Spring is finally here. People are starting seeds in their kitchen windows and preparing their gardens. Mother’s Day too is upon us. It’s so fitting that Mother’s Day is celebrated during spring while new life is all around us. Spring, and Mother’s Day, remind us that all new life needs to be nurtured, treasured, and protected. The caring drive that is in all of us makes us parents and guardians of the tender lives that are taking root, blossoming, hatching or being born right now.
Spring is a time to breathe a little easier, feel a little lighter as we see shoots sprouting from the ground and leaves forming on the once-barren trees. I hope that your hearts are lifted, as mine is at this lovely time.
And, I can share something else with you that will lighten your hearts even more.
This year, for the first time since 2008 Parks Canada will not be conducting their annual cull of Double-crested Cormorants on an island in Lake Erie. We have talked with you many times about this persecuted species. Like wolves and coyotes, and deer and beaver too, these native wild animals are so often targeted for killing by conservation and parks managers. You know that we will always oppose the lethal ‘management’ of wild animals, and promote peaceful co-existence with the natural world and all its inhabitants.
This year, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, their annual cull of cormorants has been called off. So, a team of Parks Canada staff will not travel to Middle Island to kill birds.
This year, cormorant parents will not be shot off of their nests as they incubate their eggs. This year, mated pairs of cormorant parents will not be at risk of being left alone to incubate their eggs and then their offspring – a task too difficult to be successful. For this spring, all the birds on the island will not fly up in fear as shots ring out. Birds will not wheel around in the air, trying to return to their nests, only to be driven off again as shooting continues. This year, birds will not be driven by exhaustion at the end of the day to simply remain in their nests, even as the shooting continues, placing themselves at great risk.
For this wonderful year, here is what will happen, and is happening right now.
A vibrant, active and glorious sea bird nursery is teeming with birds of various species: our cormorant friends, as well as Great Blue Herons, Black-crowned Night Herons, Great Egrets and American white pelicans.
These colonial waterbirds are nesting, incubating their eggs in close proximity to each other in tree-top nests. Birds are flying in from the lake, returning to relieve their mates on their nests. Places are exchanged as each mate takes turns flying out to hunt for fish. The air is peaceful as the flight of the birds is unhurried. All around, birds fly to and from the island; some travelling far in small groups, others hunting for fish nearby. Birds are bringing in new nesting materials to firm up their nests. Cormorants are floating on the water, then quickly disappearing as they dive to catch a fish. Along the shoreline Canada Geese are swimming peacefully. The soft sound of bird call is mixing with the sound of the wind.
It’s a glorious time in this nursery for birds, thanks to the suspension of this year’s cull.
How do we know what is happening this year, you might ask?
And how do we know what has happened in so many previous years?
We know because each year Animal Alliance of Canada and the Animal Protection Party have hired a boat and captain to take our observers to Middle Island to monitor the cull. When Parks Canada shooters are on the island, we are anchored nearby to keep witness. This is a very expensive undertaking, but we are committed to be there when the killing is taking place. We believe that our presence makes it more likely that the shooters take more time to ensure that wounded birds are not left behind to suffer.
Wounded birds were left behind to endure prolonged deaths some years ago when the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry conducted a cull on High Bluff Island at Presqu’ile Provincial Park. As several groups monitored that cull, we took video evidence of wounded birds left behind to die of starvation, too injured to dive for fish.
We have also been able to see with our own eyes how peaceful Middle Island, and other nearby island nurseries, are when shooters are not there. And, sadly we have observed how disturbed the birds are when their remote island is invaded so violently. We believe that it’s essential to let Parks Canada staff and management know that as long as they are killing birds, we will be there to keep watch.
Thanks to you we have been able to monitor and witness.
We have been able to hire those boats and send a staff member to monitor the shooting because of the generosity of so many of you. It’s not a happy assignment but a necessary one. We will be heading to Middle Island once we’re able – to document what happens when there is no Parks Canada presence to disrupt the delicate ecosystem. Thank you for giving us the resources to be able to make this important trip.
So, for this one year, let’s all breathe a little easier and think about a season of peace for parents and their young on Middle Island.
And, we ask you to take an ACTION to protect Double-crested Cormorants from a misguided law that has been proposed by Ontario’s provincial government, one that has the potential to kill thousands of cormorants in just one year.
Ontario’s Premier, Doug Ford, and his government have started to implement one of the most regressive wildlife “management” programs 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.
What Ontario’s government is proposing is to allow hunters to kill 50 cormorants a day! Once all the proposed legislative changes come into effect, one hunter will be able to legally kill over 14,000 cormorants in just one season.
It wouldn’t take many people very long to wipe out most cormorants in the province. Cormorants would be reduced to just a tiny remnant of their population in a few protected areas. Double-crested Cormorants, a native migratory bird, could be driven back to near extinction in just one year.
