Archives > July 2016

Keeping the “Wild” in Wildlife

Habituation, defined by the Oxford dictionary, is when an organism stops responding to typical stimulus.

In terms of animals, this means they no longer have normal reactions as they would in the wild. Habituation, otherwise known as imprinting, can occur if a wild animal is kept in captivity too long. They stop viewing humans as predators and start thinking of them as a part of their life, much like a domestic animal.

On top of that, animals that were predators in the wild will forget how to hunt, and herbivores will not know what plant life to look for when foraging for food.

As keeping the wild in wildlife is very important to us here at AIWC, we strive to do the best we can to make sure habituation does not happen with the animals we have in care.  We do this by:

  • Limiting contact with the animals in care to only when necessary, for example: examinations, medicating, enclosure transfer etc.
  • Whispering when working with and around them.
  • Using a towel to wrap or cover them when moving or examining them.
  • Avoiding eye contact as much as possible.
  • Making sure we progress them through the rehabilitation process and back into the wild as soon as they are ready to be released.

In Canada, wild animals are protected by law under the Canada Wildlife Act, which makes it illegal to keep or care for any wildlife unless you are a registered wildlife charity. Please don’t try to keep, raise, or care for any wildlife on your own. Please call us at (403)-946-2361 with any concerns about wildlife.

Responsible Recreation

A recent camping trip to Elk Island Nation Park provided this volunteer with a reminder of why it is important to maintain a safe distance from, and avoid feeding, wildlife. It is also essential to ensure that campsites are kept bare this season.

We were excited to see a wide variety of animals in the park including bison, deer, geese, great blue herons, American white pelicans, a very protective mother grouse (luckily we had made sure to keep a safe distance), and a beaver.

Most exhibited the elusive characteristics of wildlife that fill us with awe and delight at the brief moments we’re afforded to witness their charm.  However, we were harassed by an unrelenting red squirrel which had lost any trepidation toward humans; presumably because others had fed him. Try as we might, we could not get any peace from this tiny troublesome terror. We put all the food away and refused to feed him, but he never relented.  He even blocked our path to the washroom, and forced us to go around him having not paid the toll in food scraps. Another camper also reported that the squirrel had nipped his young daughter when he got into a bag of rice they were about to cook when she tried to take the package away.

While it may seem like we are doing animals a favour by giving them a little food here and there we are actually doing more harm than good.  Animals may become dependent on humans, may not get the required nutrition, and may continue to enter risky situations to gain access to food. Feeding them also puts people in danger of being scratched, bitten (or worse), by animals that may carry serious diseases.

The best way to make sure there are wild animals for you and others to witness when you venture into Canada’s vast wilderness, is to keep your distance and keep your food to yourself!

If you would like to support wildlife, consider donating to AIWC or becoming a volunteer.

By: S. Ruddock, Volunteer Writer.

Photo: Red Squirrel patient currently in care at AIWC.

Update on beaver kit

Last week the baby (kit) North American beaver we have in our care made news across the globe as the video of him enjoying “pool time” went viral. If you haven’t seen the video yet, you can head over to our Facebook page to watch: https://www.facebook.com/albertainstituteforwildlifeconservation/

Currently, we do not know the sex of the kit we have in care. The only guaranteed way of doing this is by doing x-rays, but it is not essential to the kit’s care currently so we will wait until he/she is a little older.

We are so appreciative of all of the support that has been offered to our organization and wanted to provide everyone with an update on the beaver kit.

First and foremost, the kit continues to do well in care and is putting weight on daily. Our organization is a wildlife rehabilitation centre with the aim to rehabilitate and release animals back to the wild. As he/she is a wild animal and not a pet, we are taking steps to ensure he/she is not habituated to humans. We have no intention of keeping the beaver kit in captivity for the entirety of his/her life and are planning on his/her eventual release back to the wild.

Based on our past experiences, and with consultation with rehabilitators that specialize in raising beavers in the USA and Canada, we will most likely have the kit in our care for 2-3 years. 2-3 years is the normal age beavers leave their parents, but the timing depends on several factors such as the sex of the kit, beaver density in the area etc.

What do the next 2-3 years look like for this little kit? The first year of a beaver kit’s life is spent sleeping, eating and playing. It is in years 2 and 3 that the kits start to learn how to be “engineers” and work on building lodges and dams.

The beaver kit is only one of nearly 200 important patients in care. If you would like to donate to the care of any of the patients in care, please see how you can support us.

Can Alberta save the caribou?

The Alberta government released the first draft of a plan to save the province’s woodland caribou after the species’ continued population decline since 1900.

Caribou are a distinctly Canadian species. From their white rumps and tails to their brown coats and wide muzzles, most people recognize the large-antlered mammals as the wilder looking cousins to Santa’s reindeer!

According to the Alberta Wilderness Association’s website, woodland caribou have “historically occupied two-thirds of (Alberta) ranging from the west-central foothills to the boreal forests of the north.”

Woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) are classified as a threatened species both provincially and nationally.  A 2010 Alberta Wildlife Status Report says that although predation by wolves is the primary cause of caribou death in natural conditions, ongoing declines in the population are likely the result of human-caused habitat alteration.

The province has released a draft to save Canada’s beloved caribou. The plan targets two major herds: the Little Smocky and A La Peche caribou ranges.

According to the draft, released by Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP), current habitat conditions in the Little Smocky and A La Peche Caribou Ranges can’t support self-sustaining caribou herds.

So what does the future hold for the woodland caribou? At this point, it’s still hard to tell. One thing is for certain: Albertans, and for that matter, all Canadians, should care about the future of the woodland caribou. A world that watches as a (more than) thousand-year-old species disappears is not a world doing its due diligence to the animals that call it home.

The detailed “Little Smocky and A La Peche Caribou Range Plan” was released on June 2 and can be found by clicking here or visiting aep.alberta.ca.

AIWC advocates environmental stewardship and knowledge in the next generation by educating children and adults alike on how their actions impact the environment on a larger, provincial scale. This is achieved through public education and a wide range of Wildlife Education Programs.

To book an education event, complete a Wildlife Education Program Request.

To help support AIWC, donate or become a member today.

IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THIS

“We don’t own the earth. We are the earth’s caretakers. We take care of it and all the things on it. And when we’re done with it, it should be left better than we found it.”
― Katherine Hannigan, author.

By: N. Grossman, Volunteer Writer.