We did it! We received the news that the MD of Bighorn has approved our Cougar Coexistence Project! This means we can now expand our project into communities such as the Back 40, Benchlands, Exshaw, and more. The MD of Bighorn’s approval is a huge step towards developing proactive and timely cougar coexistence strategies in Alberta, creating an even bigger impact in our communities, and supporting and protecting cougars.
We are seeking a few volunteers to help us manage our trail camera network throughout the MD of Bighorn. These volunteers will be required to hike out to a cluster of trail camera locations monthly, ensure they are in working order, and upload the footage to our trail camera database. If this is something you would be interested in, please send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will provide you with more information.
If you are unable to volunteer but would still like to be a part of the solution to cougar coexistence, we are asking for one-time donations that will go towards growing our trail camera network. Our total trail camera cost to manage the network’s expansion across the MD of Bighorn is $9,000. This allows us to purchase 18 additional trail cameras that will be vital to tracking cougar movement and behaviour throughout our communities. We have already raised $2,500 towards this but need your help to reach our goal. We have options to sponsor a trail camera outright or make a monthly donation towards a camera until the total amount has been donated. Either way will go a long way to supporting our incredible cougars and the communities that coexist with them every day.
If you are a resident of the MD of Bighorn, we want to hear from you. As we expand our Cougar Coexistence Project throughout the MD of Bighorn, we are seeking feedback from residents regarding their experiences with cougars by completing a short online survey regarding their experiences with cougars. This survey will provide us with meaningful, relevant, and valuable information about coexisting with wildlife and help us develop appropriate wildlife management solutions that fit your unique community needs.
Great news for conservation out West! The Simpcw First Nation declared the Raush River watershed, which is located amongst the northern Columbia Mountains in British Columbia, an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area (IPCA). IPCA’s are areas that First Nations in B.C. have declared protected areas, without the support from government. This is due to Indigenous people being true stewards of these lands. This is a huge step towards protecting Canada’s undeveloped yet critical ecosystems.
This decision has come at a critical time as the logging companies have been trying to gain access to the Raush River watershed and area for industry purposes. Their effort has been denied for years by B.C. ranchers who manage access to the surrounding areas.
This is a great example of how different stakeholders are coming together to protect our wild places and is definitely worth the read to learn more. We hope to see more IPCA’s and conservation areas created in the years to come.
Here is an American Black Bear encounter in the Canadian Rockies as told by our Ambassador Colleen Gara:
I watched this beautiful bear one evening a couple of years ago as he/she made their way through the forest foraging on plants (dandelions mostly) and insects. To get at the insects, the bear would approach several large stones and then flip them over using their paws and snout. Once the rock was overturned, he/she would quickly lick up the ants underneath 🐜
The trapping industry is not unique to Canada, nor is its economic comparison to the eco-tourism industry. For instance, in Yellowstone National Park, a single bobcat is estimated to be worth over $300,000US through eco-tourism efforts, such as wildlife photography tours. In contrast, it is estimated that the bobcat is worth $300US dead. This $300 encompasses both the value of its coat in the fur trade and the income from trapping license sales. If the stark contrast in economic value alone is not enough, it is becoming clearer that society’s values and perspectives towards fur used in fashion are changing. This is evident through major fashion companies, such as Canada Goose, going fur-free as well as more and more fur-markets and farms shutting down operations. When considering this, we cannot help but wonder why trapping is still mainstream and viewed as an important source of revenue for conservation efforts in North America. What do you think?
Did you know that wildlife killing contests are still happening in Canada? Chesher’s Outdoor Store, an Ontario-based hunting retailer, has been hosting a coyote killing contest for years and has been offering prizes for the largest coyotes harvested. For the store’s 2023 one-month contest that ended Feb. 28, hunters paid a $20 entry fee to bag the largest coyote with prizes available up to $2500. These contests have nothing to do with conservation and are supposed to be illegal under Ontario law as they promote hunting for bounty and profit. Specifically, the Ontario’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act states that no person shall hunt “for gain or the expectation of gain”, “induce another person to hunt for gain”, or “pay or accept a bounty.” It is apparent that these killing contests are an excuse for the unethical killing of a species for fun and entertainment.
