Archive for the ‘Conservation’ Category

Up close and intimate with grizzly sow and cub

June 24, 2010

Another story that demonstrates that you don’t want to mess with a mama and her offspring. This time it was a grizzly in the Prince George area and not a doe whomping a dog in Cranbrook.

Leon Lorenz had filmed her before, her smooth black and white grizzly fur a notable gem in his wildlife repertoire.

But he’d never been as close to the full-grown bear as he was last Monday around 7 p.m. when the light in British Columbia’s Robson Valley was perfect and the terrain so smooth he could walk silently between the trees.

“I remember telling myself I would be surprised if I wouldn’t see a grizzly,” he said from his home office in Dunster, B.C.

There she stood, about 25 yards away from him, her back turned as she grazed on some food. Her two-year-old cub lingered nearby.

In a flash, that second of serenity became a moment of terror when the grizzly bear turned and bounded straight toward him, the veteran wildlife filmmaker narrowly escaping death at the hands of one of his most beautiful subjects.

There has been a bit of criticism of Lorenz, that he had been reckless in getting too close to the bear, but he isn’t the first photographer to get up close and personal with wildlife in order to get that perfect picture and he certainly won’t be the last.

But they do risk their lives in doing so and they put the bears’ lives in danger as well.

Two cases that I recall reading about many years ago had to do with a photographer filming bears feeding on salmon in Alaska and a man in Montana who spotted a grizzly sow with two cubs and went after them to get pictures on his 35mm camera. Both of these cases turned out tragically.

The photographer in Alaska left a detailed record on his movie camera which showed an obviously disturbed grizzly that showed all kinds of evidence that he was not happy with the fellow’s presence, until the point that he turned and made one deliberate, fatal charge.

In the Montana incident, as I recall, the man and his wife were out in the mountains and were heading back to the truck near the end of the day, when he spotted the sow with her two cubs. He told his wife to go ahead and he went back to see if he could get some pictures and never returned. The developed film from his camera showed shots of the sow and cubs progressively coming closer to him. Obviously they didn’t stop coming.

Then of course there was the well publicized case of Timothy Treadwell in Alaska (although not photography related) who believed that he could live safely alongside of the bears in the area and did so for some time until he crossed paths with a grizzly in a poor frame of mind ending up with Treadwell’s death as well as that of his girl friend.

All of which only goes to show that you don’t mess around with grizzly bears and that goes in spades for mother bears with cubs. Hell you don’t even mess with black bears, as every once in while you get to meet one that doesn’t live up to the species’ “shy” reputation. In the scheme of things it may not happen often, but when it does you want to be prepared for the worst.

Actually, the first thought that went through my mind on this story wasn’t “wow,  the guy got charged by a grizzly!”  My first reaction was, “Wow, does this guy have a handgun carry permit?”

Now those babies aren’t easy to come by, although people working at some jobs can apply for and get a permit to carry a handgun in the backcountry. I hope this fellow had one because with all of the subsequent publicity, if he didn’t he is probably in serious crap.

The fact is, wilderness carry permits for handguns should be available to most people accessing the backcountry, not just commercial operators. And to take it a step further, you should have the legal opportunity to hunt with a handgun, none of which will ever happen unless we can get a groundswell of political activism from gun owners. And good luck with that.

Regardless, I hope the photographer had a wilderness carry permit and is able to continue to carry it as a survival tool as he goes about his business.


File Under Irony:Whistler wetlands converted to a parking lot for green buses

July 22, 2009

One of the big hypes for the 2010 Olympics has been how green they will be and one of the green programs that the government is showcasing is a fleet of hydrogen powered buses to be used in the Whistler area..

Sounds like a good idea and great publicity for B.C.’s hosting of the winter Olympics.

But BC Transit needed a place where they could park these green icons of transportation in order to show them off to the world. So where was the site that was chosen to build this parking area?  How about a red listed wetland area.

Hard to believe but in their zeal to show how enviromentally sensitive they were, a provincial crown corporation destroyed a sensitive wetland in order to build a parking lot to house hydrogen powered buses.

Does that not define irony?

Ottawa and meetings, meetings, meetings

May 7, 2009

Working in Ottawa this week with a small delegation from the BC Wildlife Federation. We have been meeting with MPs, Senators and senior bureaucrats since Monday and are on our last day of meetings. Flying home tomorrow. Not a moment too soon as I think I am just about overdosed on meetings.

