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The Alberta Wildlifer November 2019 Volume 30 Issue 4

To inspire and empower wildlife professionals to engage in science-based management and conservation of wild animals and their habitats

In This Issue

  1. Executive Director's Update
  2. President's Message
  3. Canadian Section of the Wildlife Society Update
  4. ACTWS 2020 Conference Update
  5. ACTWS Named TWS Chapter of the Year
  6. Why Bison Matter
  7. USFWS Announces $100,000 White-nose Syndrome Challenge to Save Nation's Bats
  8. ACTWS Website Gets an Update
  9. ATCWS is Looking for a New Executive Director
  10. The Wildlife Society Position Announcement: Editor-In-Chief, Wildlife Society Bulletin
  11. Scholarship and Award Opportunities
  12. Mystery Wildlife
  13. Upcoming Events

Cover photo courtesy of Johane Janelle © www.johanejanelle.com

Executive Director's Update

Where are they now? This is the name of a series of posts that I’ve been putting on our website since early July of this year. In these posts, I’ve been highlighting the careers of past ACTWS award winners by letting you know where they are now, telling the story of how they got there and describing how receiving the award helped them on their path. So far the website has highlighted 19 different recipients of the Ian Ross Memorial, Goddard Memorial and the William Wishart scholarships. If you haven’t seen these, I’d encourage you to visit our website main page and scroll through the posts.

This whole exercise has been a great experience for me, and I hope as well for the participants. There are so many great people doing great things in their careers in wildlife biology and it has been inspiring to get in touch with the folks on my list and hear their journeys. Even those still early in their careers have had wonderous adventures. If you would like to have your career highlighted in an ACTWS web post, get in touch with us. We’d love to add you to our “Where Are They Now?” posts.

The best thing is that this is the point of these awards; to give students a boost onto the career platform so that these adventures are possible. It is great to see that it is having this positive effect for the careers of wildlife biologists. And, it is a reminder that with our 2020 conference coming up in Camrose in March, to think about putting names forward for an award. Visit the Chapter’s awards page, check out the criteria and contact Jessica Melsted with your scholarship nominations.

While you’re at our new website, have a poke around and see what’s new. Our webmasters, Layla Neufeld and Lucas Habib, have spent months redesigning the interface and improving its operability. It looks fantastic, but it is different, so it may take some clicking to find your way around. But once you do, we’re convinced you’ll love it.

And on that theme of wildlife biology careers, this will be my last update as the ACTWS Executive Director. I’m moving on to a full-time position working in the field of forestry and wildlife management. I’m not going anywhere, and I’ll see you in Camrose in March! It’s been an honour to serve the ACTWS these 12 months and I look forward to continued service in different roles.

All the best.

John Wilmshurst, PhD, P.Biol. ACTWS Executive Director (outgoing)

President's Message

The fog is thick this morning. It blankets the mountains and hills around my home but provides a pretty backdrop to the bull moose that just walked across my front yard. Summer has come and gone and with the recent snowstorms we’ve had, I think I must admit that winter is now here.

Just as the seasons are changing, so are some things within the Chapter. I am sad to announce that our executive director John Wilmshurst has resigned. John has made a number of positive contributions to the ACTWS over the past year, and I know that I speak on behalf of the executive when I say that he will be greatly missed. John, we wish you all the best in your new endeavours!

The ACTWS website has also recently changed. As you have probably noticed, the website has undergone a complete makeover. Layla Neufeld and Lucas Habib have done a tremendous job revamping the Chapter’s website. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, I encourage you to do so. You’ll find news and updates as well as a new “members’ area.” A huge thank you to Layla and Lucas for all of their work on the website; it is a huge contribution to our chapter!

Also on the website is information about the upcoming ACTWS conference. Alex Beatty and the conference planning team have been hard at work putting together what is sure to be an excellent conference in Camrose, March 13-15. The theme is “Species on the Move” and abstract submission and registration are now open. Make sure to register early to get the ‘Early bird’ rate!

Finally, I want to congratulate all of our membership on winning Chapter of the Year! Evelyn Merrill accepted the award on behalf of the Chapter at the TWS conference in Reno, Nevada. This award is a huge honor and I would like to thank our current and past executive for all their work as well as our membership for making the ACTWS so great.

Although the days are shorter and the weather colder, our province still offers an abundance of outdoor activities. I wish everyone a safe and happy winter and hope that you are able to find time to get outside and enjoy our beautiful province.

Andrea Morehouse, Ph.D. ACTWS President

Canada Section of the Wildlife Society Update

Well, the Reno Joint TWS and AFS Annual Meeting was quite something! There was a crowd approaching 5,000 with a new record set for attendance of TWS members over all past years! There were several plenary sessions, many, many symposia and presentations, wonderful networking through working groups, a Women in Wildlife symposium, a LGBTQ lunch, and a fun mixer with students, and a huge trade-show. Strides to include Diversity in our profession was recognized by a “TWS: All Are Welcome” button provided to registrants. The Reception of the Canadian Section and Friends was another smashing success this year. The Aldo Leopold Memorial Award, the highest award given by TWS, was awarded to Alan Wentz, a retired chief conservation officer for Ducks Unlimited and President of TWS in 1992-1993. But congratulations also go to Art Rodgers, past CSTWS President and Section Representative for becoming a TWS Fellow, the Alberta Conservation Association who received the Group Achievement Award, and the Alberta Chapter who received the Chapter of The Year Award! Great job everyone!!