Unfortunately, legal action by animal rights groups taken against Chesher’s Outdoor Store to stop its coyote killing contest has been denied. The province of Ontario found that even though the Store acted in violation of animal welfare laws and that it did not permit it to hold the contest, it had discretion to prosecute the store and it chose not to. The reason for doing so was not given.
This is just one of many examples of how animal rights are inappropriately governed here in Canada and why change is needed. We are striving to make changes in trapping regulations of wild fur-bearing animals within Canada. Why? Because current regulations are outdated, inhumane, and unethical. Our research, a part of our Trapped In the Past (TIP) campaign has found that traps, such as killing neck snares, are being promoted as humane by the Fur Institute of Canada in their 2023 Certified Traps List even though they do not meet the humane standard requirements of the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standard (AIHTS) which is regulated by the department of Environment and Climate Change Canada.
What does this mean? In essence, it means that there are stark inconsistencies between what trappers claim (i.e. that they are ethical conservationists) and what is true (i.e. that current trapping regulations reflect outdated practices and perspectives). The result is the unnecessary and cruel suffering of hundreds to thousands of animals every trapping season.
As we continue our research and build our Trapped In the Past Campaign, there are opportunities for you to be a part of the solution. For instance, you can donate directly to our TIP Campaign efforts or become a volunteer with us. Either way makes a difference and supports our wildlife for generations to come.
Like mastering ancient Jedi skills, finding the right composition in your wildlife photography can prove to be a lifelong commitment. Here are a few tips to help!
First and foremost, if your subject is staring right at you, use the symmetry of the eyes to guide you in your composition. In other words, the best composition is often going to be achieved by sticking those eyes dead center in the frame, at least from left to right. Note that this does not mean putting the animal in the middle, it means putting the eyes/face/head in the middle. This is particularly effective if the animal’s body is also symmetrical to you, so the shoulders/wings/legs line up perfectly from left to right, too. The key on these direct, symmetrical types of shots is to not make them too tight. Ideally, leaving a little space can let you crop after the fact and tidy up your composition a bit to make it perfectly balanced.
If the subject is facing broadside, putting the animal’s eyes in the center of the frame can also still work in terms of balancing a composition, in part because it creates an image that loosely follows the Rule of Thirds – by default, when the eyes and head are dead center, the rest of the body is going to be off-center and towards one of the intersecting lines of the Rule of Thirds. It’s a win-win – you put the eyes in one of the most impactful spots in the photograph for a direct stare, yet the body happens to then line up aesthetically in a pleasing manner in the bottom right or left of the photo.
The real trick to composition in wildlife photography, though, is being able to change your compositional balance on the fly, particularly with an animal in motion. You always want to leave space in front of an animal in motion so that it appears to be moving into your photograph, not out of it
Balance within your composition can also depend on what else is in the frame with your subject. For multiple subjects, ensure that each animal has enough space around it and is not too tight to the edge of the viewfinder. Again, use the Rule of Thirds if you can to place the ‘row’ of animals in the bottom third of the frame, for instance. If one of the animals isn’t facing the right way or is distracting from the image, don’t hesitate to leave it out of the picture. This is particularly useful for photographing mothers with multiple pups/cubs/calves. Just because a moose has twin calves doesn’t mean you have to include them all in every shot.
Similarly, just because there is some beautiful moss to the left of your subject doesn’t mean it should be in your photo, especially if the animal is better suited to be on the left of your photograph (effectively pushing that moss out of the frame). By contrast, a stunning rock might actually add to the photo and you’ll need to decide on the spot whether or not including it adds or subtracts from the image.
Pay close attention to reflections to see if including them will make the photograph better (hint: they don’t always!). If including a reflection places the subject too close to the edge of the frame, then include just a partial reflection, or skip including it altogether. Vice versa, if including a reflection by zooming out with your lens ends up making your subject too small in the frame, resulting in too much empty space, then consider not including that reflection.
Another great book from renowned wildlife tracking expert (and cougar biologist), Mark Elbroch, the author of The Cougar Conundrum. This book has been a part of co-founder John E. Marriott's personal reference library since the first edition came out in 2003. It's a superb resource for anyone interested in wildlife tracking and animal signs.
Thank you for being a part of the solution to coexisting with wildlife!
The Exposed Wildlife Conservancy