It’s been just a few months since we officially launched the EXPOSED Wildlife Conservancy and wow, has our world ever changed since then. We sincerely hope that each of you and your families are safe and secure wherever you might be during this unprecedented time.
With my photography business ‘on hold’ for a while and our campaigns with EXPOSED waiting for their official fundraising launches later this year, I decided to do something quite different than most during this pandemic. In early May, while Canada was a month into the throes of full lockdown, I became aware that the Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter in Smithers, British Columbia was desperate for volunteers. Their entire program had been thrown off by Covid-19 and with 37 bears waiting to be released back into the wild, they had run out of options when their volunteers from overseas were denied entry into Canada.
Those of you that follow me on Instagram or Facebook by now know where this story is going – on May 20th, my wife and I, together with our then 17-month-old son, Porter, packed up our small trailer and quarantined our way over into British Columbia, avoiding all people and stops on our way to volunteer at the shelter. We arrived on May 21st, and shortly afterwards, I was ‘reintroduced’ to the hard manual labour I thought I had avoided by becoming a nature photographer. The joys of shoveling the sh** of 37 bears twice a day had no bounds!!
We finally arrived back home a few days ago on June 26th and looking back now, I can honestly say that our decision to go and help at the shelter is one that my family and I will never forget. The days were incredibly long and hard -- we started each morning at 10 a.m. and finished 12 or 13 hours later at 11 p.m. But for all of the shoveling poop and peeling stickers off apples and cutting up kiwis and washing bear dishes and hauling bales of hay, there was always one constant for our 34-day stay: the amazing animals that are temporarily calling Northern Lights home. We were fortunate enough to help bottle-feed baby moose, hand-feed squirrels, little goslings and ducklings, and we even went on a number of bear releases -- where the yearling cubs are released back into their home range in what is often a tearful, but very happy goodbye.
I don’t know if our son Porter will ever remember any of the adventure, but we’ve got the pictures to prove that he fell into the gosling pond, stared down the mighty Abe from behind the safety of a fence (Abe is the biggest of the baby moose), and uttered the most delightful gibberish at seeing the baby bears rush into their enclosure to feed every morning.
As many of you that have followed me and followed our EXPOSED YouTube channel know, Northern Lights will always hold a place in my heart because of their status as North America’s only certified grizzly bear rehabilitation facility. Together with EXPOSED and with MANY of you, we’ve helped raise over $100K for a variety of NLWS projects in the past, including a new truck and a new bear enclosure.
The importance of this project can’t be understated when we see events like what unfolded in Alberta this spring with the three orphaned grizzly bear cubs.
With their mother shot by a hunter and removed from this threatened population of grizzly bears, it should have been a no-brainer to immediately move these cubs to NLWS and rehabilitate them for release back into their home range next spring. Instead, politics and pseudo-science got in the way, and the cubs are destined for a miserable life in a zoo somewhere here in North America.
While spending time on this issue in mid-May before departing for the shelter, I realized that grizzly bears have almost no one fighting for them right now in Alberta. While British Columbia is chock full of great environmental organizations speaking up on behalf of grizzly bears, Alberta has a real void when it comes to nonprofits advocating for species-specific battles, be it for wolves, grizzly bears, cougars or caribou.
So, we’ve decided that one of our ongoing projects here at EXPOSED will be to start fighting for Alberta’s beleaguered grizzly bears. We will immediately start advocating for an updated Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan (the last one expired in 2013) and for grizzly bear rehabilitation and rewilding in Alberta. Stay tuned on our website at www.exposedwc.org for an updated plan on how we aim to tackle this project in the coming month.
If this is a subject that inspires you, please consider donating if you can, even just $5/month helps us pay the bills and keep operating. And if you can’t donate, then please help us spread the word by sharing our posts on social media and through your networks of friends and colleagues.
Thanks for tuning in everyone, I hope you enjoyed this newsletter update.