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Monthly Archives: April 2016

wolf-101

It’s the end of April and it looks like winter has let go its icy grip. However, the ice hasn’t melted off all of the local lakes, one can still find a patch of snow here and there and it was below freezing (again) last night. Plus there is not much green to be seen. Still, the days are getting longer and longer and the sun has real warmth to it.

It was a reasonably mild winter; it didn’t get going until late into December and January, February and the first part of March was milder than normal. But it’s been colder than the norm for about the past six weeks so the ‘end’ of winter has arrived pretty much on schedule.

The deer I’ve seen – the relatively few that are still around – look fat and healthy; and, we’ve been seeing a lot of ruffed grouse of late, good signs that the winter was easy on wildlife. Hopefully the spring will not be too cold and wet so deer fawn survival is high and the grouse have a good hatch. There hasn’t been a real good hatch of grouse for several years (cold and wet springs have been having a good run), but one can always hope.

I was also hoping the wolf population would have suffered from a lack of deer to eat, but I’m not so sure. Last night I was photographing ducks (ring-necks, woodies, mallards, hooded mergansers) from our deck while grilling up a breast of wild turkey (I took a real nice tom in Michigan last week) when I heard some splashing in the pond. It takes me a while to focus after I’ve been looking through the viewfinder of the camera, so at first I couldn’t see a darn thing.

But a deer on the lawn below me was staring intently across the pond and when I stared in the direction it was, I saw what was causing all the commotion. A big timber wolf.

The wolf had waded out into the pond and dragged the deer hide Lil and I had frozen into the ice in January (the same deer hide I shot another wolf off the 2nd night after putting out the hide). It didn’t seem too concerned that we were watching and photographing it – maybe it knew that wolf season closed as of April 1. Eventually it dragged the hide into the woods, although we’re sure it didn’t go far as crows and ravens continued to circle and call for quite some time after the wolf had disappeared.

For most of my life, I’d go years between wolf sightings. Now I see one or more every few weeks. Over the past five or six years I’ve seen about 10 or 15 times more wolves than I have moose.

I guess that’s one reason why there are hardly any moose around here anymore. I have to think that at some point, the wolves will have to run out of food and maybe then moose and deer numbers can begin to recover. Something else to hope for.

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wolf-100

On January 1, I posted ‘Missing the Mark’, where I suggested that the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) had done a poor job with respect to proposed changes as to how wolves could be hunted in Ontario. Here’s my brief summary of the changes they proposed:

  • the present requirement to purchase a wolf seal to hunt wolves under the authority of a small game license will be repealed, and all that will be required to hunt wolves will be the small game license itself; and
  • the yearly limit will remain at two wolves, but wolves and coyotes will be separated  and there will be no limit on the number of coyotes a hunter can harvest.

It will still be mandatory to report your wolf harvest, but seeing as mandatory reporting is not enforced (I’ve been told there has never been a charge laid in Ontario wrt failing to provide a mandatory hunt report), that requirement remains toothless.

The changes proposed are mostly to try and increase the wolf harvest in response to declining moose populations. As I said in my post at the time, I predicted that would raise the ire for those who like wolves, and aren’t strongly pro-hunting.

Well that’s exactly what happened. It seems the s*** hit the fan, and at the end of the day, none of the proposed changes are going to be implemented (the MNRF must have really taken a verbal beating by the people who are enamored with wolves, don’t like the idea of managing predators [especially if it’s to ‘help’ big game], dislike wolf hunting in particular and for the most part are not in favour of hunting in general). You can read the decision here:

https://www.ebr.gov.on.ca/ERS-WEB-External/displaynoticecontent.do?noticeId=MTI2OTQz&statusId=MTkzMzk2&language=en

So we’re back where we started, with all hunters (resident and non-resident) still having to buy both a small game licence and a wolf seal, and the inability to hunt wolves during an open season for bear, elk, deer or moose unless one is also in possession of a valid license for one of whatever big game season is open..

This is a crazy, stupid way to manage wolves. Wolves should have a stand-alone licence  (why does a non-resident have to buy an $272.41 wolf tag AND a $120.93 small game licence? And then can’t hunt them during the deer or moose season without ALSO having a valid moose [$483.48] or deer [$241.61] license ; i.e., that moose or deer license can’t have been used to tag a moose or deer prior to hunting a wolf).

In addition to only needing a wolf license to hunt wolves, I think wolves could and maybe should be classed similarly to bears, in that non-residents would have to hunt wolves through an outfitter in a specific management area (outfitters have bear management areas, or BMA’s; I think these could be modified to be BWMA’s – bear and wolf management areas). I also think the number of wolf tags available for non-residents in a BWMA could/should be limited, but if they were managed through a BWMA, that may be self-limiting all by itself).

A stumble, then a fumble. How ridiculous.

 

mallard-1

Spring is on its way, although the dreaded ‘Polar Vortex’ descended upon us last night, bring the temperatures well into the freezing zone. We also got a skiff of snow. Temperatures are supposed to stay cold for the next few days, but it looks like things will be on the cool side at least for 10 days or so, if you believe the weather forecast. After three days out, I think weather forecasting starts to enter the realm of science fiction . .  .

Regardless, it’s been a mild winter, which was welcome after the last two winters I can only describe as dreadful. There’s still ice on the lakes and some snow in the bush, but the sun has strength, the days are longer than the night and all in all things are looking up.

A few species of migratory birds have stated to show up, but not a lot. Crows, herring gulls, Canada geese and a smattering of robins have been spotted, along with some mallards, hooded mergansers and goldeneye ducks. The big rush should start soon.

But already there have been a few interesting observations. One is a crow that sits in the trees in our yard that coos like a pigeon. It’s the weirdest thing. Lil says it was here last year, too, and must have picked up the cooing habit from the pigeons which frequent our place.

The other neat thing we saw (Lil saw it first) is a mallard with a mostly white head (that’s it in the photo). It’s a bit grainy, as it was quite a distance away when I saw it and had to really crop the photo tightly so as to get a clear view. It’s obviously a  drake mallard (and there were a number of mallards with it and in close proximity), but for some reason the normally green head is mostly white. As the eye is dark and the rest of the bird appears to be a normal colour, it doesn’t appear to me to be a case of albinism. Maybe it had a sickness, or other near-death experience and the shock of it all caused it’s head of feathers to turn white. Or maybe it’s very old . . .

Actually, the mallard is likely to be suffering from leucism, or leukism, an abnormal plumage condition caused by a genetic mutation that prevents pigment, particularly melanin, from being properly deposited on feathers. No idea why it affected only the head, nor do I have a clue as to what might have caused the genetic mutation.

Regardless, colour variation is quite common in the animal world and white – or black – birds and animals aren’t all that uncommon. Still, it’s always interesting to see anomalies and speculate as to the cause.

If we see anything else that’s unusual, I’ll let you know.