You can learn more about this outrageous proposal by clicking here. You can also read our rebuttals to the sorry excuses being given for what comes close to a provincially- sanctioned extermination plan, and learn more about how to help.
There’s still hope for cormorants if we act:
Canada’s federal government can, and should, protect Double-crested Cormorants under Canada’s Migratory Bird Convention Act, paralleling the U.S. listing, a reasonable and scientifically sound request.
Call or Write to the Honourable Jon Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada.
Ask him to amend the Migratory Bird Convention Act to include Double-crested Cormorants who are migratory and should be protected under the Act.
A quick phone call or a brief email are the most effective.
The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Published Wednesday, April 22, 2020 2:23PM EDT
Luxury parka maker Canada Goose Holdings Inc. plans to start using reclaimed fur for its coats and stop purchasing new fur in a couple years even though some animal rights groups don’t see the reversal as a victory for wildlife.
“We remain committed to the functionality and sustainability of real fur, however we are challenging ourselves to do it better, reusing what already exists,” the company said in its first sustainability report released Wednesday.
For five decades, it has used wild coyote fur from Western Canada and the U.S., that it says its suppliers ensure never comes from fur farms, among other measures.
However, Canada Goose will start making parkas with reclaimed fur in 2022 and stop purchasing new fur that same year in an effort to satisfy consumer demand, the company said.
It notes people living in the North have worked with reclaimed fur for decades and the initiative was inspired by their resourcefulness.
The company also plans to launch a consumer buy-back program for fur in the coming months.
“We believe we must operate sustainably. It’s the right decision for our business, our customers and most importantly, our future,” the report reads, which notes consumers today want more information about fur sustainability and animal welfare, and demand more transparency.
Canada Goose did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Canadian animal rights group Animal Justice called the change “a stunning reversal” prompted by shifting public opinion about fur for fashion, as well as years of advocacy against Canada Goose’s use of fur. It noted California recently banned the sale of new fur.
However, the Canada Goose announcement is still only a “partial victory,” the group said.
“It would be better for the company to abandon fur and down altogether,” noting the switch to reclaimed fur doesn’t help ducks and geese whose feathers are used for down.
The company addresses its use of down in the report, saying it chooses “natural down in jackets because it is the best natural source for warmth per weight ratio.”
Last year, Canada Goose committed to the responsible down standard (RDS) and commits to being certified fully by 2021.
“The RDS aims to ensure that down and feathers come from animals that have not been subjected to unnecessary harm.”
RDS prohibits down or feather removal from live birds and force feeding, according to its website. Its standards also include other measures, including auditing each stage in the supply chain by a professional, third-party certification body.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals called the change to reclaimed fur an attempt to “humane wash” and that “real fur is always cruelly obtained.”
PETA and Animal Justice have fought Canada Goose over its use of animal products.
On Tuesday, an Ontario court dismissed PETA’s application for a judicial review. PETA argued its right to free expression was violated when its anti-Canada Goose ads were taken down in Toronto. Animal Justice intervened in the case and supported PETA’s position.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 22, 2020.
High River has become a hot spot for COVID-19 in Alberta, with hundreds of infections, including staff at a long-term care home, tied to one of Canada’s largest slaughterhouses.
Health officials said that as of Friday, 358 cases in High River and elsewhere in the region were linked to the Cargill facility. Many of the workers at the Cargill Ltd. plant are new immigrants or temporary foreign workers, whose jobs and shared living spaces make them especially vulnerable to infection. At least one worker is on a ventilator, the union for the plant says, and others are struggling with serious illnesses.
Cargill is a major employer in High River, a bedroom community of roughly 13,000 people located a half-hour drive south of the Calgary city limits. About 2,000 people work there and the facility supplies about 40 per cent of the beef processed in Western Canada.
Foothills County now has more cases than Edmonton, a city with more than 10 times the population. The province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health has said that infections quickly spread among large households, and a local settlement agency said that temporary foreign workers often live together in large groups.
The Seasons High River retirement home, which includes nursing care, said five staff members tested positive but no residents have been infected. Four of the infected staff live with Cargill workers.
Thomas Hesse, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, said many of the plant’s employees are either temporary foreign workers or new Canadians, for whom English is a second language, though he didn’t know how many would fit into those categories. He said some workers who have contracted COVID-19 are in serious condition, including one who is in an induced coma and on a ventilator in a Calgary hospital.
Mr. Hesse said North American meat-packing facilities “are designed around efficiency and social proximity, not social distancing.”
“The lines are arranged in highly efficient ways and workers stand shoulder to shoulder, wielding knives. It’s loud, it’s slippery, it’s wet and there’s blood everywhere, especially on the slaughter side [of the operation],” he said, adding, “The plant hallways and lunch rooms and bathrooms are a certain size and they’re not rebuilding the plants to confront COVID.”
