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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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2.8-pound meteorite from space crashes into roof of Canadian woman’s home, falls on bed – The Tribune

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Tribune Web Desk

Chandigarh, October 16

Ruth Hamilton (66) had a disturbed awakening on October 3 when a large meteorite plunged from space, through her roof and landed in her bed.

Ruth, resident of Golden, British Columbia, woke up to the sound of a crash and her dog barking on October 3 around 11.35 pm.

Also read: Meteorite-like object falls from sky in Rajasthan; explosion heard 2-km away

Speaking with Canadian Press, she said: “I’ve never been so scared in my life, adding that, “I wasn’t sure what to do so I called 911 and, when I was speaking with the operator, I flipped over my pillow and saw that a rock had slipped between two pillows.”

She told CTV News: “I didn’t feel it.”

“It never touched me. I had debris on my face from the drywall, but not a single scratch.”

A police officer arrived on the scene, but suspected the object that landed in Hamilton’s bed was from a nearby construction site.

“He called the [construction site] and they said they hadn’t done a blast but that they had seen an explosion in the sky and, right then and there, we realised it was a meteorite,” she told the Canadian Press.

It turns out that the 2.8-pound space rock, about the size of a small cabbage, was part of a meteor shower identified by Alan Hildebrand, a planetary scientist in the Department of Geoscience at the University of Calgary, and his colleagues.

The group said the trajectory of the meteorite that hit Hamilton’s house would have made it visible throughout southeastern British Columbia and central and southern Alberta.

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Misconceptions about science fuel pandemic debates and controversies, says Neil deGrasse Tyson – CBC.ca

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Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson says some of the bitter arguments about medicine and science during the COVID-19 pandemic can be blamed on a fundamental misunderstanding of science.

“People were unwittingly witnessing science at its very best.… [They said,] ‘You told me not to wear a mask a month ago and now you tell me [to] wear it.… You don’t know what you’re talking about.’ Yes, we do,” the American astrophysicist and author told The Sunday Magazine host Piya Chattopadhyay.

“Science is a means of querying nature. And when we have enough experiments and enough observations, only then can we say: This is how nature behaves, whether you like it or not. And that is when science contributes to what is to what is objectively true in the world.”

Tyson, who is also the director at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, is doing his part to try to make his corner of the scientific world more accessible with his new book A Brief Welcome to the Universe, co-authored with Michael A. Strauss and J. Richard Gott.

He hopes readers can take those lessons to other scientific topics, including the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen several controversies flourish about the nature of the virus and the measures developed to fight it.

Misconceptions about how science works stems in part, he said, from the fact that it’s often improperly taught at the earliest levels of education.

“People think science is the answer. ‘Oh, give me the answer. You’re a scientist. What’s the answer?’ And then I say things like: ‘We actually don’t have an answer to that.’ And people get upset. They even get angry. ‘You’re a scientist. You should know,'” he explained.

“What’s not taught in school is that science is a way of learning what is and is not true. The scientific method is a way of ensuring that your own bias does not leave you thinking something is true that is not, or that something is not true that is.”

Big universe, simple language

A Brief Welcome to the Universe is billed as an approachable “pocket-sized tour” of the cosmos, answering such questions as “How do stars live and die?” and “How did the universe begin?”

It’s a condensed version of the 2016 edition of the book, Welcome to the Universe: An Astrophysical Tour.

Welcome to the Universe: A Pocket-Sized Tour is co-authored by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael A. Strauss and J. Richard Gott. (Princeton University Press)

Tyson and his co-authors argue in the book that astrophysics uses simpler language than other scientific disciplines, which makes it a good starting point to learn about science.

“I don’t simplify the origin of the universe and then call it ‘The Big Bang’ to you. We call it that to each other,” said Tyson. The same goes for well-known phenomena like black holes, sunspots and the planet Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, he added.

Start with those, and then you can move onto other topics, some with more complex names — such as the Coriolis force, which, among other things, explains how the Earth’s rotation subtly affects the way a football travels in the air during a field kick.

