Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Loudest Voices Carry Guns and Snares

Temper tantrums and bad behaviour steer wildlife management in British Columbia.

In February 2018 my friend and colleague Jordan Reichert posted my Victoria Animal News story “A One-Man Bounty on Wolves in BC,” to his public page. In that article I revealed a plan by a BC hunter, Steve Isdahl, to cull wolves across our province. Not just a few wolves, but as many as he could incite fellow hunters to kill in all eight M.Us.

Upset that his plan was made public, Steve Isdahl took to social media to say “If you have in any way attacked a person concerned for our wildlife you are about to be humiliated up one end of you and out the other – easily.”

What that meant for the only male “anti” that he could identify was this silly meme.

He had something else in mind for me, and for a fellow female advocate who had written an article in support of changes to wildlife management that was published by the Vancouver Sun. Something more personal, and I’m very sure he hoped, more “threatening” than a meme. This photo arrived in the mail at my home with no return address. My colleague received the same photo at her place of work, also with no return address.

I believe it was expected that I would tuck tail and stay silent when I received that photo. Women, after all, should know their place. So should wolves. Was the lack of a return address meant to confuse me about who sent it? The effusive use of smiley faces on social media carries over into hard copy however. I have no reason to believe my assumption is incorrect.

On August 28, 2018 Isdahl posted to social media that he was going to make “antis” too scared to oppose him.

In a video uploaded to Youtube on July 18, 2018 he called “Predator Explosion” Isdahl advises hunters that cougars, black bears, grizzlies, coyotes, lynx and bobcats are all competition to the game they’re after, stating that they “must take those predators out when you get the chance.”   

British Columbia’s wildlife deserve a management strategy that will include science and conservation that considers trophic cascades and social structures, not the emotional knee-jerk reaction by sport hunters that is currently in place. They deserve a management strategy that will respect predators and prey species for their vital contributions to sensitive environments, and will give them all the space they need to recover their own equilibrium from the toxic bombardment of industry and hunting pressures.

There is more to the story of predator culls in BC than individuals throwing temper tantrums, however. Last month news broke that the provincial government has expanded hunting of bighorn sheep, a species of concern, in the Cariboo at the same time they have contracted a cull of wolves and coyotes in the neighbouring region.

How can citizens make decisions on wildlife populations and take control of them? The Ministries responsible for BC wildlife are still hunter-centric in both policy and operations. Who is responsible for regulations and changes to them, such as extended hunting seasons? It’s difficult to be in doubt that the fox is guarding the henhouse when regulations regarding chasing cougars with hounds for the exercise of dogs is expanded. With the current attitude towards wildlife any hunter with an ax to grind about any predator can set a snare or a leghold trap anywhere – and they are.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Creative Signage Gets Attention on Highway to Sooke

The Ministry of Transportation recently worked with DeerSafe member Dana Livingstone to create an eye-catching sign on Highway 14 to Sooke. The electronic signs are used to warn drivers of seasonal road hazards, and this was one of the most timely messages to convey to the driving public.

Dana Livingstone, an East Sooke resident, has long been concerned about the deer that are regularly hit on the highway. She was inspired to approach the Ministry of Transportation when she observed a doe with a badly broken back leg bravely nurse her fawn for weeks before disappearing, having given him the best chance at life that she could.

Wildlife collisions have been identified as a concern for drivers. At this time of year when one deer is spotted at the side of the road or highway others will be close behind; the fawns. Municipal “leaping deer” signs are small and often overlooked, rarely mitigating vehicle/deer collisions as they are left up all year.

The potential for these electronic road hazard signs to warn drivers at peak seasons for wildlife movement cannot be overstated. Drivers across the province would benefit from these timely signs, as they could be updated for species that are relevant to particular regions.

Thank you to the Ministry, and to Dana Livingstone for the idea and the hard work to make this happen. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Contraceptive vaccine planned for Oak Bay deer

Cindy E Harnett/Times Colonist
April 10, 2018

Twenty does, including this one, were radio-collared in Oak Bay last month.
Photograph By SUBMITTED

Administration of a contraceptive vaccine is being planned to manage deer in Oak Bay after 20 does were radio-collared last month.
Data from the collared does and 40 motion-sensor infrared cameras set up along trails in Oak Bay will be reviewed before the vaccine can be administered.