Council activities started Friday night prior to the main meeting with a refresher of TWS Bylaws and Procedures for new Council (as well as current) members in the form of trivia game lead by the new TWS President, Gary White (a lively beginning). Among major issues presented to and discussed by Council were:

• Finances: TWS finances are heathy with a good budget surplus expected due to the Annual Meeting attendance and sponsorships, investments faring well, and a growing membership.

• Governance: A re-examination of TWS governance documents to strengthen and clarify their policies and consideration of document with TWS rules regarding Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Harassment, and Bullying. Bylaws will be condensed by removing specific operations/procedures from them and establishing a procedures document. A Section and Chapter Resource Guide was completed to help organizational units.

• Publications: Announcement for a new Editor-in-Chief for the Wildlife Society Bulletin has gone out (Canadians apply!). Impact factors for the journals have remained about the same but downloads of article have increase by as much as 19%; a new central hub for TWS Journals has been developed for easier access. There is support for Open Access but how it will be done requires further financial consideration. Reminder that all TWS member have free access to the 3 TWS journals.

• Governmental Affairs: Staff have been working on Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish & Wildlife Resources recommendation to fund state efforts to conserve fish and wildlife species, to ensure the Endangered Species Act retains science as the foundation for decision making, to improve tools necessary to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive species and wildlife disease; they co-hosted a session on Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA), directed at annual funding to state and tribal fish and wildlife agencies for the conservation and monitoring of at-risk species. Review and approval of Issue Statement on Delisting Grizzly Bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, whereas further discussion was warranted on Best Practices for Furbearer Trapping. Conservation Affairs Network e-newsletters to keep units engaged and informed have continued. Completion of policy document: USFWS and TWS joint report on Recruitment and Retention of Underrepresented Groups in the Natural Resource Management Workforce. It was agreed that more efforts on governmental policy are needed and a vacant internship position will be filled as a starting point.

• Professional development: 232 CWB/AWB Certification applications (+16% above goal) were approved with 85 renewals (+42%); LI program successfully completed for ten participants with Alumnae engagement; in collaboration with the US Forest Service, TWS selected five students for summer engagements in Native American Research Assistantships.

• TWS Office: Discussion of an evaluation of the Headquarters Property was initiated addressing options for the best use and alternatives for this current space considering changes in access, finances, success of virtual communications, and staff accommodation.

• Canadian Section MOU: Council was updated on relevant issues related to CSTWS MOU and liaison with Canadian Chapters. Discussion of MOU revisions continue considering the best interests of the Canadian Chapters.

If you have any questions on any of these please do not hesitate to email or call me.

In the days ahead, I am on several committees (Position Statements [Chair], Bylaws, Publications, TWS Fellows, Group Achievement Award, Policy Priorities Liaison Ad Hoc Committee) to provide Canadian perspectives. I also encourage each of you to make your interest known become involved! Please also think about upcoming TWS awards (described on web site) and continue to nominate our worthy Canadian Colleagues.

Evie Merrill, Canadian Section Representative

THE ALBERTA CHAPTER OF THE WILDLIFE SOCIETY 2020 CONFERENCE

When: March 13 to 15, 2020

Where: Norsemen Inn in beautiful Camrose, Alberta

Conference Theme: Species on the Move

EARLY BIRD DEADLINE: 10 JANUARY 2019

Last year's conference was a sell out, so make sure you register early.

You are invited to submit abstracts for:

Conventional Oral Presentations (15 min)

Speed Talks (4 min)

Posters

ABSTRACT DEADLINE: 10 JANUARY 2019

Presentations on all aspects of wildlife are welcome. You can submit your abstracts here. The call for papers and presentations can be found on the ACTWS website.

See the ACTWS website for more conference information.

STUDENTS: Monetary awards are available for all presentation types, posters, and travel to the conference. Check the Awards page on the ACTWS website.

INTERESTED IN VOLUNTEERING?

We're still looking for volunteers to help with conference planning! If you are interested, contact our conference chair Alex Beatty.

CONSIDER SPONSORING THE CONFERENCE

Profile your business or service by becoming a conference sponsor. Conference sponsors will receive logo advertising during the conference, and logo advertising for 1 year on the ACTWS website. Contact the sponsorship chair Cindy Kemper.

LIVE AND SILENT AUCTION

Do you have an item or experience you would like to donate to the silent or live auction? Contact the auction chair Dragomir Vujnovic.

CONFERENCE WORKSHOPS AND FIELD TRIP

All workshops are free with conference registration and are only available to conference attendees. More details (locations, times, workshop registration, etc.) will be posted on the ACTWS website soon.

