Grizzly bears need overpasses to cross roads

This video from Canada says about itself:

13 June 2014

As you travel through Banff National Park animals are travelling too — over your roof and under your wheels. Wildlife crossing structures and highway fencing in Banff National Park have reduced large animal deaths by more than 80%. So which animals adopted crossing structures first? Who prefers overpasses versus underpasses? Find out here through the lens of a remote camera that captured five years of wildlife movement on an overpass in Banff National Park near Redearth Creek.

From the University of British Columbia Okanagan campus in Canada:

Family-friendly overpasses are needed to help grizzly bears, study suggests

Design of wildlife road crossings is crucial for protecting grizzlies

November 27, 2017

Researchers have determined how female grizzly bears keep their cubs safe while crossing the Trans-Canada Highway.

Adam Ford, Canada Research Chair in Wildlife Restoration Ecology at UBC‘s Okanagan campus, along with Montana State University‘s Tony Clevenger, studied the travel patterns of grizzlies in Banff National Park between 1997 and 2014. In most cases, a mother bear travelling with cubs opted to use a wildlife overpass instead of a tunnel to cross the highway.

“We used data from Canada’s longest and most detailed study of road-wildlife interactions,” explains Ford, an assistant professor of biology. “We found that grizzly bear females and cubs preferred to use overpasses to cross the highway.”

During the 17-year study period, bears not travelling in these family groups used both underpasses and overpasses. “You can’t just build a tunnel under a highway and expect to conserve bears,” says Ford. “Our work shows that the design of structures used to get bears across the road matters for reconnecting grizzly bear populations.”

The study looked at five different wildlife crossing structure designs distributed across 44 sites along a 100-km stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway. The structures are purpose-built bridges or tunnels to facilitate the safe movement of animals across roads. Tracking and motion-triggered cameras were used to monitor grizzly bear movement and Ford says all grizzly bears selected larger and more open structures like overpasses and open-span bridges, compared to tunnels and box culverts.

“Since adult females and cubs drive population growth, this research tells us that overpasses are needed to protect bears in roaded areas,” says Ford.

The study also documents the most cost-effective means to design highway mitigation. A common concern in conservation is how to allocate funding to bring the most effective gains for biodiversity. The researchers estimated the cost-effectiveness of structure designs and were surprised by the result.

“When we look at the population as a whole, there were a lot of passages made by males in box culverts, which is the cheapest type of structure to build,” explains Clevenger, stressing that a diversity of wildlife crossing structure designs along a highway is essential.

“It’s important to reduce the chances of adult males encountering cubs since the males will kill young bears,” Clevenger adds. “Creating both ‘bachelor’ and ‘family’-friendly designs will further help bear populations grow.”

This peer-reviewed study was published online this week in the Wildlife Society Bulletin.


Bowhead whale behaviour, new study

This 22 November 2017 video is called Bowhead whales come to Cumberland Sound in Canadian Arctic to exfoliate.

From the University of British Columbia in Canada:

Bowhead whales come to Cumberland Sound in Nunavut to exfoliate

November 22, 2017

Aerial drone footage of bowhead whales in Canada’s Arctic has revealed that the large mammals molt and use rocks to rub off dead skin.

The footage provides one answer to the mystery of why whales return to Cumberland Sound, Nunavut, every summer, and helps explain some unusual behavior that has been noted historically by Inuit and commercial whalers living and working in the area.

“This was an incidental observation,” said Sarah Fortune, a PhD student at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and lead author of a new study based on the findings. “We were there to document their prey and feeding behavior, but we noticed some strange behavior near the shore.”

Fortune and her colleagues — William Koski, a whale biologist with LGL Limited, and local Inuit hunters and fishers from Pangnirtung — watched from a boat as the whales turned on their sides and waved their flippers and tails in the air. It was clear the whales weren’t there just to feed.

When the researchers sent drones up to record the animals from above, they saw large boulders underwater and realized that the whales were rubbing against rocks to remove dead skin.

“We now know that Cumberland Sound serves as a habitat for feeding and molting,” said Fortune. “Very little is known about molting in any of the large whale species.”

