Canadian wildlife faces peril at every turn

A beaver sits among the leaves on the bank of Nose Creek near Waterstone in Airdrie, on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. Although the beaver is considered Canada’s icon it is legal to trap one for fur or ‘pest control’ throughout the country. (Photo by Robin Contos)

Most people would be surprised to know that trapping still happens,” said Lesley Fox, executive director of The Fur-Bearers. “Each province has their own trapping regulations and they all support killing animals including beavers and bears.”

Fox heads up an organization in British Columbia with a mission to protect the fur-bearing animals of Canada through advocacy and conservation efforts.

Fur-bearing animals include classic Canadian symbols such as beavers, bears and wolverines.

“Right across Canada trapping is legal, leghold traps are legal. I think there’s a perception that legholds were banned. That’s not true. They’re legal in every province and territory right across Canada,” said Fox.

A leghold trap is a metal trap, usually constructed of steel which will clench around an animal’s paw and trap it. These traps can cause broken bones and mutilations to the limb. Many times, animals remain stranded in the trap, injured, for several hours or even days.

Beyond trapping, Canadian wildlife battle habitat depletion and human interference.

“The biggest threat to wildlife is habitat destruction and fragmentation. Human development has converted land that was once suitable habitat for wildlife into settlements, agricultural lands, and industrial developments,” said Devon Earl, a conservation specialist from the Alberta Wilderness Association.

A black bear eats berries near the roadside just outside of Canmore on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022. Often bears which become comfortable close to civilization can be involved in vehicle collisions or other human conflicts. (Photo by Robin Contos/SAIT)

Earl explained that the main cause of grizzly bear deaths is humans. Vehicle and train collisions kill many bears and those who have become habituated to humans are often euthanized.

“Right now, in terms of education, we’re trying to focus on what can people do better,” said Nick De Ruyter, the Wildsmart program director at Biosphere Institute of The Bow Valley.

“It’s our mistakes, laziness, or lack of education that actually gets the bear into trouble… our education is focused on what we can do better to coexist.”

Organizations like The Fur-Bearers, Wildsmart and the Alberta Wilderness Association work to conserve the animals left on the landscape and to educate community members on the correct way to interact with wildlife and the dangers posed to them.

De Ruyter reflected on the present mindset towards wildlife, apprehensive that the current accepted strategies with wildlife could result in dire consequences.

“I’ve got two kids, I’d like them to live on a landscape here in twenty years, where grizzly bears exist. If we continue on the path that we have been on, that might not actually happen.”

About Robin Contos 5 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Robin Contos is working as a writer for The Press in 2022-23.