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Industry, mild winters clear way for white-tailed deer 'invasion' in Alberta's boreal forest – CBC.ca

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Herds of invasive white-tailed deer continue to migrate north in Alberta’s boreal forest — bolstered by milder winters and human development that cuts through the vast wilderness, a new study suggests. 

The survey, recently published in the journal Nature, used 62 trail cameras to track the movements of white-tailed deer near Fort McMurray, Alta., over three years.

It’s a “deer invasion,” said Jason Fisher, study author and wildlife ecologist at the University of Victoria.

“They’re all over the landscape,” Fisher said. “They’re expanding their range. And because they’re having these negative effects on the ecosystem, they could definitely be considered invasive.” 

The cameras captured more than 141,000 images, and white-tailed deer appeared in 80 per cent of them. The survey makes clear that deer are now, by far, the most prevalent large mammal in the habitat, Fisher said.

“We’re kind of feeling around in the dark. But them being there in the numbers they currently are is definitely new, it’s definitely increased, and it’s gotten a lot worse over the last decade.” 

‘Deer don’t really belong in that landscape’

Deer are not native to the boreal forest and their populations are thriving, often at the expense of other species, including fragile populations of woodland caribou, Fisher said. 

The deer create imbalances in the natural food chain. The herds compete with other animals, devouring the boreal forest’s limited grazing lands. Their presence also draws more predators such as wolves to the area.

It’s like a caribou, white-tailed deer teeter-totter with wolves as the fulcrum.– Jason Fisher

“The deer don’t really belong in that landscape,” Fisher said. “They’re not evolved to move quickly over snow the way that caribou are, and so they’re easy targets for wolves. 

“With all these white-tailed deer around, that’s pushing wolf numbers up. With more wolves around, they’re hitting caribou harder.

“It’s like a caribou, white-tailed deer teeter-totter with wolves as the fulcrum. And that’s the big problem.” 

Higher numbers of white-tailed deer are attracting wolves to the area, putting increased pressure on fragile populations of woodland caribou. (Supplied by Jason Fisher)

Historically confined to the Eastern Seaboard, deer have been expanding their territory across the continent since European colonization. First they followed farmers, occupying open areas created when land was cleared of trees.

In their move north, they followed humans again, taking advantage of open grazing areas created by seismic lines and other industrial developments that cut through the thick bush.

“As agriculture swept across North America, white-tailed deer have come with it,” Fisher said. “The increase we’re seeing here in Alberta now is basically the continuation of that process. Alberta has had deer in the south ever since we’ve had agriculture. But the move north is a pretty recent phenomenon.” 

Local populations of deer have been able to rebound after even the harshest winters. (Supplied by Jason Fisher)

The study area — 3,000 square kilometres of white and black spruce, aspen, Jack pine and muskeg — is marked by extensive oil and gas development, logging roads, off-road trails and seismic lines. Deer have only been in the area for a couple of decades, Fisher said. 

Aerial surveys done by the province provide some information on local populations, Fisher said, but his team wanted to better understand the animals in relation to the weather and the landscape. 

According to the thousands of images captured by their cameras, deer were most numerous in areas touched by human development, he said. 

During the three-year study, the severity of winter fluctuated. Populations would soar after a mild winter, but even after a “biblical” second winter, herd numbers appeared relatively untouched, he said. 

‘This isn’t fully a climate-change problem’

Climate change and landscape change are working in tandem to drive the deer invasion, Fisher said. But the loss of mature forest to oil and gas development in the area is the biggest driver, he said.

The altered landscape has given the animals access to new foraging grounds, allowing them to withstand harsh seasons when they might normally starve, Fisher said. 

In an ongoing follow-up study he is overseeing in the Richardson Backcountry, an untouched swath of wilderness north of Fort McMurray, deer numbers are sparse. 

With milder winters expected and more development encroaching into the boreal habitat every year, white-tailed deer territory will only continue to grow, Fisher said.

“This isn’t fully a climate-change problem,” he said. “As long as there is ongoing disturbance in the landscape without restoration, then the white-tailed deer are going to be there.” 

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WildSafeBC says managing fruit trees, trash will help bear-proof your home – My Campbell River Now

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As we pass the midway point of summer, WildSafeBC is sending out a reminder to keep your bear attractants in check.

Krystle Mitchelitis is WildSafeBC’s qathet Regional District Community coordinator.

She says keeping your trash indoors until garbage pickup day one of the most effective ways of keeping black bears off your property.

“In our district for curbside pickup they do ask that garbage is out before 7:30am, however leaving it out the night before can cause wildlife to get into it,” Mitchelitis said. “Otherwise, if you have a lot of garbage, you can be taking it to the transfer station regularly.”

She also suggests that you take organics out of your garbage and compost them instead.

If you have vegetable scraps or leftover fish, for example, she says you can wrap them up and freeze them until garbage day or compost drop-off.

“Just keep those smelly things out of the garbage,” she said.

In June, the BC Conservation Officer service responded to 3,068 calls for black bear conflicts, which is slightly down from the 3,495 from June 2019.

Seventy-eight bears had to be destroyed by COS officers.

Fruit also a major attractant

And while there’s a lot of talk about bears and garbage, WildsafeBC says it’s also important for people to realize how much of an issue fruit trees can be in regards to wildlife, if they are not properly managed.

Once bears get a reward from a fruit tree, they will return to the tree again and again. 

Fruit might seem like a natural food source for these bears, but fruit in our backyards leads to habituation of wildlife.

Wildsafe says this is something that is dangerous and cannot be undone.