The program is “ground-breaking” and the first time in B.C. and Canada that the immunocontraceptive vaccine, Zonastat-D, would be used in a small, contained urban setting to manage deer, said Steve Huxter, of the non-profit Victoria-based Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society (UWSS).
If a permit from the province is granted, the birth-control drug would be administered to a number of female indigenous Columbian black-tailed deer as early as August, said Huxter, who is the project manager.

Oak Bay has adopted a $40,000 program, jointly funded by the municipality and the province, to control the deer population using immunocontraception.
About 40 deer are found dead in Oak Bay each year, mostly hit by vehicles or entangled or impaled on fences.
“That’s not a humane way to reduce our deer population,” said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen.
Conflict with humans and small domestic animals is also a concern.
A cull in Oak Bay in 2015 saw 11 deer killed in two weeks. Jensen calls it a “relative success,” but it created a rift in the community and sparked protests by the B.C. SPCA and animal-rights activists.
That led to adoption of the current program, of which the first phase was conducted from Feb. 18 to March 23 by the UWSS’s wildlife veterinarian, a biologist and team of volunteers.
They sedated the 20 does and fitted them with GPS collars weighing less than one pound and with colour-coded tags for future identification. The process, including recovery and release, took a maximum of 30 minutes, according to the society.
Five young bucks were inadvertently captured and then ear tagged, but were not fitted with GPS collars. Forty motion-sensor cameras were installed to photograph the animals as they wander.
This first phase of the program is expected to provide baseline data on the ecology of urban deer, movement patterns, density, and population size.
They don’t have a population count yet, but Oak Bay’s mayor said he knows for certain “there’s too many deer in Oak Bay.”
A decade ago, there were years when just one or two were found dead in the municipality, said Jensen. For the past five to six years, about 40 have been found dead each year. There’s been a “rapid escalation” over the last six years, he said.
“It’s encouraging to see the first phase was completed successfully and now the second phase will hopefully be underway in the next six to 12 months.”
In the second phase, does will be given the drug Zonastat-D. It blocks fertilization by triggering production of antibodies that bind to the protein envelope surrounding the egg.
It’s “very very safe,” said Huxter.
The does will either be captured and the drug injected by hand or the deer will be shot with a contraceptive dart that will administer the drug and mark the spot for identification. “It’s a lot faster, more efficient and cost effective to use a darting rifle,” said Huxter.
An issue with the drug is that it’s only effective for 12 to 22 months, said Huxter.
UWSS includes scientists, wildlife veterinarians, biologists, graduate students, animal behaviourists and community volunteers. It is working with a laboratory in the hopes of developing a vaccine that is effective for five to seven years, he said.
The vaccine would not be harmful to a human or predator if the deer were consumed, said Huxter.
If successful, UWSS hopes the program will serve as an effective, community-supported template for urban deer management around North America.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Kimberley wants access to residents’ properties for deer translocation

Cranbrook, BC, Canada / The Drive FM
January 31, 2018 10:50 am

The City of Kimberley is seeking permission from residents to move forward with its deer translocation project.
Staff are asking property owners if they will allow biologists onto their properties to tranquilize and remove mule deer.
City Councillor Darryl Oakley believes residents will be supportive and appreciate the alternative initiative.
He says many people have approached him and commented they appreciate the animals don’t suffer.
Leading the initiative, Oakley insists mule deer translocate very well and aren’t armed in horse trailers.
However, the Councillor admits residents have every right not to allow biologists onto their property.
Kimberley expects to remove up to 50 ungulates by tranqualizing and trucking them to winter range outside of city limits.
Mayor Don McCormick has said several times Council will no longer pursue lethal deer culls as a management option.
The Province has committed to provide matching funds of up to $25,000 for February’s initiative.
Oakley says staff and experts will target high density areas based off information gathered from complaints from residents and the City’s deer count.
He says it would be a huge help from residents if they were to allow the team into these areas.