Tag Archives: wildlife

Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative

CtoCThe Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative seeks to protect and recover threatened grizzly bears and safeguard their habitat in southwest British Columbia through science-based planning and community involvement.

Our goal is to restore the five threatened grizzly bear populations in southwest British Columbia and to connect grizzly bear habitat while encouraging environmentally responsible development. We can accomplish this by protecting grizzly bears from mounting threats and stemming their loss from our wild places, safeguarding year-round ample habitat, and ensuring connectivity between grizzly bear populations.

Who We Are

We are a local and regional coalition united by a vision of thriving human communities and healthy, connected wildlife habitat. We have organized to highlight concerns around the plight of grizzly bears in the Coast to Cascades region of British Columbia – a biologically and culturally rich area at the intersection of the Coast, Chilcotin, and Cascades mountains.

Why Bears?

Grizzly bears are barometers of wilderness and the health of ecosystems. They require large tracts of wild habitat with rich, diverse and seasonal foods like berries, roots and salmon. When grizzly bears are present, we know that these same healthy wild landscapes also provide our society clean water, robust forests and diverse wildlife. Coast to Cascades grizzly bears are an early warning system indicating how well we are stewarding natural systems for future generations. For more information watch the video Why Bears?

Why now?

Two hundred years ago, a person could walk from central Mexico to the shores of the Arctic Ocean and regularly see signs of grizzly bears the entire way. Today, the great bear has been wiped out along the west coast as far north as southwest BC. Small numbers of grizzly bears have managed to hang on in the wilder and more isolated corners of the Coast to Cascades – literally in Vancouver’s wilderness backyard. For example, in the Garibaldi-Pitt, only a few grizzly bears remain. In the Stein-Nahatlatch, there are just 24 grizzly bears, with six females dead since 2006. We must act now to protect those that remain. Click here to see how grizzly bears are managed by the Government of British Columbia.

What can you do?

Join us! Can we count on you when we need action for grizzly bears? Please sign up for our action list.07

If you are hiking or recreating in grizzly bear country, remember to travel safe. Grizzly bear or black bear? Learn the difference. And if you do see a grizzly bear, please report it to our reporting hotline: 1-855-GO-GRIZZ ( FREE1-855-464-7499).


The crow – a bird for the times

by Stan Hirst

Some years ago the Elders, in casting about for a suitable logo to represent our image, chose the owl. They said it was a universally recognized symbol of wisdom and beloved by all, unless you happened to be a mouse. Now we’re stuck with this goggle-eyed fowl on the blue background you see over on the right. My fellow elders will likely disagree with me but I think we may have erred. We should have opted for a more adaptable, resourceful and smarter bird as an icon. We should have gone with the common or garden crow,

Consider their merits. Crows are adaptable in their choice of domicile. They typically nest in tall coniferous or deciduous trees, but readily opt for hedgerows or shrubbery as well. In urban areas they often nest on window ledges or the sides of buildings. They believe sincerely in gender equity and family support. Both sexes build the nest during a period of 1 to 2 weeks, from mid-March to mid-July, depending on latitude and elevation. Females incubate four to five eggs for 18 days, and are fed at times by the male or sometimes by offspring from the previous year.

Crows are omnivorous and eat whatever is available—insects, spiders, snails, fish, snakes, eggs, nestling birds, cultivated fruits, nuts, and vegetables. The crow population in the B.C. Lower Mainland has increased over the past 40 years as burgeoning human populations and urbanization have reduced forest cover, creating open foraging areas and generating food sources such as garbage that crows have been adept at exploiting. We too might have to adapt similar foraging habits here in B.C. as our productive land base is progressively depleted by subdivisions, highways, hydroelectric dams and drought.

hungrycrowCrows are gregarious – surely a useful trait in these trying times. They roost communally during the non-breeding season for the same reason many other birds do—to avoid predation and to share information about food resources. As winter moves in the birds form large roosts when they congregate at sunset. The birds disperse from their roosting areas early in the morning and follow each other to traditional foraging sites. Generally, the larger the roosts the greater the dispersal distances during the day. Feeding and roosting sites may be many kilometres apart.

Crows are regular in their habits, just like elders. They typically commute along regular flight paths, stopping at traditional feeding and staging sites along the way, where they usually vocalize loudly and noticeably. Large roosts usually number in the hundreds or even thousands, but can reach truly huge numbers, e.g. up to 2 million birds in the mid-western U.S.