We came down to talk about several issues: fisheries (halibut allocation to a large degree), the amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act which were shoved through in the government budget bill, C-10, native affairs issues and federal firearms issues, specifically Garry Breitkreuz’ private member’s bill C-301 and the government’s Senate bill, S-5.

We were given a good ear by all of the people that we met with, which doesn’t mean that anything will happen, but at least we were given the courtesy to fairly state our case.

Lots of security as is to be expected. But what impressed me was the friendlness and good humour of the secutiry people. Having grown used to quite the opposite reaction in airports everywhere, where it appears they are trained to suspect everyone as an imminent security risk, it was quite a nice change. Commendations to whomever is in charge of that aspect of the Otawa experience.

The Truth Shall Make You Free (or merely confused)

January 19, 2009

I would really like to know the truth – or at a minimum the facts – about climate change and endangered polar bears and the world as we know it going to hell in an overheated handbasket.

Is arctic ice still receding or is it now recovering? It seems to depend on who and what you read.

To begin with, there have been reports that sea ice is now at the same level  as 1979. This is apparently misleading, as it speaks to global ice and not specifically to the ice patterns in the arctic.

Observed global sea ice area, defined here as a sum of N. Hemisphere and S. Hemisphere sea ice areas, is near or slightly lower than those observed in late 1979, as noted in the Daily Tech article. However, observed N. Hemisphere sea ice area is almost one million sq. km below values seen in late 1979 and S. Hemisphere sea ice area is about 0.5 million sq. km above that seen in late 1979, partly offsetting the N. Hemisphere reduction.

So arctic ice hasn’t returned to 1979 levels. In fact the National Snow and Ice Data Centre reports that the average arctic sea ice in December 2008 was 320,000 sq. miles less than the 1979 to 2000 December average, On the positive side it is 54,000 sq.miles larger than it was in December 2007. This compares to the total area covered by some amount of ice of 4.84 million sq. miles.

One year certainly doesn’t make a trend but at least it may slow down the apocalyptic predictions of total disaster.

The volume of Arctic sea ice at the end of last summer was half what it was four years ago and that the Greenland ice sheet lost almost 19bn tonnes of its volume – more than ever before.

“The Arctic is screaming,” said Mark Serreze, senior scientist at the US government’s Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado.

And Nasa climate scientist Jay Zwally said: “At this rate, the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012, much faster than previous predictions.”

He added: “The Arctic is often cited as the canary in the coal mine for climate warming. Now as a sign of climate warming, the canary has died. It is time to start getting out of the coal mines.”

A curiosity is the fact that the antarctic ice has been increasing while the arctic ice has been going in the opposite direction.  Intuitively this would make you question the theories and predictions on the decline of  arctic ice, but of course there are theories to support the tie-in.

A study reported on here says:

The findings, published in the March 1 issue of the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate, show that although the total ice coverage of the southern ocean has not changed significantly over the last 20 years, the El Niño and its related Southern Oscillation appear to affect regional ice distributions. The oscillation is a recurring warming and cooling of the surface ocean in the central and eastern Pacific. El Niño refers to the warm phase of the oscillation.

“Understanding the connection between the Southern Oscillation and southern ocean climate and the sea ice cover will substantially improve our understanding of global climate,” said Dr. Ron Kwok, a senior research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “Our study concludes that the southern ocean’s climate and ice cover is somehow connected to climate in the tropical latitudes. While we don’t know yet the cause-and-effect relationship between the two, we do know the changes in sea ice cover cannot be explained by local climate variations alone and are instead linked to larger scale climate phenomena.”

If you say so, but it sounds a bit loosey-goosey to me and my cynical side kicks in when I see scientists trying to force a theory to coincide with what they want to prove although a short article here simplifies the explanation.

The other question of course is whether CO2 concentrations are really what raised global temperatures temperatures in the first place.  There are those who believe that the recent global warming was actually caused by heavy sunspot activity and with it having reached its lowest level in decades we are about to see a cooling trend. Of course there is strong opposition to this theory.

To confuse things even more, even though global temperatures have decreased and even if they continue to decrease, the global warming theorists say that it is only a false hope.

