The Wild Ones make a comeback

Posted October 17, 2011 on 11:08 pm | In the category Canada, Environment | by Mackenzie Brothers

In a period of seemingly unending bad news about the state of the environment, it is time for some surprisingly upbeat developments: Some of the big guys in the animal kingdom are coming back to areas they had abandoned under constant human pressure scores of years ago, in some cases even centuries ago. It is true that almost all these cases are happening in the still somewhat wide-open spaces of northern North America and Euroasia, but still they are happening and there is quite suddenly some startling evidence that the often apparently hopeless attempt by some humans to undo the damage done by most humans is actually having some success. It seems that protected national parks actually work as something other than a tourist goal.

In southern British Columbia grizzly bears are definitely extending their range southward and even westward as the first sightings in a century of the giant carnivores within an hour of Vancouver lead to predictions that within twenty years a grizzly will be standing on the ski slopes of Vancouver looking at his encaged brethren at the top of Grouse Mountain. Four young male grizzlys are now being tracked on the west coast of Vancouver Island where the languages of the natives have no word for them, as there is no record of them having been there before. It can only be assumed they have made the almost unimaginable swim from the mainland by moving from island to island and are now considering whether they want to stay in a new land where they would be king of the wilderness. If the resident black bears run into them, they may regret getting to know this branch of th e family.

They would almost certainly also be meeting an ever-expanding cougar population, once seen only rarely and at a distance – my brother Doug claims to have almost hit one on the road to Zeballos – and now making thei presence felt in many places where they may be less than welcome. This summer a cougar jumped out of the bush and on to a little kid at popular Kennedy Lake in Pacific Rim National Park, only to be driven away by an irate mother. Cougars have also now been positively identified as roaming the woods of Quebec and will surely soon be back in th he Adirondacks.  Wolf packs are spreading rapidly eastwards in Germany where they have been absent for a century.   Tigers have been brought back from the brink of extinction in southeastern Russia through a decision in Moscow that a great country like Russia deserves a great wild animal.  China may be thinking that one over at the moment, since they wiped out all their own tigers, but still get the occasional wanderer from north of the Amur River. In 2009 in British Columbia federal officials estimated that the salmon returning to the greatest free-flowinng salmon river on earth, the Fraser, which reaches the sea in Vancouver, would be reduced to a rump 1 million fish and might well be considered on the way to extinction.  And then 30 million showed up from nowhere, the highest number in a century, and all bets of extinction were off. So take heart, you may yet run into a grizzly or a pack of wolves on your afternoon constitutional and never be the same again.

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