The union and Alberta’s Opposition New Democrats have called for the plant to be temporarily shut down to get a handle on the outbreak, but so far that hasn’t happened.
A Cargill worker, who has been recovering at home since he and his spouse became sick and tested positive for COVID-19, said he is afraid to return without assurances from the company that the plant is safe. The Globe and Mail agreed not to identify the worker, who is worried that speaking publicly would jeopardize his job.
Employees at the plant work in close quarters as they slaughter 4,500 head of cattle a day.
“How can they change the process? For us, we are doing sometimes 330 [heads of cattle] an hour – you can imagine that,” he said.
“There are some work stations that [are] too close.”
Jon Nash, president of Cargill Protein, a division of Cargill Inc., said in a statement that the company has scaled back operations and put in several measures to curb the outbreak, including staggering shifts, increasing distance between workers, checking employees’ temperature, providing face masks, prohibiting visitors and increasing cleaning. The company said some workers have taken unpaid leave.
Minneapolis-based Cargill Inc. – which also makes and trades grain, processes other types of meat and operates other agriculture-related businesses – is one of the largest privately held companies in the world and employs 160,000 people in 70 countries, according to its website. It has 8,000 workers in Canada, where it has operations in six provinces.
The High River facility is one of several suppliers of ground beef for McDonald’s Canada.
“At this time, Cargill has assured us that they are confident in the resilience of their supply chain and will continue to meet our current demand for beef,” McDonald’s Canada said in an e-mailed statement Sunday.
Fariborz Birjandian, chief executive officer of the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, which operates Foothills Immigrant Community Services in High River, said his agency is working with Cargill staff who have become infected or are required to self-isolate. He said it’s common for temporary foreign workers to live with half a dozen or more people in a single unit.
“Temporary foreign workers come here to make money and send it back home, so they are trying to minimize their costs by sharing rooms,” he said.
“That makes them very vulnerable. … If one of them is infected, then the rest will be infected.”
Mr. Birjandian said he hopes the Cargill outbreak serves as a wake-up call to other such facilities in an industry that relies heavily on temporary foreign workers or new immigrants, including resettled refugees.
Ontario-based Seasons Retirement Communities, which operates long-term care homes across the country, including in High River, said of the five staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19, four live with someone who works at the plant. CEO Mike Lavallée said in a statement that no residents have tested positive.
Mr. Lavallée’s statement said the High River facility has implemented a series of measures including daily health screenings for all residents, staff and visitors.
Alberta recorded 2,803 cases of COVID-19 as of Sunday and 55 deaths. One of those deaths was in High River: a man in his 70s at a long-term care home attached to the local hospital.
Published Wednesday, March 25, 2020 7:12PM PDTLast Updated Wednesday, March 25, 2020 8:38PM PDT
VICTORIA — A lone wolf that recently ventured into Victoria and had to be relocated by conservation officers has been shot dead.
CTV News Vancouver Island has confirmed Takaya, a well known wolf who spent years living alone on Discovery Island, has died this week.
Cheryl Alexander is a conservation photographer who has been following one of nature’s great predators for years and said the animal was shot by a hunter.
“I’ve been crying for the last couple of hours,” said Alexander. “It’s heartbreaking.”
She lives in Victoria and has been following, documenting and studying the lone wolf named Takaya, which lived on Discovery Island off the coast of Oak Bay, for six years.
In January, Takaya was seen scurrying down the sidewalks of James Bay and was tranquilized by conservation officers. He was then relocated and released into the wild at an undisclosed location.
Alexander said Takaya was relocated to an area near Port Renfrew.
“I’ve known where he has been for the last month and he’s been doing really great and healthy,” she said.
On Wednesday, she was told by local hunters that a wolf with an ear tag had been shot.
“Takaya is the only wolf on the island with an ear tag,” she said. “I knew right away. I just found out a few hours ago.”
Alexander said she is at a loss for words and wants trophy hunting to be stopped.
“What are we doing allowing trophy hunting?,” she said. “As far as I know it was a legal hunt.”
CTV News Vancouver Island reached out to the BC Conservation Officer Service for more information and received the following statement in response:
“The Discovery Island wolf, that was relocated from James Bay earlier this year has been shot and killed by a hunter, the conservation officer service can confirm. We understand many British Columbians and people around the world shared care and concern for the well-being of this wolf and this update will affect many people.”
The conservation officer service went on to say the wolf was killed Tuesday near Shawnigan Lake, “approximately 50 kilometres away from where it was released in late January.”