The snow storms and freezing temperatures across the country aren’t just a one off, but the winters of the past few years have actually been getting colder. The world’s average global temperature has fallen for the past four years, and 2008 was the coldest since 2000. The British Met Office has released figures that the show the earth’s average for 2008 was 14.3 C , which is 0.14 C below the average temperature for 2001 – 2007. Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies has also released figures with similar results. So what’s going on? Is global warming dead? No such luck, say meteorologists. The climatic variations are caused by La Niña, which is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. It is the mirror image of the El Niño climate cycle. According to researchers at Kiel University, these natural variations will mask any warming from climate change until about 2015. After that, temperatures rises will start to accelerate.

So even if it starts to get colder it is going to get warmer. You can’t bloody win at this game.

The worrisome part of this whole equation (at least to me) is that global warming has reached the status of becoming a quasi-religion. People who question it are compared to holocaust deniers. The agendas of many environmental groups as well as the reputations and livelihoods of politicians and scientists are tied in so strongly to the global warming bandwagon that you wonder if any new information that legitimately challenged the current science would ever see the light of day.

The final question is that even if climate change has been accelerated by CO2 excess can we do anything to reduce it or even slow it down?

There are theories for reduction, such as adding lime to the oceans, or adding marine life to to floating icebergs, neither of which is probably practical.

However, a word of caution.

1. Reducing atmospheric CO2 concentrations is not the same as stabilising them. Carbon rationing is about trying to stabilise CO2 concentrations. Carbon rationing is about doing as little further harm to the planet as possible.

2. There is currently no known mechanism for reducing atmospheric CO2. Every molecule of CO2 that we add to the atmosphere will stay there on average for 30,000 years.

3. Attempts at reducing atmospheric CO2 levels, particularly those put forward by James Hansen (explained below) involve dangerous experiments at planetary engineering, which have the potential to accelerate and intensify the climate and extinction crisis which we are facing.(my emphasis)

4. There is just a chance that, in decades to come, somebody might invent an efficient way of air capture of CO2 which won’t use vast amounts of energy, nor require vast areas of land. As James Hansen and the IPCC report state, such technology does not currently exist and is a long way off, if it ever will work. This is why James Hansen has not incorporated it into his proposals.

It seems to me that the only indisputable fact is that there is nothing constant in nature and that includes the global climate. The earth warms and it cools. Whether we started it or are just helping it along is moot. Better global warming – at least within reasonable boundaries – rather than global cooling. I simply question whether we have the ability to change the process or if we can whether we can do so without causing even more problems.

Gorillas coming out of the mist

August 9, 2008

An interesting story detailing new gorilla population figures, at least for the Republic of Congo.

More than 125,000 western lowland gorillas have been discovered deep in the forests of the Republic of Congo, at least doubling their estimated population. Primatologists say the newly discovered gorilla population now puts their estimated numbers at between 175,000 and 225,000. Tendai Maphosa has more from VOA’s London News Center.

Before a census conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society, scientists believed fewer than 100,000 of the gorillas still existed. The news was greeted with excitement at the International Primatological Society Congress under way in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The reaction to this news appears to have been very positive with none that I found questioning the science of the count procedures or the politics of the announcement.

I must admit that I was expecting to see some organizations taking that position as the gorilla has been an icon species for fund raising and stories that might mute the public concern about extinction could be seen as a threat to raising cash.

There were certainly cautionary statements to the effect that the western lowland gorilla was only one of several species and that in general, primate populations were of concern in both Africa and Asia.

Jillian Miller, executive director of conservation group The Gorilla Organization commented: “The discovery of such a large population of western lowland gorillas is absolutely fantastic news for the sub-species and for conservationists, but we should be careful not to be too complacent.

“The area where these gorillas have been found is in the path of the Ebola virus, which has wiped out large numbers of Western lowland gorillas during the past 25 years.”

She added: “Numbers are less important than trends, and sadly the trend for all gorilla sub-species, apart from the mountain gorillas, has been a downturn in population figures.”

The reason I expected some kind of “don’t believe the numbers” comment is from my experience with grizzly populations in British Columbia and environmentalist’s continuing attacks on the numbers presented by provincial researchers.

This B.C. reaction may be more closely connected to the campaign to stop grizzly hunting that it is to a healthy population of grizzly bears. But one of your key arguments against hunting – that it is not sustainable – is badly damaged if the population estimates are strong.

Back in the early 1980s the provincial government estimated that there were around 10,000 grizzlies in B.C. But as the anti-hunting crusade began to build there were criticisms leveled that there had been little to no population studies being done to back up those estimates.