Simple solutions to bear habituation include: 

  • picking fruit and allowing it ripen indoors or to pick fruit daily as it ripens. Cleaning up windfall is also very important, as is pruning trees to control growth (making them easier to harvest).
  • If you do not want your trees to produce fruit, prune the tree vigorously or spray spring blossoms with a garden hose to knock the blossoms off the tree. 
  • Even consider replacing your tree with a native, non-fruit or non-nut bearing variety. If you are not harvesting the crop, keep in mind that organics should be composted rather than placed with regular garbage.

Electric fencing is also a simple way to protect your fruit trees from wildlife. 

Visit wildsafebc.com/electric-fencing to view electric fencing guidelines and checklists.

You’re asked to report wildlife conflicts to the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277. 

You can also report wildlife conflict other than bear, cougar, coyote or wolf online at WildSafeBC’s Wildlife Alert Reporting Program (WARP), available here.

This program allows you to see what wildlife has been reported in your neighbourhood and be alerted of new sightings.

qathet Regional District WildSafeBC is supported by the qathet Regional District, British Columbia Conservation Foundation and the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

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WildSafeBC says managing fruit trees, trash will help bear-proof your home – My Powell River Now

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As we pass the midway point of summer, WildSafeBC is sending out a reminder to keep your bear attractants in check.

Krystle Mitchelitis is WildSafeBC’s qathet Regional District Community coordinator.

She says keeping your trash indoors until garbage pickup day one of the most effective ways of keeping black bears off your property.

“In our district for curbside pickup they do ask that garbage is out before 7:30am, however leaving it out the night before can cause wildlife to get into it,” Mitchelitis said. “Otherwise, if you have a lot of garbage, you can be taking it to the transfer station regularly.”

She also suggests that you take organics out of your garbage and compost them instead.

If you have vegetable scraps or leftover fish, for example, she says you can wrap them up and freeze them until garbage day or compost drop-off.

“Just keep those smelly things out of the garbage,” she said.

In June, the BC Conservation Officer service responded to 3,068 calls for black bear conflicts, which is slightly down from the 3,495 from June 2019.

Seventy-eight bears had to be destroyed by COS officers.

Fruit also a major attractant

And while there’s a lot of talk about bears and garbage, WildsafeBC says it’s also important for people to realize how much of an issue fruit trees can be in regards to wildlife, if they are not properly managed.

Once bears get a reward from a fruit tree, they will return to the tree again and again. 

Fruit might seem like a natural food source for these bears, but fruit in our backyards leads to habituation of wildlife.

Wildsafe says this is something that is dangerous and cannot be undone.

Simple solutions to bear habituation include: 

  • picking fruit and allowing it ripen indoors or to pick fruit daily as it ripens. Cleaning up windfall is also very important, as is pruning trees to control growth (making them easier to harvest).
  • If you do not want your trees to produce fruit, prune the tree vigorously or spray spring blossoms with a garden hose to knock the blossoms off the tree. 
  • Even consider replacing your tree with a native, non-fruit or non-nut bearing variety. If you are not harvesting the crop, keep in mind that organics should be composted rather than placed with regular garbage.

Electric fencing is also a simple way to protect your fruit trees from wildlife. 

Visit wildsafebc.com/electric-fencing to view electric fencing guidelines and checklists.

You’re asked to report wildlife conflicts to the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277. 

You can also report wildlife conflict other than bear, cougar, coyote or wolf online at WildSafeBC’s Wildlife Alert Reporting Program (WARP), available here.

This program allows you to see what wildlife has been reported in your neighbourhood and be alerted of new sightings.

qathet Regional District WildSafeBC is supported by the qathet Regional District, British Columbia Conservation Foundation and the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

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Dwarf planet Ceres is an ocean world: study – CTV News

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PARIS, FRANCE —
The dwarf planet Ceres — long believed to be a barren space rock — is an ocean world with reservoirs of sea water beneath its surface, the results of a major exploration mission showed Monday.

Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and has its own gravity, enabling the NASA Dawn spacecraft to capture high-resolution images of its surface.

Now a team of scientists from the United States and Europe have analysed images relayed from the orbiter, captured around 35 kilometres (22 miles) from the asteroid.

They focused on the 20-million-year-old Occator crater and determined that there is an “extensive reservoir” of brine beneath its surface.

Several studies published Monday in the journals Nature Astronomy, Nature Geoscience and Nature Communications also shed further light on the dwarf planet, which was discovered by Italian polymath Giuseppe Piazzi in 1801.

Using infrared imaging, one team discovered the presence of the compound hydrohalite — a material common in sea ice but which until now had never been observed off of Earth.

Maria Cristina De Sanctis, from Rome’s Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica said hydrohalite was a clear sign Ceres’ used to have sea water.

“We can now say that Ceres is a sort of ocean world, as are some of Saturn’s and Jupiter’s moons,” she told AFP.

The team said the salt deposits looked like they had built up within the last two million years — the blink of an eye in space time.

This suggests that the brine may still be ascending from the planet’s interior, something De Sanctis said could have profound implications in future studies.

“The material found on Ceres is extremely important in terms of astrobiology,” she said.

“We know that these minerals are all essential for the emergence of life.”

Writing in an accompanying comment article, Julie Castillo-Rogez, from the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said the discovery of hydrohalite was a “smoking gun” for ongoing water activity.

“That material is unstable on Ceres’ surface, and hence must have been emplaced very recently,” she said.

In a separate paper, U.S.-based researchers analysed images of the Occator crater and found that its mounds and hills may have formed when water ejected by the impact of a meteor froze on the surface.

The authors said their findings showed that such water freezing processes “extend beyond Earth and Mars, and have been active on Ceres in the geologically recent past.”

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