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Monsters of the Deep

Monsters of the Deep
“So what do you think lives down there?” It’s my first question to government biologist Lee Williston about the eerily deep waters of Quesnel Lake . Williston has just told me that the maximum depth recorded here is an astounding 523 metres, making it the third deepest lake in North America and the deepest fjord lake in the world. “Probably not much,” he replies, dashing my hopes of a Quesnel Lake Monster story. “But there are definitely some big fish in these waters. People have landed rainbows here in the twenty pound range.” Like the legendary Gerrards of Kootenay Lake, Williston explains that Quesnel Lake rainbow trout are a genetically unique, late-maturing strain that gets big by feeding on kokanee. The result is the largest wild sport fishery in the Cariboo, and one of the few places left on the continent where you can fish for trophy rainbows in a pristine wilderness setting. “Fishing on Quesnel, it's possible to see a black bear, grizzly and moose all in one afternoon,” says Williston. “There's a whole host of iconic B.C. wildlife living in the watershed. It really is the complete wilderness experience.” Still, the lake’s remote location hasn’t made it immune...
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Catching a Glimpse

Catching a Glimpse
The following story was submitted to us by Berry Wijdeven, a biologist working on HCTF project 6-235, Juvenile Sooty Grouse Dispersal and Winter Survival on Haida Gwaii. Berry works for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO) as the Species at Risk Coordinator for Haida Gwaii.   The radio receiver, though dialed way down, squeaks loudly, insistently. Somewhere, within 10 meters or so, a radio collared female grouse is hiding. Possibly nesting. We want to find that nest and put a camera near it to see whether the chicks fledge successfully or whether the nest fails. But we don’t want to disturb the bird, potentially flush her off her eggs, so we proceed with great caution. The radio signal originates from a nearby stump, which is surrounded by a dense growth of salal. Entering that growth would surely alarm the grouse, so here we stand, hoping to catch a glimpse of a bird that is likely watching us. Inventory studies have suggested that the number of Haida Gwaii Sooty Grouse has declined substantially. That’s a problem for the grouse population, but also of concern to the Northern Goshawk , a species listed as threatened, which is having a tough go...
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Conservation Connections

Conservation Connections
The following article appeared in the May/June edition of Outdoor Edge Magazine . In the March edition of Outdoor Edge, we talked to the Salt Spring Island Conservancy’s (SSIC) Conservation Director, Robin Annschild, about the Conservancy's success in creating a partnership with the local Rod & Gun club to manage one of their reserves. This month, we continue the conversation with Robin and learn how building upon connections can equal great things for conservation – and ourselves. It all started with an invitation to a Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation Evaluation Workshop . Each year, the Foundation asks a selection of project leaders to give a presentation on the outcomes of their projects to HCTF Board members, staff and their peers. Not only do these workshops help HCTF evaluate the results of investments, they provide a rare opportunity for grant recipients to get together and exchange ideas about fish and wildlife conservation. After presenting some of the accomplishments of SSIC’s habitat acquisition project, Robin listened to Neil Fletcher speak about the BCWF Wetlands Institute, currently in its sixth year of funding from HCTF. Neil explained how Wetlands Institute workshops provide participants with the tools to successfully complete wetland restoration projects in...
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Elk Lake Enhancement Project

Elk Lake Enhancement Project
On Vancouver Island, a local angling club is taking the lead in a project to improve fish habitat conditions at a popular urban lake. The Victoria Golden Rods and Reels (VGRR)'s Elk Lake Enhancement proposal is one of 116 projects recently approved by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation . VGRR received a $5,000 seed grant to support the creation of a plan that will address the lake's declining water quality, a problem which has impacted fish and wildlife, along with a broad spectrum of recreational users. Concerns around Elk Lake's water quality were most recently publicized in January , when the lake’s annual polar bear swim had to be relocated due to the presence of a toxic algal bloom. The blue-green surface scum was confirmed to be cyanobacteria, a photosynthetic bacterium that thrives in conditions where excess nutrients are present in the water. Blooms of cyanobacteria have been an ongoing problem in Elk Lake, where phosphorous levels have been elevated through residential and agricultural development of the surrounding land. Since 2009, the lake has seen at least four such blooms, which can cause serious illness or even death in humans, pets, and wildlife. Though the events tend to be short-lived,...
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Going Batty in Peachland

Going Batty in Peachland
What was first thought to be a liability has turned into a biological treasure in Peachland, where one of the largest known maternity colonies of Yuma bats in B.C. has been welcomed—instead of being destroyed. Located in the attic of a 108-year-old building which was originally the community’s primary school, the bat roost, where as many as 2,000 bats give birth to their pups and raise those young each spring, is now home also to the community’s Chamber of Commerce, tourism centre and the Boys and Girls Club. Those humans share the main floor of the lakefront building, which has undergone extensive renovations, while the maternity colony of bats roost upstairs during the day, swooping one-by-one through the dormers each evening to forage for insects. Biologist Tanya Luszcz says it’s estimated that this number of bats can consume half to one-and-a-half tonnes of insects in a summer, including many species that are human and agriculture pests. They contribute immensely to the community’s insect control efforts, but are often taken for granted. The tiny mammals have likely made the attic their maternity roost for decades, but the size of the colony came to light when the community began discussing whether to tear...
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