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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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Biologists and Winter Recreationalists Team Up to Save Telkwa Caribou Herd

Biologists and Winter Recreationalists Team Up to Save Telkwa Caribou Herd
In the Telkwa Mountains near Smithers, BC, a small herd of Mountain Caribou persists after nearly disappearing from these ranges only two short decades ago. With their rich colouring and impressive antlers, Mountain Caribou are striking animals, highly recognizable as the local cousins of the legendary reindeer. They are also among the most endangered animals in Canada, and have been reduced to a fraction of their historic range.  Over the last half century, the Telkwa herd’s population has undergone a steep decline, hitting a low of six herd members in the mid 1990s. Recovery efforts have helped increase their numbers to around thirty animals, but this still leaves them at high risk of becoming locally extinct. Since 1996, HCTF has invested in Telkwa herd monitoring projects to provide data essential to recovery programs. The most recently-funded Telkwa Caribou project is a collaborative effort between biologists and local winter recreationalists to determine the effect that activities such as snowmobiling, skiing, and ATVing could have on the survival of the Telkwa herd. The Impacts of recreation and wolves on Telkwa caribou recovery project uses satellite technology to collect data that will eventually be used to inform management practices. The project team has...
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Bringing Back the Sharpie

Bringing Back the Sharpie
For an animal whose survival depends on being inconspicuous, the Sharp-tailed Grouse has developed quite a following. That’s because  once a year, the males of this cryptically coloured species gather together for a dramatic display of dueling and dancing. If you've never seen these birds in action, it’s worth a look: though an increasingly rare sight in the wild, a quick Google search will turn up multiple clips of Sharp-tails stomping, vibrating, clucking and chirping at each other, all part of a dance of dominance designed to capture the attention of Sharp-tailed hens.  Sharp-tailed Grouse Lek in Snow (HD) from Dawson Dunning on Vimeo . Starting at dawn, the males gather to establish territories on the dancing grounds, known as leks. Birds return to these sites year after year to perform their animated mating ritual , which  provides an excellent opportunity for researchers to do bird counts to determine if their populations are changing - or if they've disappeared. When it was first described by Lewis and Clark in the early 1800s, the Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse was considered to be the most prolific game bird in the Northwest. Historically, the Columbian subspecies of Sharp-tail was found across nine of the...
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BC's Wild/ Domestic Sheep Separation Program

BC's Wild/ Domestic Sheep Separation Program
The November rut is a magnificent display of strength and agility, a refined ritual that has been practiced by bighorns for centuries. The sights and sounds of these iconic B.C. mammals vying for dominance evoke a sense of respect for the ruggedness of a species that Theodore Roosevelt referred to as "one of the noblest beasts". Yet the rut can be a treacherous time for bighorns, far beyond the risk of injury from their intra-species tussles. For these highly social animals, the real danger can lie with the company they keep. Wild sheep share a number of similarities with their domestic cousins: they will use the same forage and water sources, and can even interbreed. Where bighorn range and domestic sheep operations overlap, it's understandable that a randy ram might find a large flock of domestic ewes worth a closer look. Unfortunately, these forays can have deadly consequences. Even nose-to-nose contact between the two species can result in the transfer of a pathogen lethal to wild sheep. And because it takes time for animals to become symptomatic, an infected (but visibly healthy) bighorn that returns to its herd will spread the disease, potentially decimating an entire population. For nearly a...
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BC's Breeding Bird Atlas

BC's Breeding Bird Atlas
As a follow-up to last week's bluebird post , we thought we'd feature another HCTF wildlife project that BC birders can get involved in. The BC Breeding Bird Atlas is an ambitious project that unites the bird-watching community with biologists, management agencies, industry, academics and conservation organizations to create a comprehensive record of the status of breeding bird species in BC. Once complete, the atlas with serve as a key information source for both the wildlife management and wildlife viewing communities. The project was initiated by Bird Studies Canada (BSC) in response to the lack of data available for many of BC's bird species. Without current information on bird population numbers and distribution, it's difficult to make informed decisions about their conservation and management. The task of collecting data for a province the size of BC would be insurmountable for a single organization, but by combining the enthusiasm of local birders, the expertise of professional ornithologists and the back-country access of guide outfitters , BSC has done just that. The Atlas website now allows site users to access annual data summaries, print regional checklists, and view maps visually summarizing the results of their data collection. You can choose to display...
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