EWC May 23' Update

The Exposed Wildlife Conservancy
May 31, 2023

Collaborate for Conservation

When an apex predator, such as a wolf or cougar, makes a kill, it provides nutrients and nourishment for an incredible number of species in that ecosystem. More than 200 different species have been documented benefiting from cougar kills, which is why cougars are known as ecosystem engineers. These kills feed everything from beetles and larvae to foxes and Canada jays, while the carcass decomposes to provide nutrients for the soil which trees and vegetation use to grow. Because of impacts like this from every kill they make, apex predators are essential to having a healthy ecosystem. This is why we have developed Canada’s first cougar coexistence program. 

The Cougar Coexistence Project looks to provide support, resources, and information to those living and recreating in cougar territory. Last Fall we piloted this project in the Summer Village of Waiparous and are now expanding our efforts into  the MD of Bighorn and Back 40 areas.  

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 info@exposedwc.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 and allow us to track cougar movement and behaviour throughout our communities. Our cost to manage our trail cameras network’s expansion across the MD of Bighorn is $9,000 or $500 per trail camera. This may seem like a lot but the $500 equates to a full trail camera set up including the camera, security box, wire wraps, locks, SD cards, batteries, etc. 

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, it will go a long way to supporting Canada's incredible cougars and the communities that coexist with them every day. 

If you are a resident of the Summer Village of Waiparous or the MD of Bighorn, we want to hear from you. As we expand our Cougar Coexistence Project throughout Southern Alberta, we are seeking feedback from residents regarding their experiences with cougars through a short online survey. 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. 

Be Wildlife Savvy When Travelling

Spring is here which means grizzlies and other wildlife will be moving down from the mountains and forests to the valleys where there is vegetation, such as dandelions, to eat. This means that the likelihood of coming across wildlife on roadways will be increasing over the coming months. 

When driving through our wild places this summer, be sure to:

  • Respect the speed limit and keep your eye out for wildlife to reduce wildlife human-caused roadside mortalities.
  • Staying vigilant at night is especially important as wildlife is harder to spot. 
  • Stay in your vehicle at all times if you come across wildlife on the road.
  • Try and not stop on the roadside for an extended period of time to view wildlife.

By following these four simple suggestions, you will not only reduce human-caused wildlife fatalities but will be an exemplary role model for others traveling and an advocate for wildlife in our wild places and parks. 

Animal Encounter Feature

“A male grizzly bear (boar) swims in the Khutzeymateen estuary, British Columbia. 

Grizzlies are excellent swimmers and bears on the coast spend a lot of time in the water, frequently crossing streams, rivers and inlets in search of food. This grizzly had been feeding on sedge grass on land before he plunged into the water to swim to a different area of the estuary. Not only was it amazing to see this large bear paddle by, but he was also “snorkeling” which is where the bear will stick their face underwater to look for fish while the rest of their body stays afloat. One of my favourite memories from my time in the Khutzeymateen back in 2017." 

This grizzly bear encounter is brought to you by Exposed Ambassador Colleen Gara

View Colleen's Bio

Wildlife Photography Tip 

Mom’s and Cubs - It’s a Balancing Act

It is the time of year when wildlife babies - from coyote pups to loon chicks to even baby skunks – are starting to be born and venture out into the world. Photographing moms and their babies is a balancing act; however, with the right strategy, you are bound to get some beautiful mom and cub photographs out of your encounters this spring!

Mothers are both nurturing and protective of her newborns. Wildlife photographers have to be cognizant of this and your primary goal when photographing mothers and their new babies should be to limit the amount of stress you put on the family. You can do this by photographing from your vehicle (where possible) using big lenses, and by being prepared to move on if you sense that you may be putting too much pressure on the mother.

First, you need to be prepared for your photo encounter by having your cameras out, big lenses on, and your settings set already preset to maximize the light for the conditions at hand (our Co-Founder John E. Marriott suggests using Aperture Priority mode and Auto ISO).   

With that in mind, you now have to balance your aperture and shutter speed for the given light conditions. As there are multiple animals in the scene, flick your f-stop up into the f5.6 to f11 range. That said, you do not want your shutter speed to drop below 1/250th (and ideally below 1/400th) of a second. Why? Because animals move - even when they appear to be still, they are breathing, heaving, sighing - and the last thing you want to do is obsess over getting f16 dialed in for maximum depth of field only to later discover that your shutter speed of 1/100th was not high enough (the result: instead of everything being sharp and in focus, everything is slightly blurry!).

