March marks our three year anniversary since becoming Exposed Wildlife Conservancy. Over the past few years, we have grown from sharing our conservation and information through videos and photos to developing wildlife coexistence plans, educational programs, and community-centred projects. What has not changed is our mission to advocate for the fair and ethical treatment of apex predators across Canada.
Through your donations, words of support, and willingness to share our purpose with your networks, we have gotten here today because of you! This is why everyone at Exposed Wildlife Conservancy is forever grateful for your support! Thank you for making a difference for apex predators and for giving wildlife a voice.
Wolves, like other animals, do not know the boundaries set by humans. This means they do not know what a designated protected area is, such as national parks, and why they should stay in one (protection from hunting, trapping, and poaching). A recent study conducted in 5 national parks across the United States examined the effect human-caused wolf fatalities had on pack persistence and reproduction. Such human-caused fatalities included harvesting, poaching, vehicle strikes, etc. The study monitored 193 packs over 864 pack years and determined that mortalities had detrimental effects on gray wolf pack-level biological processes, pack stability, and survival rates. The study also found that there were high levels of human-caused mortality that occurred outside protected-area boundaries. This highlights the importance of establishing buffer zones and protecting wolves outside of our national and provincial parks.
Veteran biologist Doug Smith, the recently retired Director of the Yellowstone Wolf Project, was one of the leading contributors to the research paper that we shared above. In a newly released article from The Intercept, Doug Smith recounts his experiences managing wolves in Yellowstone National Park over the past 44 years. A compelling and insightful recount, here are the key takeaways that we have identified from the article:
There is a lot to digest in this article. However, the key notes above highlight the importance of protecting wolves outside of our national parks, both within and outside of Canada, where they are subjected to being hunted, culled, trapped, and poisoned. This can be made possible by creating protected areas called buffer zones that provide wolves with additional safety as they move territories and hunt. We will be exploring buffer zones in more detail soon. Until then, this article is worth the read.
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.
Our first batch of trail camera footage from our Cougar Coexistence Project is in! Our volunteers have been able to check our first batch of trail cameras which we installed at the Village of Waiparous in early January. These trail cameras aim to track cougar movement and behaviours and ensure that cougars are in the areas where we have launched our Cougar Coexistence Project.
Our trail cameras picked up some great footage, including a cougar! One of our favourite videos was a deer who was very curious about the trail camera. Staring contest anyone?
We have been receiving overwhelming demand for our Cougar Coexistence Project from community members and private residents alike. We are asking for your help in growing our trail camera network across Alberta by sponsoring a trail camera today.
We use Browning Dark Ops Full HD trail cameras with adjustable infrared that is invisible and undetectable to animals and humans alike. This means we are far more likely to capture good and useable footage at night than if we were using a trail camera that uses flash features. The total cost of a trail camera, including the gear to fasten it to trees in a noninvasive way and keep it secure, is $500. 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 daily.
'The Confrontation' encounter, as told by our Co-Founder and Ambassador John E. Marriott.
A mother spirit bear huddles her two cubs behind her and confronts a big male black bear walking down the creek in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest during the salmon run season. Seconds after taking this photo, mom rushed down and chased the male all the way out of sight to the right of the shot. I would love to show you the photos, but I missed all of it changing from a 70-200 (which this was shot with) to a 500!
Did you know that only male elk have antlers and are the only ungulate species to maintain their antlers all winter? In early spring, the males (bulls) finally lose their antlers and will almost immediately start growing a new set. The antlers themselves are made of bone and are covered in a layer of "velvet" skin as they grow; the velvet eventually gets shed just before they rut in the autumn.
Most photographers tend to start their photo careers with every subject dead center in the image. They then quickly graduate to moving an animal around in the frame but often struggle with placement of the animal too close to the edge, or worse yet, cutting off the tips of a wing or an antler or chopping off the feet of their subject. The background of an image, despite the fact it is usually out of focus to some degree, can make or break a wildlife photograph – turning a good image into a great one or, unfortunately, taking what could have been a great image and turning it into one that hits the trash bin. Fortunately, these mistakes are fairly easy to remedy in the field.
The key to creating a pleasing backdrop behind an animal revolves around ensuring the background is as clean of distractions as possible. You want the viewer to focus on the animal, not on something that is drawing their eye away from your subject, either subtly or forcefully, in the background.
Start by eliminating any obvious branches or tree trunks that ‘rise’ from the animal's head or body. This does not just include what’s directly behind the head of the animal. You should also be attentive to what’s above and below the subject’s body. For instance, if you are photographing a bull elk, be sure there is not a small tree in the background that makes it appear as if the elk has five legs. You can even go as far as trying to ensure that there are not any mildly distracting colour patterns or natural textures in the background that may interfere with your creation of the best image possible.
Regardless of what you photograph, always try to position yourself to reduce bright spots in the background, whether from the sky, dappled sunlight, reflective rocks or logs, or distracting colour splotches. If you cannot change your angle, then you do the best you can with the opportunity at hand. For example, you can lower your aperture as low as possible to fade out that background distraction. But if there is any way to move slightly, drive forward a notch, get higher, go lower – all in the name of creating a better photograph (without unnecessarily disturbing your subject) – then go for it!
One of the easiest ways to monitor yourself and learn to pick the best backgrounds is to look through your viewfinder and analyze your backgrounds as you shoot. Once you have figured out your settings and are concentrating on composition, make sure that examining the soft, out-of-focus shapes in the background through the viewfinder becomes a part of your regular routine while you are shooting.
A good trick in the field is to put your camera to your eye as you switch angles slightly. If your camera is on a tripod, tilt the whole tripod temporarily to see if you can find a better angle before committing to physically moving the tripod and adjusting the legs until you find an angle that either hides what’s behind the animal or moves it to a less distracting place in the frame.
If you put these tips to use and make background checks an integral part of your photography, you should quickly find that the percentage of stunning images in your portfolio will begin to grow!
The relationship between humans and mountain lions has always been uneasy. A century ago, mountain lions were vilified as a threat to livestock and hunted to the verge of extinction. In recent years, this keystone predator has made a remarkable comeback, but today humans and mountain lions appear destined for a collision course. Its recovery has led to an unexpected conundrum: Do more mountain lions mean they're a threat to humans and domestic animals? Or, are mountain lions still needing our help and protection as their habitat dwindles and they're forced into the edges and crevices of communities to survive?
Mountain lion biologist and expert Mark Elbroch welcomes these tough questions. The Cougar Conundrum delivers a clear-eyed assessment of a modern wildlife challenge, offering practical advice for wildlife managers, conservationists, hunters, and those in the wildland-urban interface who share their habitat with large predators.
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Our work would not be possible without YOU! For that reason, we extend to you our sincerest and deepest gratitude. Thank you for #givingwildlifeavoice. Every effort makes a difference.
The Exposed Wildlife Conservancy