“There are simple things in science. And if you’re interested, you can then go out and learn the complex things. But I’m not going to lead with the complex things. What good is that? That never solved anything,” he said.

Many people likely know Tyson from his appearances on American talk shows, often critiquing or debunking questionable science seen in movies and other pop culture. He’s commented on everything from the feasibility of resurrecting dinosaurs, like in Jurassic Park, to the improper night-sky backdrop in the final scenes of Titanic.

Tyson, left, and Seth MacFarlane, executive producer of Cosmos, participate in the Television Critics Association’s winter presentations in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 13, 2014. (Kevork Djansezian/Reuters)

He also talks about science on his podcast StarTalk, as well as on a National Geographic TV show of the same name and another show called Cosmos.

Tyson was temporarily removed from both programs in late 2018, after accusations of sexual misconduct from two women, which he denied. Following an investigation, in early 2019, National Geographic and Fox reinstated Tyson on their shows. They did not address the allegations in their statement announcing the decision.

About Pluto

Perhaps none of the topics Tyson is known for speaking about has sparked more discussion than Pluto, the former ninth planet.

“Oh, don’t get me started,” Tyson responded immediately upon mention of the icy celestial body, which was demoted from planet to dwarf planet status in 2006 by the International Astronomical Union.

The term “dwarf planet” is relatively new. It grouped Pluto, which was originally discovered in 1930, with a number of other icy bodies larger than an asteroid but smaller in size and mass to rocky planets closer to the Sun, including the Earth.

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft captured this high-resolution, enhanced-colour view of Pluto on July 14, 2015. Once considered the solar system’s ninth planet, it was reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

“The word planet really should be discarded,” he said. “Because if I say I discovered a planet orbiting a star, you have to ask me 20 more questions to get any understanding of what the hell the thing is.”

The word “planet” comes from the Greek planetes, meaning “wanderer.” In ancient times, that included Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, but also the moon and the sun. Earth wasn’t considered a planet, because it was believed to be the unmoving centre of the known universe.

Over time, the scientific method progressed beyond that: the Earth is a planet that orbits the sun, which is a star. We now know our moon is one of at least 200 moons in the solar system.

To Tyson, Pluto’s reclassification represents the next step in our evolving understanding of the cosmos, which has necessarily become more complex.

It also illustrates a broadening of our scientific horizons that ancient civilizations might have never contemplated.

That’s why when Tyson was asked how to best answer a child’s question about things we do not know, such as “how big is the universe,” he said the best thing we can say is that we do not know.

“That is one of the greatest answers you can ever give someone — because it leaves them wanting for more. And they might one day be the person who discovers what the answer will be.”


Written by Jonathan Ore. Produced by Sarah-Joyce Battersby.

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2.8-pound meteorite from space crashes roof of Canadian woman’s home, falls on bed – The Tribune India

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Tribune Web Desk

Chandigarh, October 16

Ruth Hamilton (66) had a disturbed awakening on October 3 when a large meteorite plunged from space, through her roof and landed in her bed.

Ruth, resident of Golden, British Columbia, woke up to the sound of a crash and her dog barking on October 3 around 11.35 pm.

Speaking with Canadian Press, she said: “I’ve never been so scared in my life, adding that, “I wasn’t sure what to do so I called 911 and, when I was speaking with the operator, I flipped over my pillow and saw that a rock had slipped between two pillows.”

She told CTV News: “I didn’t feel it.”

“It never touched me. I had debris on my face from the drywall, but not a single scratch.”

A police officer arrived on the scene, but suspected the object that landed in Hamilton’s bed was from a nearby construction site.

“He called the [construction site] and they said they hadn’t done a blast but that they had seen an explosion in the sky and, right then and there, we realised it was a meteorite,” she told the Canadian Press.

It turns out that the 2.8-pound space rock, about the size of a small cabbage, was part of a meteor shower identified by Alan Hildebrand, a planetary scientist in the Department of Geoscience at the University of Calgary, and his colleagues.

The group said the trajectory of the meteorite that hit Hamilton’s house would have made it visible throughout southeastern British Columbia and central and southern Alberta.

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