Human-Wildlife Conflict in the News and Cetus’ Role

Three cetaceans disentangled from fishing gear in one week[1]. A Conservation Officer is originally suspended from his job because he chooses send two black bear cubs to a rehabilitation center rather than destroying them with their mother[2]. A man punches and then fatally shoots a cougar in order to save his dog[3]. Lastly, smoky skies across the Island are an eerie reminder of the wildfires engulfing North Americas’ firefighting budgets at alarming rates[4].

These have been some of the top headlines recently on Vancouver Island. While they may seem quite separate, they all have a very common thread holding them together – human impact on wildlife. All of these are examples of varying degrees of human-wildlife conflict as a result of various human activities.

Human-wildlife conflict is typically defined by the potential for animals themselves to cause harm to humans or human property and how we prevent this harm by wildlife. We are increasingly concerned with human-wildlife conflict as humans degrade viable wildlife habitat and essentially force encounters to become more frequent as the animals either have nowhere to go or have severely depleted food sources[5].

BEAR

This photo of a bear rummaging through garbage on the road is from Environment Yukon.

Now, the forest fire example may seem like a bit of a stretch when we’re talking about human-wildlife conflict. However, as 215 000 hectares have been licked away by flames already this season – compared to 370,000 in 2014 – wildlife is inevitably affected as they are either killed or pushed away from their habitat[6]. Many wildfires start from a human source. However, even if wildfires are started from a natural source such as lighting, experts are attributing their scale and voracity to climate change[7], which is widely understood by the scientific community to be heavily influenced by the anthropogenic burning of fossil fuels[8]. It is when wild animals are scared, desperate, or starving that we most frequently see human-wildlife conflict occurring; a situation that would not be unexpected of animals escaping a fire.

We must continually re-evaluate our relationships with other species and how we can mitigate conflict – both for their and our health and survival. Human-wildlife conflict is an issue that can range from problems with rodents in our homes to man-eating tigers. While some of my above examples may not fit a conventional understanding of human-wildlife conflict, I encourage you to look past the conventional and see where these stories do fit together. Although cetaceans have never been known to attack a human being in the wild, and we suspect that they never would, we must know that our actions do cause conflict in their lives through a number of different means, and getting too close is still dangerous for humans. For example, we are concerned about on the water collisions, which can cause a great deal of damage to both the whale and the boat involved. Even though cetaceans rarely ‘act out’ in response to the conflict that we inflict, we must continue to reconsider the actions we take to prevent human impact on their lives.

WHALE AND KAYAK

This image clearly demonstrates a kayaker that has gotten far too close to whales! See the full article here.

Cetus has long been committed to reducing both human impact and human-wildlife conflict. The Straitwatch program is a pivotal example of this, whereby detrimental human-wildlife interactions can be prevented, as boaters are made aware of their proximity to whales. Further, where necessary Straitwatch is able to monitor appropriate whale-watching behaviour and ensure that guidelines are being followed. Unfortunately, the Straitwatch program will not be running in the waters around Southern Vancouver Island this summer due to a insufficient funding. This raises concerns of the extent to which negative on the water boating activity can be prevented.

However, my work involves land-based educational outreach. Education is a huge part of conflict resolution for all wildlife species. Much like organizations like WildSafeBC talks to people about minimizing habituation of terrestrial animals to prevent human-wildlife conflict[9], I talk to boaters about the Be Whale Wise guidelines. By talking to recreational boaters at docks and Victoria citizens at events I can help to ensure that they are aware both of human impact concerns and how to boat safely around marine mammals.

There are many steps that we can take both individually and collaboratively to reduce our impact on wildlife. I hope that you will commit to embarking on journey of both discovery and enactment of those methods into your daily lives. For starters, when you are out on the water be sure to follow the Be Whale Wise guidelines, featured in this video made by the Vancouver Aquarium!

And, if you would like to support our work, please consider donating here. Every bit counts, particularly for endangered species such as the Southern resident killer whales.

Sources

[1] Three entangled whales rescued in one week. June 29, 2015. CTV News Vancouver. http://bc.ctvnews.ca/three-entangled-whales-rescued-in-one-week-1.2446765

[2] Conservation officer suspended for refusing to kill bear cubs. July 7, 2015. CBC News Vancouver. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/conservation-officer-suspended-for-refusing-to-kill-bear-cubs-1.3141652

[3] Man punches cougar in the face to save pet Dachshund. July 6, 2015. CTV News Vancouver. http://bc.ctvnews.ca/man-punches-cougar-in-face-to-save-pet-dachshund-1.2457010

[4] B.C. fires: Christy Clark pledges to spend beyond budget on wildfires. July 8, 2015. CBC News British Columbia. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/b-c-fires-christy-clark-pledges-to-spend-beyond-budget-on-wildfires-1.3142799

[5] World Wildlife Fund. 2015. Human-wildlife conflict. http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/species/problems/human_animal_conflict/

[6] Concerns rising over forest fires and climate change. July 8, 2015. News 1130. http://www.news1130.com/2015/07/08/concerns-rising-over-forest-fires-and-climate-change/

[7] B.C. fires exacerbated by climate change, expert says. July 6,2015. CBC News British Columbia. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/b-c-fires-exacerbated-by-climate-change-expert-says-1.3140756

[8] IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), Climate Change 2001: Synthesis Report, Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Third Assessment Report, edited by R. J. Watson and the Core Writing Team (Geneva, 2001). Naomi Oreskes, “Beyond the Ivory Tower: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change,” Science 306, no. 5702 (December 2004): 1686.

[9] WildSafeBC. 2014. https://wildsafebc.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Three entangled whales rescued in one week. June 29, 2015. CTV News Vancouver. http://bc.ctvnews.ca/three-entangled-whales-rescued-in-one-week-1.2446765

[2] Conservation officer suspended for refusing to kill bear cubs. July 7, 2015. CBC News Vancouver. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/conservation-officer-suspended-for-refusing-to-kill-bear-cubs-1.3141652

[3] Man punches cougar in the face to save pet Dachshund. July 6, 2015. CTV News Vancouver. http://bc.ctvnews.ca/man-punches-cougar-in-face-to-save-pet-dachshund-1.2457010

[4] B.C. fires: Christy Clark pledges to spend beyond budget on wildfires. July 8, 2015. CBC News British Columbia. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/b-c-fires-christy-clark-pledges-to-spend-beyond-budget-on-wildfires-1.3142799

[5] World Wildlife Fund. 2015. Human-wildlife conflict. http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/species/problems/human_animal_conflict/

[6] Concerns rising over forest fires and climate change. July 8, 2015. News 1130. http://www.news1130.com/2015/07/08/concerns-rising-over-forest-fires-and-climate-change/

[7] B.C. fires exacerbated by climate change, expert says. July 6,2015. CBC News British Columbia. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/b-c-fires-exacerbated-by-climate-change-expert-says-1.3140756

[8] IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), Climate Change 2001: Synthesis Report, Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Third Assessment Report, edited by R. J. Watson and the Core Writing Team (Geneva, 2001). Naomi Oreskes, “Beyond the Ivory Tower: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change,” Science 306, no. 5702 (December 2004): 1686.

 

[9] WildSafeBC. 2014. https://wildsafebc.com/

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