The Ministry of Environment began to expend more time, energy and money (when it was available) to update their population estimates and by 2001 the new estimate had increased to 14,000 bears.

But by now the anti-grizzly hunt campaigners were in full battle dress. They disputed the government figures and maintained that the actual populations were more likely in the area of 3,000 to 4,000 bears. This of course based on no studies or calculations, just the need for a lower figure.

Official figures put the number of grizzly bears in B.C. at about 14,000, but de Leeuw says overhunting may have reduced the population to as few as 3,000. Hunters kill an estimated 300 each year, with another 300 killed for public safety purposes and by poachers. Over a 33-year period from 1965 to 1997, he estimates more than 6,000 female bears were slaughtered, far in excess of the number the B.C. government considers sustainable.

“These results are discouraging at best,” de Leeuw writes. “They clearly indicate that rather than controlling the total kill of grizzly bears to what may well be an arbitrarily conservative level, for 33 years the province has allowed the kill to exceed its own standard of sustainable mortality.”

Compounding matters is the dubious nature of the B.C. Ministry of Environment’s grizzly population estimates. From 1972 to 1979 the province estimated a population of 6,660 grizzly bears. But in 1990, the Ministry estimated that the province was home to 13,160 bears, using a “habitat suitability” model that assumes grizzlies occupy all suitable habitat, de Leeuw contends the model is so flawed that virtually all grizzly bears could be exterminated in B.C. by sport hunters, and the government would still allow hunting.

With the advent of DNA sampling B.C. researchers had a new tool in population research and as they gained more experience and gathered more data, the grizzly population estimates kept rising, to the present level of around 17,000 bears.

In the meantime, things had happened on the political scene. In the latter stages of the provincial NDP government’s reign the new Minister of Environment put a moratorium on all grizzly hunting in the province – against the advice of the professionals in his department. That lasted until the provincial Liberals won the next election and reinstated the hunt.

Now, with a provincial election in the offing, the anti-hunt crowd, although never gone, has been generating a new campaign. The story is the same: The official figures are incorrect (although they seem to have deserted – at least publicly – the idea that the population could be as low as 4,000 animals) and therefore all hunting should be arbitrarily ended.

In an interview with the Daily News, Genovali said that only 84 per cent of grizzlies killed in the province were shot by trophy hunters, but he insisted that should bring little comfort to British Columbians.

“There are no firm numbers of how many grizzlies are actually alive in B.C.,” said Genovali.

The suggested number of grizzly bears in B.C. right now is 17,000, which is up by 11,000 on when the first provincially recorded number of grizzly bears was noted in 19 72. However, Genovali disregards that number as nothing more than speculation.

So to come full circle: New population counts showing an increased gorilla population are greeted with great enthusiasm while studies showing a continuing increase in grizzly populations are attacked as government propaganda.

Which leads me to my conclusion that in B.C. it is more an anti-hunting issue than a grizzly bear population issue.

Not bad – all the way from gorillas in Africa to grizzly bears in British Columbia in one blog.

The modern difficulties in dealing with problem wildlife

July 8, 2008

The world has become a much more difficult place when dealing with problem wildlife issues, especially when today’s animal rights philosophies come into play. Even when professionals try to do not only the right thing, but the only thing, they run into opposition from people and organizations with opposing agendas.

This was brought to mind by a recent article regarding the plan by the US Fish & Wildlife Service to eliminate or at least severely reduce feral cats on San Nicholas Island off the coast of California in order to further protect endangered bird populations on the island.

As to be expected, there was an uproar with the plan being called “misguided and inhumane” as well as “irresponsible, cruel and simply unacceptable.”

The absolutely silliest comment was a quote by a spokeswoman from an organization called Alley Cat Allies, which is an advocate group for feral cats, who said:

….there is no proof that the cats are eating the birds. Though bird remains have been found in cat stomachs, she said the birds could have been dead when the cats ate them.

“They honestly have no solid proof that these cats are killing the
birds,” she said. “They are not making an effect on the population.”

This is from someone who is supposed to know something about cats? Cats are natural born killers. They live to hunt and kill. Your well-fed cuddly old house cat will haunt the bird feeders of the neighbourhood, stalking and killing songbirds. The cat doesn’t need the food but the instincts are strong. Those feral cats don’t affect the bird populations on the island? Get serious.