“Conservation Officers released the wolf in rugged and remote wilderness outside of Port Renfrew, on the west side of Vancouver Island,” the statement continued. “This isolated coastal habitat similar to Discovery Island was carefully chosen to give the wolf the best chance possible. This decision was made in consultation with biologists from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD), as well as the Provincial Wildlife Veterinarian.”
“The wolf was not taken back to Discovery Island as it left for a reason – it may have been looking for food or resources. For the safety of the public and the animal, the wolf was relocated out of the urban environment in Victoria. The provincial hunting regulations are administered by FLNRORD.”
The conservation officer service says its investigation is ongoing and further details will be released as they become available.
The Calgary Stampede has temporarily laid off close to 900 staff — around 80 per cent of its workforce — amid uncertainty from the ongoing outbreak of the new coronavirus.
The majority of the staff affected are casual, part-time employees. The layoffs also include full-time staff.
The Stampede informed its volunteer base of the move on Tuesday.
“As a not-for-profit organization, we unfortunately have to take these temporary measures of dramatic layoffs. We’re looking to support the long-term sustainment of the organization, its role in the community and the jobs that we provide, and certainly we did not take these decisions lightly today,” Stampede CEO Warren Connell told Postmedia.
“These decisions were about looking toward the future and the sustainability of the Stampede.”
A total of 890 people were laid off, including 608 casual, part-time employees and 282 regular, part-time and regular, full-time staff.
“With the recent restrictions of mass gatherings as a result of COVID-19, the Calgary Stampede is currently facing an unprecedented halt in activity,” the organization added in a statement.
Despite the move, the annual 10-day July event has not been called off.
But Connell said the Stampede is planning for “contingencies for what Stampede would look like this year.”
“It’s far too early to speculate on whether the Stampede will happen this year,” he said.
“We have not called Stampede. Stampede is still in the mix of what we’re planning on. We just don’t know, depending on timelines and . . . the unknowns the whole community is facing, exactly what that looks like.”
He said the organization is involved in about 1,200 events a year outside its marquee fair.
“The majority of the staff we’re talking about support those events,” Connell said.
It’s unclear how long the Stampede’s temporary layoffs will last.
Connell said the organization has set up a program to help affected staff cope financially.
For employees who qualify for employment insurance, the Stampede is bridging their first two weeks of pay to a value equal to 95 per cent of their regular earnings, the maximum allowed according to federal rules.
For employees on the Stampede’s benefits program, the organization will pay both employer and employee costs throughout the duration of the temporary layoffs.
The Stampede grounds were especially affected, as the late June floods shut down buildings on site. Others, including the Saddledome, were in the midst of reclamation as the event went forth.
“Certainly, if time is our friend and things come around, we’re planning for having a Stampede,” Connell said.
But he acknowledged the event would likely see fewer guests, especially from across the world, if it proceeds as planned.
“You just have to follow the airline industry and the tourism industry and their reduced bookings,” he said.
“We know it’s going to have a significant impact. People plan these events, when you’re an international traveller, many months out.”
For decades, Humane Society International and the Humane Society of the United States have worked to stop Canada’s brutal commercial seal hunt, where seal pups are mercilessly clubbed and shot to death for their fur. Leading this fight has been Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of HSI/Canada. For 18 years, Rebecca has traveled to the ice floes to document the slaughter and focus a global spotlight on this important animal protection issue. Those efforts have helped turn the tide for seals—today more than 37 countries ban commercial seal product trade, which has led to a drop in demand and prices for seal fur in Atlantic Canada.
Unfortunately, the killing has continued, and the seals now face more threats than ever before, including climate change. In this guest post today, Rebecca discusses why Canada needs to act fast to stop commercial sealing before it is too late for these iconic animals.
Right now, mother harp seals are nursing their pups on the spectacular ice floes off Canada’s east coast. The scene is breathtakingly beautiful and incredibly peaceful—and it draws people from all over the world to witness it firsthand. I’ve been lucky enough to be on the ice several times this week, documenting the harp seal nursery for Humane Society International.
But it’s a bittersweet experience, because the adorable pups who live in this pristine environment are already facing mortal threats to their survival.
A recent segment on “Good Morning America” exposed the devastating impacts of climate change on the ice breeding harp seals. Over the past five decades, scientists have tracked a significant and constant decline in the sea ice cover in eastern Canada. For the harp seal pups born on that ice, it spells disaster. Warming temperatures are causing the ice to literally melt from under the pups and so many are forced into the water before they are strong enough to survive there. In some recent years we have witnessed up to 100% mortality in seal pups born in key whelping areas because of the vanishing sea ice.
