Tue, 21 Aug 2018
Tags: Wildlife

Meet Molly – Vancouver Island Marmot Super Mom

Molly the Marmot and one of her six pups. Photo by Jordan Cormack.

Earlier this year, a field crew on an inventory trip made a surprising, and welcome, discovery in Strathcona Park . A new marmot mom, Molly, had six pups! Veteran Field Crew member Jordan Cormack managed to snap some photos of the busy mom and her brood. Vancouver Island Marmots usually have 3 or 4 pups once every second year and field teams have only seen litters of six weened pups a few times, never in Strathcona Park.

Less than 10 years ago, no marmots remained in Strathcona Park, and it has been a struggle at times to re-establish the species there. Historically, the Park was part of the Vancouver Island Marmot’s range, but the species was extirpated from the region sometime during the 1990s, with only a small handful surviving nearby at Mount Washington Alpine Resort. Re-establishing the marmot in the Park is an important part of the Recovery Plan for the species. In addition to being a large protected area within the marmot’s former range, marmot habitat in the Park may be more resilient as our climate changes.

Re-introducing a vanished species is never simple, and Strathcona Park is particularly challenging. Weather and terrain in the Park are harsher than in the marmots’ more southern colonies. Even more difficult was the loss of marmot “infrastructure” – burrows and hibernacula – that disappeared when the marmots were extirpated from the Park.

It is immensely rewarding to see a large litter of wild-born pups there. It suggests that Molly must have great body condition, which in turn means she must have had a good hibernaculum, and likely the support of a small, but functional, colony at her home on Castlecrag.

Playtime for two of Molly’s pups. Photo by Jordan Cormack.

Molly’s litter is a small step towards the recovery of her species in Strathcona, and a hopeful sign that the species is beginning to find ways to thrive in this beautiful and rugged wilderness. That Molly and her brood have this chance at all is due to the partners, donors, and funders, including the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, that have supported re-introduction work.

A huge thank you to Adam Taylor, Executive Director of the Marmot Recovery Foundation, for sharing this project update with us. The Reestablishing Vancouver Island Marmots in Strathcona Provincial Park project is funded in part through HCTF’s North Island Conservation Fund.

 

Tue, 14 Aug 2018

HCTF Seeks New Manager of Biology and Evaluation

Kathryn Martell and family

“Everything changes and nothing stays still.”

Heraclitus

Kathryn Martell, HCTF’s head biologist and manager of evaluation, has made the decision to leave her position to spend more time with her young family.


Message from Kathryn:

It’s been almost 3 years since I came to work for HCTF after years on the “other side” of funding conservation projects. We’re about to enter another proposal cycle, which is an exciting time for my role as Manager of the Biology & Evaluation components of HCTF’s work: we never know quite what will come through the hopper each year, and reading ~250 proposals provides an unparalleled bird’s-eye view of conservation issues in the province.

So it is with mixed feelings that I am now planning my departure. I have decided to resign my position. I am excited to have an opportunity to be home with my young kids (and elderly dogs)—but I know that I will miss being part of HCTF’s work. In particular, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with such a dedicated, passionate, and sometimes quirky team of staff, Board members, technical reviewers, and project leaders, and being part of an organization that has the ability to truly effect positive conservation outcomes in BC.


We have posted Kathryn’s position on the Careers page of our website, with an application deadline of September 7th, 2018.

This posting is the latest in what has been a year of substantial change and growth for the Foundation:

  • Jane Algard retired after a long career with HCTF and Courtney Sieben stepped into the role of Conservation Grants Specialist.
  • CFO Aaron Bremner began a two-year leave of absence to spend time with his family. Finance Officer Katelynn Schriner moved up into the role of Acting CFO and Jade Neilson joined HCTF in the Finance Officer position.
  • Our Administrative Coordinator Amy Strange moved back to Ontario and we welcomed new administrator Cherish Fairclough.
  • Dr. Winifred Kessler was elected as Chair of the HCTF Board of Directors following Ross Peck’s decision to retire after 11 years of service on the Board.
  • Communications Officer Shannon West became HCTF’s Manager of Program Development, a newly created position that is currently focussed on administering the Caribou Habitat Restoration Fund. Heather Forbes will start as HCTF’s new Communications Officer this September.
  • The HCTF Board of Directors approved a new position to support HCTF’s Environmental Education program and Communications. We expect to post this position this fall.

In addition to these changing faces, HCTF will also be shifting spaces. After eight years at the Dallas Road location, HCTF will be moving to 102 – 2957 Jutland Road on September 6th to accommodate our growing team. We are working to ensure as little disruption to service as possible and will post further information on what to expect during our office transition closer to our moving date.

Mon, 13 Aug 2018
Tags: Stewardship

Bats in Your Belfry?

A California myotis (Myotis californicus) photographed in a building roost.

Have you noticed more bats around your house or property? You are not alone! Midsummer is the time when landowners typically notice more bat activity, may have bats flying into their house, and occasionally find a bat on the ground or roosting in unusual locations. These surprise visitors are usually the young pups. “In July and August, pups are learning to fly, and their early efforts may land them in locations where they are more likely to come in contact with humans“, says Mandy Kellner, biologist and coordinator with the BC Community Bat Program.

If you find a bat, alive or dead, never touch it with your bare hands. Bats in BC have very low levels of rabies infection, but any risk of transmission should not be treated lightly. Contact a doctor or veterinarian if a person or pet could have come into direct contact
(bitten, scratched etc.) with a bat.