The message apparently being that it is more important to protect feral cats than endangered bird populations.

In Surrey, B.C. the problem lies with beavers. These furry little dam builders regularly move in and construct dams in areas that threaten to flood homes, buildings and farmlands. To control this problem the city traps and kills these specific animals.

City staffers point out that there are hundreds of sites in the Surrey area where beavers are left to their own devices. They also note that relocating the animals out of problem areas is not an option, because they are territorial creatures and will do battle with interlopers which is why the Ministry of Environment bans relocations.

However a former Vancouver parks commissioner and animal advocate Roslyn Cassells says that trapping and killing the problem beavers is “inhumane, cruel, and unethical.”

It seems we have heard that mantra before.

Unfortunately there is no other practical solution. Some property owners say they have abandoned beaver dams on their property and they would adopt a beaver. But that option, even if viable, is extremely limited. But practicalities have no place in this discussion.

Mayor Dianne Watts, back in her office today after a trip to China, has called for relocating beavers. “I do not support the killing of wildlife,” she said in a statement.

Way to support your staff! Maybe the mayor will personally solve the problem by taking the surplus toothy little fellows home with her.

It may be this philosophy that drove the city of Helena-West Helena, Arkansas to solve their failed animal shelter problem by simply turning unwanted dogs loose in the national forest. Sure, it’s illegal and the dogs might starve out there but at least you don’t have people telling you that you’re “inhumane, cruel and unethical,”

Gophers, Prairie Dogs and Poison

June 16, 2008

I have never liked the use of poison to control unpopular animal populations, even as a youngster on our farm in Southern Saskatchewan. I hated to see our neighbour across the road out dropping poison into gopher holes (some of it on our property) and I never liked the cyanide guns that government agents used to decimate coyote populations in those days.

At the time it was more of a gut reaction although maybe even then I understood how indiscriminate the results of the poisoning was. The cyanide guns killed a lot of farm dogs along with the coyotes they targeted. The gopher poison killed a lot of other unintended birds and animals.

For a long time now poison has not been allowed in most jurisdictions as a method to control these populations. But the out-of-control growth of gophers in SW Saskatchewan and Prairie Dogs in the U.S. West has changed that dynamic. This year, in answer to local demands, the federal government authorized the use of strychnine by Saskatchewan and Alberta landowners to help solve their problem.

I find it hard to fault the ranchers and farmers who have been impacted by these animals for calling for more drastic measures to reduce their populations. There has been a huge economic cost for them, with crop damage and even equipment damage due to the rodent’s burrowing holes, exacerbated by the influx of badgers making even bigger holes in the process of digging out their gopher prey.

The ranchers/farmers in SW Saskatchewan have been very good about welcoming shooters onto their land in an attempt to reduce the populations in that manner. And although there have been a large number of shooters that have come into the area and killed a lot of gophers their efforts apparently did not make a serious dent in the populations.

One of the concerns with poison is the incidental kills and I noted that there were Burrowing Owls in the area, which would be particularly vulnerable to the poison regime.

I asked one of the ranchers in SW Saskatchewan about that and he said that he had seen nothing in that regard so far. Mind you this particular fellow seemed to be pretty careful about the placement of his poison, making sure it was placed well down the hole and getting rid of any poison-killed gophers that he found. I’m not sure that everyone placing their poison will be that conscientious.

An indication of how effective poison control can be comes from a conversation I had with a fellow in Weyburn who has gone down to North Dakota for the past few years to shoot Prairie Dogs. When they were leaving the ranch they shot on last year the rancher told them he had a crew coming in to apply poison on his lands. In the past week the rancher advised that it was pointless to come down this spring, as the poison applied appears to have killed off 90-95 percent of the dogs on his property.

It remains to be seen if the control program is as successful for the farmers and ranchers in Saskatchewan .

On a cynical note, a couple of years ago when the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation put together a shooting derby to help in reducing the gopher numbers there was a great amount of hoopla in the media, instigated by animal rights groups, decrying how inhumane it all was. However there doesn’t appear to be much caterwauling and hand wringing over the fact that strychnine is now being used to kill off large numbers of the animals. So obviously the concern wasn’t for the gophers per se; it was all about an agenda against guns, shooting and hunting.

Don’t call them environmentalists!

October 27, 2007

It amuses me when I see environmental groups identifying themselves in the media as ‘conservationists’ rather than what they really are. I was reminded of this again in an article reporting on the BC government’s recent Mountain caribou recovery initiative.