The warmer coastal waters of summer might help facilitate molting, Fortune says. Ocean temperatures are expected to rise, and the change could have implications for the timing, duration and energy needed for molting, as well as the whales’ diets.

As oceans change, relatively large-bodied, fatty Arctic crustaceans known as zooplankton the preferred prey of bowhead whales could move to new habitats further north while smaller-bodied, temperate species that are lower in energy are likely to dominate the waters. Scientists don’t know how whales will adapt to the changing environment.

Fortune hopes to conduct further studies to determine whether bowhead whales molt primarily during summer months, and throughout their range.

Bowhead whales are the longest-living marine mammals on the planet, with lifespans up to 200 years.

White-tailed deer mating in Canada

This 16 November 2017 video from Canada is called White-tailed deer mating.

Stopping cats from attacking birds

This video from Britain says about itself:

Save the Birds #PeckishCat

9 December 2013

Up to 55 million birds are killed by cats every year in the UK. So whether you are a cat lover or just want to protect your garden birds from cats, you can do your bit to help as well as having a little fun with our #PeckishCat video.

From BirdLife:

17 May 2017

Five neat tricks to keep your cat from attacking birds

In Canada, as in many countries, domestic cats are a major cause of garden bird mortality. But with a little adjustment, it’s possible to create an environment that is safer and healthier for felines and finches alike. BirdLife Partner Nature Canada’s Cats & Birds campaign shows you how.

By Alex Dale

For cat owners, is there a more comforting sound in the entire world than the satisfying ‘ker-chunk’ of the cat flap?

After hours of worrying what Tiddles has been up to while she roams around the neighbourhood, that reassuring clack-clack indicates that your beloved has finally returned to the warmth and safety of your home. But sometimes, she doesn’t return alone. Sometimes, to the horror of the owner, Tiddles bears in her teeth an unwanted gift – a dead (or worse, half-dead) garden bird.

Cats are born predators, so there’s no point in chastising them for doing something that comes naturally for them. Instead, owners have to accept that they are responsible for bringing a domesticated animal into their home and feeding it, and thus they are responsible for its actions.

Putting a bell on your cat’s collar is a simple and well-known way to limit the mischief your pet gets up to while it frolics outside, but Nature Canada (BirdLife Partner) suggests that cat owners should consider going further still, and wean their cats away from roaming around outdoors unsupervised altogether.

Sacrilege?  To many cat owners, putting limits on their pets’ freedom will seem exactly that. But, as Nature Canada’s Cats & Birds campaign is keen to impress on the Canadian public, reigning in your cat doesn’t just saves birds’ lives – it also helps keep your pet safe and healthy, too. “We partner with organizations such as the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies,” says Project Manager Sarah Cooper, “precisely because they’ve been recommending keeping cats from roaming unsupervised for years, purely for the well-being of the cats.”

The Cats & Birds initiative was set up to increase public awareness of the risks to cats and birds of the common practice of allowing cats to roam unsupervised. Outdoor cats are exposed to disease, vehicle collisions and scraps with other cats and wildlife, not to mention the risk of getting lost. Cats are more often abandoned by their owners, and there are twice as many cats as dogs in Canada’s shelters. While an estimated 30% of dogs are reclaimed by owners, the same can be said of less than 5% of cats. More than 17,000 cats were euthanized in Canada in 2015 because they could not find homes.

And that’s just the toll in the shelters. In 2012 alone, more than 1,300 dead cats were collected from the streets of Toronto, Ontario. That’s why author Margaret Atwood, (former co-chair of BirdLife’s Rare Birds Committee) published a graphic novel series in tandem with Nature Canada’s campaign. Atwood describes Angel Catbird as a “walking, talking carnivore’s dilemma” whose conflict – “do I save this baby robin, or do I eat it?” — illuminates both sides of the issue.’

All things considered, preventing your cat from going outside unsupervised seems a win-win situation – saving the lives of both birds and, potentially, Tiddles. But cats are notorious free spirits. Can they ever be convinced to embrace the indoor life? The answer is yes, and Nature Canada has five tips to help you get started.

