Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wildlife CSI

The last Nature Quest Workshop of the summer was put on today by John van Geene, Conservation Officer (C.O.) for the Ministry of Natural Resources. He spoke to the group about his job and the world of wildlife forensics. There were lots of skulls, pelts, and antlers on display and we spent some time outside in mock situations of examples of what John encounters when he is out in the field.
{John, in uniform with duty belt and the equipment he uses on the table behind him}

The job of a Conservation Officer is a tricky one. It involves the art of interacting with people and educating about why the laws are in place and how they are designed to help the natural world. It also means upholding the fisheries, hunting and land use laws on crown land and encouraging people to comply with these laws. The job of a conservation officers is mostly reactionary to tips called in by the public (1-877-TIPS-MNR). Officers also patrol throughout Parry Sound Muskoka district during moose and deer hunting seasons.
{moose skulls, antlers, and jawbones- the teeth are huge!}

For example, if a hunter has a tag to kill a cow moose, but instead kills a bull and is caught by a C.O. they could be fined and will most likely have the animal confiscated (the meat is donated to food banks). At the workshop, John explained that moose tags are issued based on a lot of research done on the moose population of Muskoka each year. There are different wildlife management areas in the province and the number of tags for bulls and cows depends on how strong the population is each year. John told us that populations can be threatened if hunters shoot more than they are allowed or not according to their tag. These laws exist to keep the populations stabilized. John reminded the group that humans are part of the natural world and the importance of balancing what we take and how our actions affect other animals and the ecosystem as a whole.
{a demonstration outside of a hunter who has a tag to kill a cow but killed a bull instead}

{John demonstrates the use of a live trap for raccoons as two workshop participants look on attentively- and test the trap!}

There is lots of fancy equipment that Conservation Officers use when they are out in the field and when collecting evidence to build a case against someone with an infraction. John had it on display for us. It includes:
  • a duty belt (pistol, handcuffs, baton, etc.)
  • walkie talkies
  • binoculars
  • spotting scope
  • whistle
  • compass, map & GPS
  • satellite phone
  • camera
  • truck
  • ATV
{John's truck with the ATV in the back. He even turned the lights on for us!}
Some of the most common infractions are:
  • not having a licence (fishing or hunting)
  • work on a shoreline that does not have a permit but requires one
  • commercial sale of animal parts (e.g. bear paws & gall bladders)
  • taking more than the allowable amounts (fish, wildlife)
  • hunting or fishing for species that are not in season
  • boating safety
John sees himself as an educator- of existing laws and their role in keeping a balanced natural environment. Adhering to these laws ensure that we are able to continue hunt, fish, and interact with the natural world. It is our responsibility to know the rules before heading out.

{wolf skulls and pelt}

{a beaver pelt, skull, and jaw bone}

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