The announcement is good news for conservationists, but it is just a first step, said Candace Batycki, a director with Forest Ethics.

I suspect that this attempt to redefine themselves dates back to a 1997 document prepared by BC Wild for (their words) members of the BC Environmental Movement.

BC Wild conducted a number of focus groups in various locations around BC “to learn how average BC residents feel about their province, what they see as the key issues BC will face in the future, and how in particular they relate to environmental and conservation issues”.

The insight into the public’s perception of ‘environmentalists’ is interesting. At one point the report says that:

“Negative perceptions of environmentalists exist everywhere in BC, but they grow in intensity and scope the farther you get from Vancouver and as you move from women to men. While BC residents credit environmentalists with raising awareness and playing a watchdog role, our image with the public is primarily negative. At best we are perceived as well-meaning watchdogs. At worst people see us as part of the problem – ideologues that promote and thrive on conflict – rather than part of the solution – responsible actors seeking balance.”

The report goes on to note:

Conservationists are perceived much more positively than environmentalists. People generally think of conservationists as more educated, more steeped in facts and science, more specific in their goals, more low key, less radical, more positive, older, wiser and more like them.

Then in a section called, “How To Talk About Environmental and Conservation Issues with BC Residents”, it compares “Good words to use” to “Bad words to use”.

Good word to use: Conservationist.
Bad word to use: Environmentalist.

Since that time I have noted that many environmental groups, when talking to the media have repositioned themselves as conservationists.

What is the difference between a conservationist and an environmentalist, you ask? Here is a series of definitions that I like.

Conservationism began in the early 1900s, based on the concepts that humankind is a part of nature, that far more plants and animals are reproduced each year than can survive, and that these excess plants and animals are resources to be harvested. People, however, must do everything possible and economically feasible to reduce human impact on nature.

Environmentalist ideology, synthesized between the mid-1960s and early 1980s, is based on the doctrine that modern industrial mankind, as distinct from the indigenous cultures, is not part of nature, does not have the right to exploit or manipulate wild plants and animals, and must reduce his exploitation of nature to a level of minimum survival requirements.

Preservationism took root about 1985 by combining two powerful philosophies of environmentalism and socialism with a new interpretation: “Mankind does not belong in nature and if something bad befalls you, like an attack by a wild animal, it’s your fault.

You can call a dog an eagle, but it still won’t fly.

That report was done a decade ago. It would be interesting to see if perceptions have changed since that time.

Polar bears are DOOMED! DOOMED I tell you!

September 11, 2007

A study done by oceanographer James Overland and meteorologist Muyin Wang, researchers for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), projects that at the current melting rate, the polar ice cap will by reduced by 40% by 2050.

The Arctic ice cap is melting faster than scientists had expected and will shrink 40 percent by 2050 in most regions, with grim consequences for polar bears, walruses and other marine animals, according to government researchers.

The Arctic sea ice will retreat hundreds of miles farther from the coast of Alaska in the summer, the scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concluded. That will open up vast waters for fishermen and give easier access to new areas for oil and gas exploration. It is also likely to mean an upheaval in species, bringing new predators to warmer waters and endangering those that depend on ice.

The study, by NOAA oceanographer James Overland and meteorologist Muyin Wang, adds to the increasingly urgent predictions of major ice loss in the Arctic.

Their study and predictions do not extend any hope to reverse the trend.

But Overland’s calculations are based largely on the carbon dioxide that already has been pumped into the atmosphere. That pollution will greatly diminish the ice by 2050, regardless of future curbs on emissions, he said yesterday.

“The amount of emissions we have already put out in the last 20 years will stay around for 40 to 50 years,” Overland said. “I’m afraid to say that a lot of impacts we will see in the next 30 to 40 years are pretty much already established.”

Another study, done by the U.S. Geological Survey, predicts that even with more modest shrinking of the polar ice cap Polar bear populations will drop by 2/3 by 2050.

Two-thirds of the world’s polar bears will disappear by 2050, even under moderate projections for shrinking summer sea ice caused by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, government scientists reported yesterday.

The finding is part of a year-long review of the effects of climate and ice changes on polar bears to help determine whether they should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. Scientists estimate the current polar bear population at 22,000.