Ornithologists speculate that roosting crows return to the same tree night after night, possibly even to the same branch. Some studies have shown that crows who occupy superior positions in the group hierarchy are more likely to take sleeping spots in the higher branches. That alone would seem a good indicator of intelligence.

Intelligent they certainly are. Crows are ranked amongst tool-using wild creatures, along with parrots, finches, monkeys and chimpanzees, and have been observed to use twigs to dig worms and insects out of holes. They are commonly observed to post sentries at foraging sites to alert feeding crows of danger.

Crow intelligence has been tested on the university campus in Seattle. Researchers donned masks and then captured and tagged a group of resident crows. They released the birds and checked their reactions on subsequent days when they wore the same masks and, alternatively, when they walked about maskless and when wearing a different set of masks. The results were somewhat in excess of what the researchers expected. Tagged crows would not react to people clad in unfamiliar masks, but they scolded and dive-bombed researchers wearing the same masks as the people who had initially captured and tagged them. Not only that, untagged crows in the neighbourhood rapidly caught on and joined in the dive-bombing.

This all confirmed what had been seen in other behavioural studies on crows, i.e. they communicate with one another in an advanced fashion. Its a contentious point whether crows actually employ what could be called “language”, but they do obviously communicate information to one another. Some researchers have surmised that different crow populations might have different ‘accents’. Its a common belief in the American mid-west that crows will modify their daily or seasonal movement patterns to avoid farms or localities where other crows have been killed in the past. The avoidance response has been reported as persisting amongst subsequent generations of crows. Attractive idea, although at this point one might ask for a little more evidence.

One of the B.C. Lower Mainland’s most remarkable natural ornithological spectacles is still occasionally to be seen in Burnaby. Pre-roosting crows gather in the evening in their thousands around Still Creek near Willingdon and Lougheed. The site serves as a central location from which the crows can radiate out to feed around the Lower Mainland, flying as far afield as the North Shore and Richmond.


Nature Red in Tooth and Claw

by Bob Worcester

About 30 years ago wcougare began sojourning from the city to our cabin in Howe Sound. Our island retreat was an idyllic place to relax and recharge before returning to the work and worries of the city. It was also a safe and stimulating place to introduce children and now grandchildren to the wild outdoors. They spent summers exploring beaches and forest trails, mostly unsupervised and unstructured. It was hard to get lost on an island and they were mostly isolated from serious hazards. There were the acceptable risks of wasps, water sports, fires and falls. Deer, ravens, owls and occasionally raccoons visited our clearing on the island but they were mostly welcome unless they took excessive interest in our garden.

Recently, however, rumours circulated of a cougar on the island. A dog had been mauled, paw prints were found in mud, and there were second-hand reports of sightings. It is a large island so such warnings were filed mentally away with the forest fire advisories as something to be aware of but not too concerned about. Then we heard first hand that the cougar had been seen on the rocks above our beach where the grandchildren had played on their summer visit.

The abstract became real. Our sense of safety shifted as we imagined an encounter on the trail to the beach. Cougars are iconic creatures and efficient predators. They rely on stealth, speed and precision to bring down prey often twice their size. Attacks on humans are rare but have been fatal. Although the probabilities are low, when shadows lengthen and you are alone on a trail the possibile seems real enough. I found myself more vigilant, scanning my surroundings more closely and listening more carefully to sounds I might have otherwise ignored. I carry a walking stick now that is a bit more solid than before and a flashlight when I am out at night.

There is something primal in this reminder of my tenuous position on the food chain. The feeling probably predates the ice age when humans were fair game for predators before technology gave us the edge in close encounters. I can imagine the cougar watching me from the shadows to see what the upright apes are up to now. It is good to remember that the wild is not a Disney movie or a nature documentary. And I am glad cougars are not vengeful since this one was no doubt displaced from its home range by land development or clear cut logging.

We can share the island as long as the cougar does not develop a taste for grandchildren. I am probably at greater risk from ticks than from this new neighbour and there certainly are far greater dangers in the city than from cougars in the wild. That said, I will continue to carry a stout stick when I walk in the woods and be more alert to the sudden, swift and silent movement that would presage a dramatic end to my story – but one well worth telling to the grandchildren.