But there is another story—an even greater risk to the seal pups—and it is one that GMA chose not to tell. The very harp seals who are contending with these devastating impacts of climate change are the primary targets of Canada’s commercial seal hunt, the largest and cruelest slaughter of marine mammals on earth. In just a few weeks’ time, Canadian seal hunters will descend on the peaceful harp seal nursery and turn it into an open air slaughterhouse. The pups who survive the destruction of their sea ice habitat will be brutally clubbed and shot to death for their fur, their tiny bodies left on the ice to rot. Our Protect Seals team has exposed the cruelty of this so-called hunt for years; defenseless four-week-old seal pups are routinely shot and left crawling through their own blood, impaled on metal hooks, dragged onto bloody boat decks and clubbed to death. Notably, veterinarians who have studied the killing have labelled all killing methods at the commercial seal hunt “inherently inhumane.”
Our campaign has stopped so much of this cruelty, by closing the most important global markets for products of commercial sealing. In the past decade, our work has saved millions of pups from the slaughter. Yet the killing continues, with tens of thousands of seal pups falling victim to the commercial seal hunt each year.
Tragically, there is no way to reverse the impacts of climate change on the harp seals’ sea ice habitat in the near term. But a responsible government can and should end commercial seal hunting. That is exactly what we are urging Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, to do.
Everyone should have the opportunity to see the stunning harp seal nursery in their lifetime. But if Canada fails to take action soon, that opportunity may be lost forever—for us and for future generations.
The video, which came to light last March, shows Allen Marsden lighting the fuse on one of the explosive noise-makers and throwing it into the water where a large number of the animals had congregated.
Court records show Marsden facing three charges, related to the disturbance of marine mammals and the use of explosives.
Fisherman criticized for using ‘bear banger’ on sea lions
The records also indicate an intent to plead guilty.
The video was initially posted to the Facebook group of the Pacific Balance Pinniped Society, a group of First Nations and commercial fishers advocating for a West Coast seal hunt, and drew support from other fishers and condemnation from people who describe the action as cruel.
Many fishers on B.C.’s south coast argue that the sea lion population has exploded in recent years and is devastating the fishery.
In a phone interview at the time the video emerged, Marsden told Global News the video was shot while he and his crew were taking samples of herring roe for the fishing industry.
Marsden said there were as many as 500 sea lions in the area, and that the bear banger was not actually effective on the animals, who he described as a danger to his crew.
However the Vancouver Aquarium says the device could cause injury to the sea lions’ face, eyes or jaw along with their hearing.
The aquarium says the area’s sea lion population has not exploded, but rather, has returned to historical levels after decades of aggressive hunting.
Where to start?
There is some truth in the post: coyotes are mating this time of year. However, they’re monogamous – so only young coyotes will be seeking a new mate. The gestation period is roughly 60 days, give or take. And loose dogs can come into conflict with coyotes (as well as other wildlife to whom dogs are seen as predators or risks toward). That’s about where the facts of this post end, and the sensationalism and disinformation begin.
This post indicates that an individual coyote will encourage a dog to chase them, then slowly lead them back to a pack (who is waiting for your dog). This is a wildly inaccurate assessment of canine behaviour, both for domestic dogs and for coyotes. What has been documented is dogs chasing or harassing wildlife of all sizes and stripes – loose dogs can pose a major threat to other animals.
Coyotes are naturally curious, and an essential part of their ecosystems. They will watch a dog and determine if they are a threat (that’s the long stare you may hear about). But if chased by a dog, which is what dogs often do, they will return to the safety of their family – just like you would if you were being chased by a predator. At that point, a coyote family may defend themselves, their territory, their den, or a food source from a predator or invader. This is not luring or some form of trickery, but very simple cause and effect initiated by a loose dog chasing wildlife.
Male coyotes do not become more aggressive this time of year. Both coyotes in a mated pair will protect each other, their territory, their resources like food, and their den or pups. The role a dog or human play in this is entirely on humans – not coyotes.
About the picture
This photo is deeply upsetting to those of us who have seen the original photo series. While it may appear to be a coyote attacking a dog and grabbing his collar, the full, uncropped series of images shows a coyote trapped against a fence line by their back leg. Three dogs are attacking and snapping at the coyote (the photo showing a third dog is not shown below due to its graphic nature), and there is evidence that they have bitten them on the hind quarters. This is not a coyote attacking – it is a coyote desperately defending themselves against three dangerous predators and the human who trapped the coyote. This is animal cruelty – and it’s been shared and promoted by unknowing animal lovers across the internet.
If you love animals – be it dogs, coyotes, cats, bears, or even guinea pigs, please consider deleting your share of that original post and sharing this one instead. You can also share this post into the comments of friends who have posted the original meme.
Knowledge is an essential step on the path to compassionate co-existence and co-flourishing, and it starts with you.
This blog was co-authored by Coyote Watch Canada and our friends at The Fur-Bearers.