The report, which the U.S. Geological Survey released here, concludes that under middle-of-the road projections for warming the bears will by mid-century be largely relegated to Arctic archipelago of Canada and spots off the northern Greenland coast. The bears would disappear entirely from Alaska, the study said.

The report pessimistically assumes that as the ice cap recedes and traditional habitat is reduced that the bears will not adapt and will disappear. I suspect that is a simplistic scenario.

As the north warms new prey will enter the area and if the bear’s traditional prey becomes available I would think that they would move inland to find new sources of food. Maybe they’ll eat the grizzly and black bears that will begin to expand their territories into a greening north.

To keep things in perspective regarding Polar bears one needs to remember that in the 1950s their population was estimated at 5,000, increased to 8,000 – 10,000 between 1965/70 then to 25,000 in 1984 and then settled on a range of between 20 – 25,000 in 2005. Some of the increase in number can certainly be attributed to better counting techniques in recent years but it certainly shows a healthy bear population at this time and place.

I would be more concerned with the walrus and seal populations but as the first article says:

“This will have a profound effect on the animals that use sea ice all the time, including walrus and polar bears and ringed seals,” he said. “You will actually have a change in the whole ecosystem. You will have winners and losers. Crabs, clams, walrus and bears will not do well. Salmon, pollock and other fisheries that live higher up in the water column will extend their range.”

So if fisheries increase maybe the seal populations will do better than expected.

As the NOAA researchers state:

“We really don’t have a clue how that will look,” Overland said of the species changes. Pollock already moving into the Bering Sea were expected to thrive, for example, but there has been an unexpected loss in species on which the fish feed and an unexpected increase in predator species, he said.

And therein lies the crux of the problem. We know there are changes coming but we don’t really know how severe they will be nor do we know how various species will react and adapt. Hell we can’t predict the local weather accurately a week ahead.

But to be safe you predict the worst case scenario and hope that it scares the government and the public into some kind of an action mode. Although in the case of the NOAA study they have told us that it is too late to do anything anyway. Just get out your fishing rod and head north.

Problem wildlife and the urban factor

August 23, 2007

I don’t envy Conservation Officers their job these days. With the expanding bear population and urban sprawl they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t when it comes to dealing with problem wildlife.

A case in point is the recent shooting of an aggressive black bear in North Vancouver.

RCMP in North Vancouver say a black bear that had lost its fear of humans was killed Friday after it began charging pedestrians and an officers called to the scene.

Const. Michael McLaughlin said an officer shot the two-to-three-year-old male bear near a playground after it charged her.

The animal retreated injured into the bush where it was later killed by a conservation officer.

Now that sounds like a reasonable scenario to me. You have a habituated bear that shows definite aggressive tendencies and the decision is made by an RCMP officer to protect the public by killing it.

Even though the bear was injured, says Ministry of the Environment spokeswoman Kate Thompson, it charged the conservation officer as well.

Thompson said the initial call to police came after the animal had chased a woman out of a park.

She said the bear did have a tag that had been placed on it previously by officers.

“It had already been moved this year,” she said. “Far too habituated (to humans) unfortunately.”

Thompson said the bear was found in a heavily populated residential area.

Even after being shot the first time the bear charged the CO who went in after it. It had already been trapped and transplanted from another area as being a problem and it had come back into a residential area. The RCMP and the CO Service had run out of options at that point. Their mandate became the need to protect the public.

But did the RCMP and the CO Service get any thanks for their actions? Not a chance.

A botched attempt to put down a two-year-old black bear, similar to the one pictured, in North Vancouver has conservationists clamouring for better bear training for North Shore RCMP.

My first issue with this article is that by definition, I don’t think that the people complaining were ‘conservationists’. Environmentalists maybe or just some misguided urban souls who think that all that poor little bear needed was a hug  to alleviate his hostility.

However they may have a point in that the RCMP really aren’t trained to handle problem wildlife issues. I don’t know what they used in their initial attempt to kill this bear, but if they used a sidearm that probably explained why they only wounded it on the first encounter. A 9 mm really isn’t going to cut it in a situation like that. Though I suspect that it wouldn’t have made much difference if the officer had killed the bear stone-cold dead with one shot. There would still have been an uproar because they killed the bear rather than giving it a stern talking to and sending it on its way chastened but reformed.

However if the officers hadn’t taken action and someone had been mauled or God forbid a child was killed you know damned well who would have been villified for not taking action.

It’s a weird world we live in today.