507-million-year-old fossil arthropod discovery

This video from the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada says about itself:

4 July 2012

Associate Curator, Jean-Bernard Caron presents an overview of the fossil collection from the Burgess Shale, B.C., highlighting a number of specimens.

From the University of Toronto in Canada:

Paleontologists identify new 507-million-year-old sea creature with can opener-like pincers

Discovery points to origin of millipedes, crabs and insects among other species

April 26, 2017

Summary: Paleontologists have uncovered a new fossil species that sheds light on the origin of mandibulates, the most abundant and diverse group of organisms on Earth, to which belong familiar animals such as flies, ants, crayfish and centipedes. Named Tokummia katalepsis by the researchers, the creature documents for the first time the anatomy of early mandibulates, a sub-group of arthropods with specialized appendages known as mandibles, used to grasp, crush and cut their food.

Paleontologists at the University of Toronto (U of T) and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) have uncovered a new fossil species that sheds light on the origin of mandibulates, the most abundant and diverse group of organisms on Earth, to which belong familiar animals such as flies, ants, crayfish and centipedes. The finding was announced in a study published today in Nature.

The creature, named Tokummia katalepsis by the researchers, is a new and exceptionally well-preserved fossilized arthropod — a ubiquitous group of invertebrate animals with segmented limbs and hardened exoskeletons. Tokummia documents for the first time in detail the anatomy of early “mandibulates,” a hyperdiverse sub-group of arthropods which possess a pair of specialized appendages known as mandibles, used to grasp, crush and cut their food. Mandibulates include millions of species and represent one of the greatest evolutionary and ecological success stories of life on Earth.

“In spite of their colossal diversity today, the origin of mandibulates had largely remained a mystery,” said Cédric Aria, lead author of the study and recent graduate of the PhD program in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at U of T, now working as a post-doctoral researcher at the Nanjing Institute for Geology and Palaeontology, in China. “Before now we’ve had only sparse hints at what the first arthropods with mandibles could have looked like, and no idea of what could have been the other key characteristics that triggered the unrivaled diversification of that group.”

Tokummia lived in a tropical sea teeming with life and was among the largest Cambrian predators, exceeding 10 cm in length fully extended. An occasional swimmer, the researchers conclude its robust anterior legs made it a preferred bottom-dweller, as lobsters or mantis shrimps today. Specimens come from 507 million-year-old sedimentary rocks near Marble Canyon in Kootenay national park, British Columbia. Most specimens at the basis of this study were collected during extensive ROM-led fieldwork activities in 2014.

“This spectacular new predator, one of the largest and best preserved soft-bodied arthropods from Marble Canyon, joins the ranks of many unusual marine creatures that lived during the Cambrian Explosion, a period of rapid evolutionary change starting about half a billion years ago when most major animal groups first emerged in the fossil record,” said co-author Jean-Bernard Caron, senior curator of invertebrate paleontology at the ROM and an associate professor in the Departments of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Earth Sciences at U of T.

Analysis of several fossil specimens, following careful mechanical preparation and photographic work at the ROM, showed that Tokummia sported broad serrated mandibles as well as large but specialized anterior claws, called maxillipeds, which are typical features of modern mandibulates.

“The pincers of Tokummia are large, yet also delicate and complex, reminding us of the shape of a can opener, with their couple of terminal teeth on one claw, and the other claw being curved towards them,” said Aria. “But we think they might have been too fragile to be handling shelly animals, and might have been better adapted to the capture of sizable soft prey items, perhaps hiding away in mud. Once torn apart by the spiny limb bases under the trunk, the mandibles would have served as a revolutionary tool to cut the flesh into small, easily digestible pieces.”

The body of Tokummia is made of more than 50 small segments covered by a broad two-piece shell-like structure called a bivalved carapace. Importantly, the animal bears subdivided limb bases with tiny projections called endites, which can be found in the larvae of certain crustaceans and are now thought to have been critical innovations for the evolution of the various legs of mandibulates, and even for the mandibles themselves.