October 31, 2017
Boreal woodland caribou (‘caribou’1) live across northern Canada and need large, intact forests to survive. The ultimate cause of caribou decline across the country is habitat loss and fragmentation from extensive industrial resource extraction activities. Extensive habitat disturbance in turn increases predation rates for caribou beyond what they can tolerate. To date, these caribou have lost more than half of their historic range in the continent.2 In 2012, the federal Recovery Strategy identified that 37 of 51 populations are not self-sustaining.3Caribou are a cornerstone of many Indigenous Peoples’ culture and history; for thousands of years Indigenous Peoples from across Canada have relied and continue to rely on caribou for sustenance and as a central part of their culture.
Under the federal Species At Risk Act (SARA), the federal government is mandated to identify caribou critical habitat – the habitat that caribou need to survive and recover – in a Recovery Strategy. It did so in 2012. A team of North America’s leading caribou experts established a strong relationship between the extent of habitat disturbance and whether a local population increases, declines or remains stable. From this, the federal government assessed how levels of habitat disturbance affect risk to caribou populations. It directed provinces to manage forests such that there is at least 65% undisturbed habitat in each caribou range, to give caribou at least a 60% chance to be self-sustaining.
Across Canada, provinces have failed to apply this science in effective caribou management strategies. As a result, disturbance levels continue to increase, and caribou in many ranges continue to decline. Below are three examples of ranges where increasing industrial activity since the Recovery Strategy’s release continues to undermine caribou survival and recovery.
By using the slider on the interactive maps below to slide back and forth, you will see forest fragmentation in 2012 when the Recovery Strategy came out, and how it looked in 2016, four years later. We have selected “hot spots” in each range, where you can see how forestry and other developments continue to expand in caribou ranges. Use the overview maps on the right to select different hotspots to look at. You can also use the check boxes on the bottom left to highlight specific types of additional development.
Projection: Canada Albers Equal Area Conic. Mapping prepared 2017-10-27, cartographer: S. Nichols. For technical details and information on the methodology used to produce these maps, please contact Carolyn Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alberta is one of Canada’s few provinces without a specific law to protect its species at risk. Alberta’s archaic Wildlife Act focuses on managing hunting rather than the importance of securing wildlife habitat. Recent caribou management decisions include both positive and negative elements, but overall, new forestry and energy sector surface disturbance continues to destroy caribou critical habitat within many of the province’s already excessively disturbed ranges. A long-term commitment to habitat maintenance and recovery must replace reliance on band-aid wildlife management measures, such as predator culls.
Alberta has monitored female mortality and calf survival in all its caribou populations. In 2013, the peer-reviewed scientific conclusions from this population research showed caribou were declining rapidly across Alberta, with a decline of approximately 50% every 8 years.
On the positive side, Alberta has paused new energy lease auctions within caribou ranges since summer 2015. It has also allowed existing lease holders to voluntarily delay drilling in ranges until early 2019. A government-appointed mediator conducted inclusive consultations on west central ranges in early 2016. In June 2016, Alberta made a high profile commitment to establish significant new protected areas in three northwest caribou ranges; these would be in portions of the range that have no existing industrial forestry tenure.
However, there are no timelines to stop new disturbance or achieve the minimum intact habitat levels to recover caribou. Alberta’s only draft caribou range plan is for the Little Smoky and A La Peche ranges in west central Alberta: it proposes more short-term logging (albeit less than ‘business as usual’), unspecified new oil and gas-related surface disturbance, and is silent on long-term logging. This ongoing habitat loss will lengthen reliance on the regrettable 10 year old massive wolf kill in that region. The draft plan also proposes to confine wild caribou females within a large fenced compound, and then release their yearlings into worsening habitat. A positive element of the draft range plan is an extensive seismic line restoration program, funded largely by the energy industry.
Chinchaga Range Profile – Situated on Alberta’s northwest border adjacent to BC, the Chinchaga caribou range was assessed as having 76% habitat disturbance in 2011. It has one of the lowest estimated calf survival rates in Alberta. Since the 2012 federal caribou Recovery Strategy, the Alberta government auctioned 1000 km2 of new energy leases in this range before halting lease sales in August 2015. One Wildland Park covers 5% of this caribou range; otherwise there are no limits to industrial disturbance. In June 2016, the Alberta government promised to extend the existing Wildland Park by 3500 km2 into an adjacent area that has no industrial forestry, to increase protected areas to 24% of this range; however, there have been few follow-up actions to date.
Participation of Alberta’s indigenous communities and stakeholders is needed to find optimal solutions for range plans. Sustainable economies for communities can be consistent with caribou recovery, including:
Quebec’s woodland caribou recovery team was formed in 2003 and is comprised of scientific experts, government and industry representatives, outfitters, First Nations and environmental NGOs. In May 2013, the team produced its second 10-year woodland caribou recovery plan (2013-2023). Despite acknowledging receipt of the plan, the government indicated it would not adopt it due to potential socio-economic impacts. In April 2016, Quebec announced it had a “credible, acceptable and reasonable” action plan for woodland caribou habitat conservation. That plan is currently in development and expected to be released in 2018.
