The Chal­lenge of In­va­sives

Canadian Wildlife - - FROM CWF - Rick J. Bates CEO, Cana­dian Wildlife Federation

Ire­cently sat in on a dis­turb­ing pre­sen­ta­tion by a PHD can­di­date from the Univer­sity of Saskatchewan, Ruth Kost, on the in­creas­ing range of wild boar in Canada. For many, even the idea — wild boar in Canada?! — might be a shock. It was not so much of a sur­prise to some in Saskatchewan, how­ever, as th­ese fear­some crea­tures ap­peared in the prov­ince about a decade or two ear­lier and have been in­creas­ing in num­bers ever since.

But what Kost showed that day demon­strated that the prob­lem is only be­gin­ning. Among her ini­tial slides was one show­ing the dis­tri­bu­tion of feral boar in the United States. It was mind-bog­gling. The in­cred­i­bly wide (and ev­er­widen­ing) range of their geographic dis­tri­bu­tion through­out the U.S. and the sheer num­ber of an­i­mals was al­most be­yond com­pre­hen­sion: six mil­lion feral swine across 35 states. The scale of the prob­lem in the U.S. is mas­sive and per­haps in­sur­mount­able. Her pre­sen­ta­tion then moved north, and it was noth­ing short of alarm­ing. She showed slides de­scrib­ing the wild boar pop­u­la­tion in Saskatchewan 10 years ago. And then she showed statis­tics for 2016. They high­lighted the rapidly ac­cel­er­at­ing growth of the pop­u­la­tion, al­ready 10 times larger with no end in sight. And this is a night­mar­ish in­va­sive species: vo­ra­cious, vi­cious, in­cred­i­bly pro­lific and highly adap­tive, they wreak havoc, de­stroy habi­tat, threaten hu­mans and spread dis­ease. With their nasty tusks and ra­zor-sharp teeth, they are not the kind of wildlife you want to meet while on a hike in the woods. Kost hinted too that erad­i­ca­tion was no easy feat, and might not even be pos­si­ble. They are a for­mi­da­ble and de­vi­ous an­i­mal.

I was so stunned by her pre­sen­ta­tion that I im­me­di­ately con­tacted Cana­dian Wildlife edi­tor Matthew Church. The re­sult is a chill­ing ar­ti­cle by lo­cal writer Low­ell Strauss, which be­gins on page 28. It is a cau­tion­ary tale, yet an­other ex­am­ple of the short-sighted in­tro­duc­tion of a non-na­tive species for profit, with­out any real thought to the larger con­se­quences from the im­pact of the in­evitable es­capees. The cost of that mis­take will be borne for gen­er­a­tions, and it re­mains to be seen if the prob­lem will ever be con­trolled, the in­vaders erad­i­cated.

I draw your at­ten­tion as well to writer Brian Banks’ thor­ough anal­y­sis of the state of moose in ev­ery re­gion of Canada. Is there a more Cana­dian an­i­mal than the moose? It thrives in cool weather and en­joys win­ter, loves the woods and prefers the quiet life. Moose are not the most hand­some or the most in­tim­i­dat­ing, nei­ther the fastest nor the strong­est. They are unique and, to many, so sym­bolic. The com­plex story of moose varies wildly from re­gion to re­gion: there’s a threat of dis­ap­pear­ance in some re­gions and hy­per-abun­dance in others. And there are so many fac­tors at work that what is clear from our in­ter­views with ex­perts in ev­ery re­gion is that there is much to be done. Sci­en­tists, con­ser­va­tion­ists, log­gers, hun­ters, In­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties — ev­ery­one — will have a role to play in keep­ing this iconic species se­cure.

Th­ese two ar­ti­cles to­gether rep­re­sent key func­tions of the Cana­dian Wildlife Federation. Through re­search, in­for­ma­tion shar­ing and in­di­vid­ual ac­tion, to­gether we can con­trol, per­haps even erad­i­cate, in­va­sive species. By work­ing to­gether, we can help mit­i­gate the ef­fects of cli­mate change. And in do­ing so, we will strive to un­der­stand and main­tain our unique na­tive species.

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