The many-segmented body is otherwise reminiscent of myriapods, a group that includes centipedes, millipedes, and their relatives. “Tokummia also lacks the typical second antenna found in crustaceans, which illustrates a very surprising convergence with such terrestrial mandibulates,” said Aria.

The study also resolves the affinities of other emblematic fossils from Canada’s Burgess Shale more than a hundred years after their discovery. “Our study suggests that a number of other Burgess Shale fossils such as Branchiocaris, Canadaspis and Odaraia form with Tokummia a group of crustacean-like arthropods that we can now place at the base of all mandibulates,” said Aria.

The animal was named after Tokumm Creek, which flows through Marble Canyon in northern Kootenay National Park, and the Greek for “seizing.” The Marble Canyon fossil deposit was first discovered in 2012 during prospection work led by the Royal Ontario Museum and is part of the Burgess Shale fossil deposit, which extends to the north into Yoho National Park in the Canadian Rockies. All specimens are held in the collections of the Royal Ontario Museum on behalf of Parks Canada.

The Burgess Shale fossil sites are located within Yoho and Kootenay national parks in British Columbia. The Burgess Shale was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980. Parks Canada is proud to protect these globally significant paleontological sites, and to work with leading scientific researchers to expand knowledge and understanding of this key period of earth history. New information from ongoing scientific research is continually incorporated into Parks Canada’s Burgess Shale education and interpretation programs, which include guided hikes to these outstanding fossil sites.

Kill African child soldiers, Canadian general says

This video from the USA says about itself:

World News: Somalia’s Child Soldiers | The New York Times

14 June 2010

More and more children are being recruited to become soldiers by Somalia’s transitional government, which is partially funded by the U.S. taxpayer. Some of them are as young as nine years old.

By Laurent Lafrance in Canada:

Canadian Armed Forces’ document calls for “heavier weapons” to confront child soldiers in Africa

25 March 2017

A Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) directive, published at the beginning of the month, calls on the military to better prepare personnel—both psychologically and in terms of equipment—to confront child soldiers. The paper has been prepared as Canada’s Liberal government prepares to send hundreds of troops to Africa to participate in counter-insurgency operations.

The “joint doctrine note,” drafted in collaboration with Roméo Dallaire, a retired CAF Lieutenant-General and well-known proponent of “humanitarian” military interventions who served in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, is the first time the Canadian military has produced a document specifically outlining strategic guidelines concerning child soldiers.

The document begins by warning that “Encounters with child soldiers during operations can have significant psychological impacts for the personnel involved” and that Canadian soldiers “must be prepared for the possibility they will have to engage child soldiers with deadly force to defend themselves or others,” i.e. to kill them.

The directive then explains that troops are likely to face child soldiers “on an increasing basis” in future UN or NATO-led missions. Human Rights Watch estimates that more than 300,000 child soldiers—recruited as suicide bombers, fighters, spies, manual labourers or sex slaves—are involved in conflicts around the world. They are widely used in African countries such as Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Congo, Sudan, Somalia and Mali.

In the case of Mali, the children’s rights group Humanium reported in 2014 that children make up more than half of the country’s population and that “their recruitment has been coupled with the destruction and closure of schools” resulting from the bloody war that has raged in the country between Islamist forces and the US and French-backed Malian government since 2012.

But the directive argues the Canadian Army should not be disturbed by such a reality and, on the contrary, should respond with more brutality. Dallaire declared, “These kids are under duress, a lot of them are drugged up, a lot of them are indoctrinated … You may in certain circumstances still have to use lethal force.” Dallaire went on to say, “Pulling away … has been so much the norm and gives the advantage to the guy who is recruiting these kids.”

The document also underlines that if soldiers are not sufficiently armed they could be vulnerable to “human wave attacks” using child soldiers, i.e. frontal assaults where the target is overrun. It therefore concludes that “consideration should be given” to providing Canadian troops with “heavier,” i.e. more deadly, weapons.

