (LEH) in the Knight/Kingcome Inlet area on British Columbia’s central coast.

Getting your name drawn for an LEH is like winning the lottery, because it allows you access to an area from which the vast majority of hunters are excluded. LEHs are a way for the government to restrict the number of animals killed by limiting the number of hunters allowed in a prescribed zone. This year, 9,614 hunters applied for LEH licences for grizzly bears in British Columbia, and 3,469 tags were issued. In the Knight/Kingcome zone, 324 applied and 59 were selected.

(A government spokesman said many more tags are issued than bears are harvested. In 2014, for example, 3,067 LEH hunters province-wide killed 267 grizzlies.)

When Mr. Sheppe got his licence after so many years of trying, he was ecstatic.

But in a remarkable story of conversion that shows the dramatic way attitudes are shifting against grizzly hunting in B.C., Mr. Sheppe is going to forfeit his LEH.

Instead of shooting a trophy bear, he is going to look at one through binoculars.

The 31-year-old welding contractor grew up in Port McNeill on the north end of Vancouver Island, where people go into the forest to get meat the way urbanites visit the butcher.

“The way I was raised, we’d go out and shoot some animals and we’d bring the animals home and clean them, process them, smoke them and put them in the freezer. That was what we’d eat growing up. So hunting has been a big part of my life,” he said.

But his views on hunting grizzly bears changed recently when he talked with Mike Willie, an old friend and a hereditary chief of the Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw First Nation.

Mr. Willie runs Sea Wolf Adventures, which offers cultural and wildlife tours on the coast, and Mr. Sheppe was hoping to get a boat ride into the remote Knight/Kingcome area, at the southern edge of the Great Bear Rainforest.

“I gave him a call, and was like, ‘You know, you’re the guy to take me out and help find some animals.’ And he said, ‘Well, there’s a bit of a problem because I’m completely against hunting these animals; they are majestic and spiritual,’” Mr. Sheppe said.

They talked about the importance of bears to First Nations.

“Bears are like family. If you have a bear lost, it’s a family member down,” Mr. Willie said.

“It really hit me,” Mr. Sheppe said. “I never had the opportunity to go hunt one before, so I was pretty excited about this [hunt], but my views have changed. Something in my spirit has switched and I’m ready to start a new chapter and try and help promote saving these bears.”

Mr. Willie said as an incentive to help Mr. Sheppe abandon his hunt, Sea Wolf Adventures and Nimmo Bay Resort, a luxury wilderness lodge, have offered to host him and his family for a bear-viewing trip.

It is an offer he hopes to make to other hunters prepared to give up their LEH licences.

Fraser Murray of Nimmo Bay Resort said when Mr. Sheppe sees a trophy grizzly, they will identify it as the bear that would have been shot had the hunt proceeded. A snare will be used to get DNA from a hair sample, and the bear will become part of a science project tracking the movement of coastal grizzlies.

“We’ll learn more about that bear and get a sense of the value of that bear to tourism as opposed to hunting,” he said.

A study last year found that tourists spent $15-million on bear viewing in the Great Bear Rainforest in 2012, while hunters spent $1.2-million.

Judging by that, the bear being spared by Mr. Sheppe is worth a lot more alive than dead.

Increasingly, British Columbians seem to be realizing that. A survey released on Friday found that more than 90 per cent now oppose the grizzly hunt. Included in that number are probably a lot of hunters like Mr. Sheppe, who have turned away from killing bears.

Bear Hunt Trial Triggers Protest In B.C.

clayton stoner bear protest

VANCOUVER — The case of an NHL player charged in the death of a grizzly bear has become a rallying cry for a British Columbia group against trophy hunting.

About a dozen members of Bears Matter gathered outside provincial court in Vancouver on Friday before a court date for Anaheim Ducks defenceman Clayton Stoner.

Stoner is charged with five counts under the provincial Wildlife Act, including two counts of knowingly making a false statement to obtain a hunting licence, hunting out of season, hunting without a licence and unlawfully possessing dead wildlife.

The bear, which local residents had named Cheeky, was killed in the Great Bear Rainforest on B.C.’s central coast in 2013.

clayton stoner bear

Bear Matters member Barb Murray said a growing number of people are against trophy hunting and that Stoner’s case should draw attention to the practice.

“We really need to make this case stand out above the others so that Premier (Christy) Clark cannot ignore our petitions, cannot ignore our letters and cannot ignore our voices,” she said.

Records from the Environment Ministry show dozens of charges in 2014 related to hunting without a licence and unlawfully possessing dead wildlife.

However, few other cases have been in the spotlight.

“Clayton Stoner, he’s recognized internationally, he’s an NHL hockey player, he makes millions of dollars,” Murray said. “He’s supposed to be an example of what a sportsman (embodies). And he’s not.”

Stoner has never denied the hunt, which sparked debate two years ago when pictures published in a Vancouver newspaper showed him holding a grizzly’s severed head.

Stoner, who is from Port McNeill on Vancouver Island, defended his hunting trip with his father, an uncle and a friend after the photos were publicized.

“I grew up hunting and fishing in British Columbia and continue to enjoy spending time with my family outdoors,” he said in a September 2013 written statement, adding he would continue those activities in the province.

Stoner should apologize for hunting bears, said Murray, her voice choked with emotion.

“I’m hoping they slap a very big fine, and he could also contribute to conservation in this province, big time.”

Stoner was not in court Friday. Ricky Bal, a lawyer who appeared on his behalf, said he does not know how the hockey player intends to plead.

The case was put over until Nov. 13.