Quebec has come under fire in recent months due to a highly controversial announcement that the isolated Val d’Or population (~18 individuals) would be translocated to a zoo in St-Félicien. Furthermore, it was revealed that construction of a new road had been approved through one of the population’s last refuge areas against the recommendation of government scientists. Opposition to the government’s announcement was so fervent that the St-Félicien zoo finally retracted. However, construction of the road in question is still underway. Overall, Quebec’s announcement sets a dangerous precedent suggesting it is an acceptable solution to relocate threatened caribou and thereby ignore the underlying sustainability issue.
Industrial forest management is the primary driver of caribou critical habitat deterioration in Quebec. Additional disturbances include mining, hydroelectric development and recreational tourism. The majority of Quebec’s commercial forest is excessively disturbed and considered unlikely to support self-sustaining caribou populations. Current modeling projections indicate that in many cases, sufficient habitat recovery is unlikely to occur over the next 100 years. The areas most likely to support self-sustaining caribou populations at present include the Broadback river valley, the White Mountains, and the remote North and Lower North Shore regions.
Although cumulative disturbances continue to further erode caribou critical habitat in Quebec, certain places have benefited from interim protection. Negotiations continue towards designating at least one new protected area in the White Mountains. A relatively small portion of the Broadback river valley was granted permanent protection in 2015, although roughly half of it is situated outside the commercial forest. The Quebec government is currently designing a network of ‘suitable vast areas’ for caribou, within which mitigation measures yet to be disclosed will be implemented. These are likely to involve special management of intact residual forests presently slated for future logging.
In terms of other concrete measures, Quebec is investing $7 million over the next 3 years toward population delineation and monitoring, although this also includes migratory and mountain caribou of Quebec. Work has also begun on a pilot study area in the North Shore region where road restoration practices will be tested. Lastly, four technical committees have been formed to develop the governmental action plan as it pertains to habitat management, socioeconomic impacts, population monitoring and population protection. Quebec’s action plan for woodland caribou is eagerly awaited, and a significant step forward is needed if it is to meet the requirements of the federal recovery strategy.
Pipmuacan Range Profile – The Pipmuacan caribou range overlaps the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean (western portion) and North Shore (eastern portion) regions of Quebec4 near the Pipmuacan hydroelectric reservoir. It is one of the southernmost ranges found within the semi-continuous caribou distribution zone and therefore among the most disturbed. Several hundred kilometres of new roads have been built on the Pipmuacan range since the federal Recovery Strategy was released, and several hundred square kilometres of caribou critical habitat have been logged. In 2013, range disturbance within the two forest management units encompassing the Pipmuacan range was estimated to be roughly 74%,5 most of which is attributed to the permanent road network. Less than 1% of this area is protected, and even the most optimistic scenario indicates that cumulative disturbance rates will remain over 45% in the long term (100 years).6
Landscape mapping combined with aerial surveys conducted by government biologists in 2007 and then in 2012 suggest that caribou may have gradually concentrated near the Pipmuacan reservoir as a result of extensive logging in the surrounding areas. Recent data indicates that calf recruitment is insufficient to compensate for adult mortality, and supports the conclusion that caribou of the Pipmuacan range are declining.7 What is more, this decline is expected to continue well into the future without a substantial commitment by government to increase habitat protection.
Recently, the Montreal Economic Institute reported that the conservation of woodland caribou in Quebec would cost the forest industry $740 million and 5700 jobs.8 This sensationalist claim is based on superficial rules of thumb, not a rigorous and scientifically defensible economic study. In reality, changes in fibre sourcing and consumer demand have played a key role in the downsizing and increased automation of the forest industry in recent years, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs in the forest sector. Under the circumstances, caribou have become a vulnerable scapegoat for forestry industry lobbyists. While conservation of caribou critical habitat may result in reduced wood supply, practical solutions exist and these must be embraced while there is still time. For example, government subsidies normally directed toward road construction and maintenance could instead be used to train and hire skilled workers for habitat restoration purposes. Furthermore, practicing intensive forestry close to mills could lessen logging pressure in more remote intact areas where boreal caribou are more likely to be concentrated due to existing habitat disturbance. Conducting forest management planning at the population range scale would facilitate this approach by increasing the area within which wood volumes could be sourced.