Landowners can visit the BC Community Bat Program’s website (www.bcbats.ca) for information on safely moving a bat if necessary and to report bat sightings. The Program also has a 1-800 number (1-855-9BC-BATS) with regional coordinators across the province able to offer advice. The Program is also currently seeking reports of mortalities at bat colonies in houses, barns, or bat houses. The BC Community Bat Program and their support with batty matters is funded by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, the Forest Enhancement Society of BC, and the Government of BC. Female bats gather in maternity colonies in early summer, where they will remain until the pups are ready to fly. Some species of bats have adapted to live in human structures, and colonies may be found under roofs or siding, or in attics, barns, or other buildings. Having bats is viewed as a benefit by some landowners, who appreciate the insect control. Others may prefer to exclude the bats. Under the BC Wildlife Act, it is illegal to exterminate or harm bats, and exclusion can only be done in the fall and winter after it is determined that the bats are no longer in the building. Again, the BC Community Bat Program can offer advice and support. To find out more, download the “Managing Bats in Buildings” booklet, or contact your local Community Bat Program by calling 1-855-9BC-BATS.

Thanks to the BC Community Bat Program for providing this update.

Sun, 22 Jul 2018
Tags: Wildlife

New Research Into Managing Mange (with photos that will have you saying “awww” instead of “eww”)

You don’t expect to get warm fuzzies from a project about mange, until you receive photos like this:

 

This little lamb is part of a herd of California bighorns were the test subjects in a project testing treatments for Psoroptes ovis, a microscopic mite that’s been causing big problems for some BC bighorns.

The first confirmed case of this highly contagious parasite was in the Similkameen Valley in 2011. Psoroptes ovis, also known as sheep scab or psoroptic mange, is highly irritating to infected sheep, causing ear crusting and in some individuals, itchiness that drives them to rub out their haircoat and develop sores. Psoroptic mange is thought to be at least partially responsible in the decline of the one infested bighorn herd in BC and numerous infested herds in the United States.

Not so cute: a closeup of the crusting caused by psoroptic mange on one of the bighorn sheep study subjects.

Prior to this project being conducted, the only way to effectively treat Psoroptes was through multiple applications of every animal in a herd of an anti-parasitic – hardly a practical solution when dealing with wild animals. The goal of this HCTF-funded project, carried out as a joint effort between the University of Saskatchewan, the Government of British Columbia, and the Penticton Indian Band, was to try to find a treatment that could be delivered in a long acting single dose, greatly reducing both animal stress and costs associated with having to capture every wild sheep in a herd multiple times.

Onesie blindfolds are used to keep the sheep calm while they are weighed and treated.

 

The first drug to be tested was LongrangeTM, an extended-release eprinomectin solution that had shown promise during pilot studies. In the winter of 2017, Adam and his team captured 18 naturally Psoroptes-infested bighorns from Penticton Indian Band lands and housed them in one of two purpose-built wildlife enclosures. While in the enclosures, the sheep were fed, watered and carefully monitored, with sampling monthly to track the success of the treatment. While there, some gave birth to bouncing bighorn lambs. Unfortunately, the LongrangeTM treatment proved ineffective, so Adam decided to try a second drug: fluralaner. In Canada, fluralaner is licenced under the brand name BravectoTM as an anti-tick and flea treatment for cats and dogs. Both topical and oral formulations were trialled and the oral formulation worked! No live mites were found in any ear crust samples collected from orally-treated sheep one month after treatment and ear lesions were also significantly reduced.

This project is also investigating where the infection in the Canadian herd originated and evaluating different methods of detecting disease in asymptomatic carriers to help prevent further spread of this parasite into currently uninfested Canadian herds.

Science in the field

Further research is needed to find out how long Bravecto-treated individuals would be protected from reinfection and to ensure drug safety at different dosages and for different animals before moving forward with administering the drug in the wild, but this project’s findings are a significant step forward in discovering an effective tool for managing – or even eradicating – psoroptic mange in bighorn sheep throughout North America. The bighorn sheep subjects were successfully released back into the wild (mange-free) at the conclusion of the testing.

Bighorn_lamb_bounding

All of the photos were taken by the very talented Darryn Epp. Thank you Darryn and Adam for sharing them with us!

Thu, 5 Jul 2018
Tags: PCAF

Volunteers Wanted: BC American Kestrel Nest Box Program

American_Kestrel_PCAF

One of our PCAF grant recipients is looking for volunteers to help with their citizen science project. The British Columbia American Kestrel Nest Box Program is a Citizen Scientist initiative that involves the installation of nest boxes in BC to help kestrels find safe and secure places to nest and to facilitate observation and monitoring by volunteers. American kestrels, or kestrels for short, are the blue, brown, white and orange birds that are about the size of a Steller’s jay that are often seen perched on power lines hunting for voles and grasshoppers. Kestrels are the smallest falcon in North America and are also a cavity nesting species that readily use nest boxes.

Project leader Mitchell Warne is looking for suitable locations to install the kestrel nest boxes throughout most of BC. The preferred habitat for kestrels is pasture, hay land and orchards. However, the habitat can also be a mix including some agriculture.

If you would like to volunteer to have a kestrel nest box installed on your property and/or to observe/monitor any nest box(es) please contact Mitchell Warne at info@warneinthewild.com. For more information on the program, visit www.warneinthewild.com.

Thu, 28 Jun 2018

Job Opening: Communications Officer

HCTF is looking for a new Communications Officer. This is a fantastic opportunity for an experienced communications professional who is passionate about BC’s fish, wildlife and habitat. Check out our Careers page for more details on this position and how to apply.