The doctrine says child soldiers taken prisoner should be handled differently from adult combatants, such as by placing “greater focus on rehabilitation.” The real concern of the ruling class and the military brass, however, is not the fate of the child soldiers, but the potential loss of Western troops and fears that the Canadian military’s implication in atrocities will fuel antiwar sentiment at home.

“What caught a lot of these guys by surprise—the Dutch, the Germans and the Italians and the Chadians—in Mali was they were facing these Boko Haram kids and they didn’t know what the hell to do,” said Dallaire.

While government officials have not yet confirmed where the next Canadian deployment to Africa will be, Mali is high on the list of potential locations. France has been pressuring Canada for military support in Western Africa, including in Mali, where France, the United States and Germany are seeking to eradicate Islamist rebels they themselves armed and financed back in 2011 to oust Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.

The UN had held open command of its “peacekeeping mission” in Mali for a Canadian officer, but the UN planners, impatient and uncertain about Canada’s involvement, recently announced that Maj.-Gen. Jean-Paul Deconinck of Belgium will take over.

Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has made two separate trips to Mali in the last year. An anonymous source recently told the Toronto Star that personnel from the Defence Department and Global Affairs Canada have made “non-stop” visits to the African country in recent months. The most recent visit came several weeks ago when officials attached to the newly formed Peace and Stabilization Operations Program in Global Affairs Canada spent several days in Bamako.

One of the reasons for the delay in finalizing a new Canadian military intervention in Africa is that the Trudeau government wanted to make sure the Trump administration approved of the deployment. According to the Globe and Mail, the Trump administration has now given the “green light” to Canada to dispatch troops to Mali. However, the Trudeau government, which seeks to camouflage an aggressive imperialist foreign policy in “humanitarian” rhetoric, has become concerned that the CAF’s implication in atrocities that involve children will alienate the population, expose the real, imperialist character of such “peace-keeping” missions, and undermine it plans to hike overall Canadian military spending.

As the CAF directive notes, if an engagement with child soldiers “is not well-handled, and communicated effectively, there is strong potential for significant negative impact on the mission, locally, in Canada, and at the international level.”

The Liberals are also concerned over how to sell to the public a combat mission that will likely involve a high number of civilian and Canadian casualties —more than 110 UN “peacekeeping” troops have been killed in Mali during the past four years—and one that is likely to prove only the prelude to a far broader military adventure across the region.

The intervention in Mali, where 13,000 troops and 2,000 police from France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and various other countries are active, is being conducted under the United Nations umbrella. But it is also part of the broader French-led Operation Barkhane, which includes missions in Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger.

Although the various African missions, whether under the banner of the UN, France, or the US-led AFRICOM, are presented as counter-terrorism or even peace-keeping missions, they are part of a new scramble for Africa, in which the major powers are seeking to gain control over resources, markets and strategic countries.

Canadian imperialism is determined to have its share of the spoils. Canadian businesses, most of all the mining companies, have billions of dollars in investment throughout Africa and are eager to see the CAF increase its presence on the continent. The Canadian Army has been increasingly involved in West Africa. In 2011, Canadian Special Forces began attending the annual US-led Operation Flintlock exercise in West Africa, which brings together Special Forces from a number of neighbouring countries to undergo training.

When France sent troops to Mali in 2013, Canadian military transport planes were sent to ferry in French weaponry and supplies. The Liberal government agreed to similar assistance following its election in 2015.

A small contingent of 25 Canadian soldiers of the 1st Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment, based in the French-speaking province of Quebec, will soon take part in a revamped Canadian Armed Forces’ mission to train security forces in Niger, which shares a border with Mali. These new forces will take over from an ongoing deployment, known as Operation Naberius, that was kept secret for almost three years and involved Canadian Special Forces providing similar training.

To fund increased military deployments, the Trudeau government is significantly hiking military spending. In its first budget it maintained the commitment of its Conservative predecessors to increase defence spending by 3 percent annually for a decade. More recently, it has repeatedly signaled, including in Wednesday’s budget, that bigger increases, aimed at moving Canada far closer to the NATO goal of a military budget equivalent to at least 2 percent of GDP, will be announced once the Liberals complete a year-long “defence policy review.”