For two decades, Ontario has had management policies in place that apply to boreal woodland caribou. As a listed threatened species9 under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act (ESA), they require a provincial Recovery Strategy and government ‘response statement.’ In 2008, the Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou in Ontario was finalized, and the government’s response statement, known as Ontario’s Woodland Caribou Conservation Plan (‘CCP’), was released in October 2009.10 Its goals are “to maintain self-sustaining, genetically-connected local populations of Woodland Caribou (forest-dwelling boreal population) where they currently exist, improve security and connections among isolated mainland local populations, and facilitate the return of caribou to strategic areas near their current extent of occurrence.” The key innovation of the CCP was that it prescribed the adoption of a range management approach: caribou ranges would provide the geographic basis for evaluating habitat conditions, identifying caribou habitat, assessing population trends, and quantifying and addressing cumulative effects. Five years later (December 2014), Ontario published the “Range Management Policy in Support of Woodland Caribou and Recovery.” The first Principle of the Range Management Policy is that ranges will be managed such that “the amount of cumulative disturbance remains at or moves towards a level that supports a self-sustaining caribou population.”11Despite the breadth of policy and management guidance developed in Ontario, cumulative disturbance, specifically anthropogenic disturbance, has continued to increase since the federal Recovery Strategy was published in 2012. In the seven caribou ranges that overlap with industrial logging, the estimated anthropogenic disturbance12 was 6,975,000 ha in 2012, and rose to 7,178,400 ha in 201513, an increase of 200,000 ha. During the same period, natural disturbance increased by 13,000 ha.14 Five of the seven caribou ranges that overlap with industrial logging are below the minimum 65% undisturbed threshold identified in the federal Recovery Strategy. Four populations are now considered at moderate-high risk, and unlikely to persist if conditions do not change. In addition, recent population surveys have indicated that most caribou are in decline in Ontario: some moderately, some significantly.15Caribou recovery is further hampered by the fact that forestry activities associated with industrial logging have received a regulatory exemption from Ontario’s ESA. As a result, they are not subject to the recovery requirements defined under this law (i.e., “overall benefit”). This is despite the fact that disturbance associated with industrial logging and associated roads areis one of the key contributors to cumulative disturbance in Ontario’s managed forest. Instead, forest management direction is provided through the 1994 Crown Forest Sustainability Act (CFSA) which is designed to mitigate impacts of logging on wildlife habitat, not support the recovery of species at risk.
Brightsand Range Profile Located just north of Thunder Bay, the Brightsand caribou range is considered “unlikely” to persist, based on cumulative disturbance which has now exceeded 45%.16 In the 3 years that Ontario undertook calf recruitment surveys (2011-2013), recruitment ranged from 18.2 to 25.5 calves per 100 cows. Environment Canada (2008) suggests that a level of 29.8 calves per 100 cows is needed to support a stable or increasing population. The most recent range report also stated that long-term trends suggest that range recession has occurred within the Brightsand range, as some previously occupied areas in the southern portion of the range are no longer occupied by caribou. As an average across the Brightsand range, young forests are within the amount expected under natural conditions, however, there is a significant variation in spatial distribution – the bulk of mature and old growth forests are located in the northern parts of the range, and the bulk of the younger forests are located in the southern parts of the range.
Myth: There is inadequate science to plan for caribou recovery
Fact: Scientific research has yielded clear and consistent results across the country. The continuum of risk established by Environment Canada in 2008 has been refined by recent science, but no new science has served to refute it.
Myth: The science is too rigid
Fact: The Recovery Strategy allows for regional variation in managing habitat, as long as it is supported by
Myth: Caribou plans will deprive indigenous and other local communities of jobs and development opportunities
Fact: Indigenous communities, other local communities and all citizens deserve meaningful consultation and information about managing the important lands that support caribou. Indigenous and local communities should participate in choosing the best socio-economic actions that guarantee caribou range requirements to protect caribou critical habitat. Planning range access with indigenous communities, industry, hunters and trappers that is compatible with caribou recovery is urgently needed. Recent studies have shown that the primary driver of job losses in Canada’s forestry sector is mechanization and the downturn in newsprint, not habitat conservation.
Myth: The real problem facing caribou is climate change
Fact: Caribou habitat loss driven by excessive clearcut logging and energy surface disturbance has been documented for decades. Climate change adds to pressures on northern forest ecosystems, and only increases the reasons why we need better management. Caribou habitat recovery can help forests be more resilient to climate change, by reducing fragmentation and slowing down loss of older forests and wetlands.
Myth: It’s not habitat, the problem is too many wolves and other predators
Fact: The root cause of increased caribou predation by wolves and other predators is fragmented and degraded habitat in caribou ranges. Cutblocks, roads, and poorly reclaimed seismic lines and well pads support increases in deer, moose and wolf populations, create more predator access to caribou and diminish caribou’s ability to avoid overlap with predators they’ve co-existed with for thousands of years.
Myth: It’s good enough for companies to follow ‘best practice’ or mitigation measure guidelines
Fact: Caribou populations are declining almost everywhere that project-level operating guidelines are the main habitat management tool.