For composition, try to concentrate on one of two things: either try to get all of the animals in the shot, or focus in on an intimate scene and eliminate the clutter around it. If you are attempting to get the whole family in, then wait for that special moment when eye contact is made between you and all of your subjects, or better yet, wait for eye contact between the mother and at least one of her young. When in doubt, strive to focus on the mother's eye and then recompose your shot, ensuring that at least one key part of the photograph is razor sharp. 

Balance all of these elements and you are bound to get some beautiful mom and cub photographs out of your encounters this spring!

Should Trapping Play a Role in Wildlife Conservation?

Provincial trapping regulations in Canada have not been meaningfully updated in nearly one hundred years. These archaic trapping regulations are resulting in tens of thousands of wolves and other fur-bearing animals being trapped, killed and skinned each year across the country in inhumane and inefficient neck snares. Our Trapped In the Past Campaign is working toward a complete ban on the use of snares for commercial and recreational trapping, as well as modern, ethical, science and traditional knowledge-based updates to all trapping regulations for fur-bearing mammals. 

Our research and interviews from this campaign are revealing many controversial issues and inconsistencies with how trapping is regulated in Canada. For instance, we have learned that 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).  

The Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standard was signed in 1997, ratified by Canada in 1999, and is regulated by the federal department of Environment and Climate Change Canada. Within AIHTS are guidelines and standards for Canada’s trapping industry. Included in this are “acceptable” time limits for a trap to kill an animal in order to be considered humane, which is 300 seconds or 5 minutes. You can do a lot in 5 minutes such as empty your dishwasher, do 30 lunges, drink a coffee, or tidy up your desk. 

This 5 minutes looks a lot different for an animal, fighting for its life, caught in a trap. In leghold traps, it is common for an animal to chew through its leg or paw to free themselves from a trap. In killing neck snares, where animals are often left struggling for days, jellyhead is a common symptom of their struggle for survival. Death by exposure, dehydration, starvation, and predation are all common ways animals die when caught by neck snares on trap lines. 

Neck snares, as included in the Fur Institute of Canada’s Best Trapping document, have very limited checking requirements as compared to other traps. Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories do not have any trap checking requirements for killing traps. British Columbia requires killing traps to be checked once in every 14 days, Yukon once in every 7 days, and Saskatchewan once every 72 or 24 hours depending on location. 

This means that if the trap is not set correctly fur-bearing animals such as wolves and coyotes can be alive and struggling in these killing neck snares for far longer than the designated 5 minutes. Worse yet, traps set are rarely species specific. This means that our very own pets, such as dogs, commonly suffer the same fate as wild fur-bearing animals. 

In 1999, AIHTS stated that a Joint Management Committee will evaluate the time limit at the three-year review to adapt the time limit requirement on a species-by-species basis, with a view to lowering the 300 second time limit to 180 seconds (3 minutes), and to define a reasonable time-frame for implementation. This has not happened.  

What does this mean? In addition to killing neck snares being in violation of AIHTS requirements, 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 for the past 100 years. 

Do you have 5 minutes to spare? While countless animals suffer and struggle in traps beyond the 5 minute AIHTS requirement, you can take 5 minutes towards ending this cruel and archaic practice. In 5 minutes, you can donate directly to our Trapped in the Past Campaign or submit an application to volunteer with us. Either way makes a difference and supports our efforts to ban killing neck snares and end the suffering of countless fur-bearing animals..

Act Today

Book Recommendation

‍Intolerable Cruelty: The Truth Behind Killing Neck Snares And Strychnine

Gilbert Proulx has uncovered the grisly truth about wildlife trapping and management practices and the lies being told that perpetuate the false management narrative that government and industry want us to believe. These never before seen pages pull back the curtain to reveal Intolerable Cruelty: The truth behind killing neck snares and strychnine. 

Intolerable Cruelty is about killing neck snares used in Canada to kill thousands of red foxes, coyotes, wolves and non-target animals. This book discloses exclusive snapshots of prolonged and painful deaths of snared animals and reviews scientific findings related to their cruelty and non-selectivity. Intolerable Cruelty is also about using strychnine in Canada to kill predators. This book reviews how strychnine baits are used to destroy wolves and an array of non-target species.

Get Your Copy
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