Alberta Trapping Workshop - Friday, March 13, 2020

Presented by Dr. Mark Boyce, University of Alberta

This workshop will review regulations, methods and guidelines for trapping in Alberta. Canada leads the world in humane trapping standards, standards that have been integrated into regulations for trapping in Alberta. Dr. Boyce will bring traps, snares and fur-handling equipment to demonstrate how to make sets for various species. He will cover fur handling methods, sales and markets. Finally, Dr. Boyce will summarize how individuals can trap in Alberta in Registered Fur Management Areas (RFMAs) or with a Resident Fur Management Licence.

Owl Field Techniques Workshop - Friday, March 13, 2020

Presented by Lisa Takats-Priestley and Chuck Priestley, STRIX Ecological

The first part of this workshop will kick off with an introduction to Alberta’s owls and their ecology. There will be an overview of standardized protocols used to monitor and research diurnal and nocturnal owls. Local owl research and monitoring efforts will be described and Lisa and Chuck will share ideas about how you can get involved.

For the second part of the workshop, the group will travel together out to one of the Alberta Nocturnal Owl Survey routes where you will conduct surveys at ten long term monitoring stations. The roadside surveys are surrounded by some of central Alberta’s best owl woods. Data have been collected for more than a decade at these locations.

Please note: the workshop will begin in the Norsemen Inn, then a bus will transport workshop participants to the off-site owl survey locations. Please prepare for being outside at night for (possible) cold winter temperatures. Dress warm and carry a flashlight. A good motto for all owl enthusiasts!!

Aquatic Invasive Species Workshop - Friday, March 13, 2020

Presented by Cindy Sawchuk, AIS Operations/K9 Program Lead, Alberta Environment and Parks

Aquatic Invasive Species are one of the greatest threats to our biodiversity. Alberta estimates that invasive mussels alone could cost the province $75 million annually if introduced into the province. In 2015, the Government of Alberta introduced a team of K9s as an innovative tool for prevention of invasive mussels, and their role has since expanded. This workshop will highlight the work of the Conservation K9 unit, and a four-legged member of the team will be on hand to showcase his skills.

Photo courtesy of Alberta Environment and Parks

Winter Mammal Tracking Workshop - Friday, March 13, 2020

Presented by Stephen Olson, Wildlife Biologist, STRIX Ecological and Joseph Litke, P.Biol, Fiera Biological Consulting

This workshop will begin with an hour-long presentation of animal track photos to inspire beginner trackers to get out and explore. This presentation will be followed by an outdoor session where you will use snowshoes to check the local Camrose area for animal tracks and signs.

Please note: Please prepare for being outside for the majority of the workshop and dress for (possible) cold winter temperatures. Snowshoes will be provided to all workshop participants.

Wildlife Necropsy Workshop - Friday, March 13, 2020

This workshop will include instruction on proper necropsy/tissue collection procedures of small wildlife. An overview of the procedures will be presented with a hands on demonstration. Safe handling procedures will be emphasized.

Beaver Hills Biosphere Field Trip - Friday, March 13, 2020

Presented by Margo Pybus and Glen Lawrence

Enjoy a full day immersed in the unique landscapes and history of the Beaver Hills Biosphere, a world-class example of a working landscape where the pillars of sustainable land use leading to long-term quality of water, land, air, natural resources, and community development are on display. We will wander through the biosphere and make intermittent stops and walks that highlight landscape and human history as well as conservation successes with species such as swans, bison, and fishers. Guided interpretation provided by local residents and naturalists, Glen Lawrence and Margo Pybus.

Please note: The field trip will have a nominal fee to assist with the bus rental expense.

ACTWS Named TWS Chapter of the Year

At The Wildlife Society conference in Reno in September, The ACTWS was honoured as the Chapter of the Year!

In presenting the award to Dr. Evelyn Merrill, who received the award on behalf of all ACTWS members, TWS past-president Darren Miller cited the Alberta Chapter’s 30 year history of commitment to wildlife science in Canada.

This is the first time a Canadian Chapter has been awarded the TWS Chapter of the Year. Kudo’s to our hard working executive, and our dedicated members who’s tireless work on behalf of Alberta’s wild life and wild spaces is making a difference.

This is a huge achievement by the ACTWS as these are the criteria used to judge Chapter of the Year:

  • Promoting professional standards
  • Enhancing knowledge and technical capabilities
  • Encouraging professional stewardship of wildlife and TWS goals
  • Advocating sound basis for conservation policy decisions
  • Increasing awareness and appreciation for conservation and the wildlife profession
  • Demonstrating financial stability and growth of the chapter.
Dr. Evelyn Merrill receiving the Chapter of the Year Award from TWS past-president Darren Miller at the 2019 TWS Joint Conference in Reno, Nevada. (Photo Courtesy of David Frey)
Dr. Evelyn Merrill with the Chapter of the Year Award at the 2019 TWS Joint Conference in Reno, Nevada. (Photo Courtesy of David Frey)

Why Bison Matter

Interview By: Erika Almási-Klausz

I had the pleasure of interviewing Wes Olson (www.wesolson.ca) and his wife Johane Janelle (www.johanejanelle.com) on their beautiful property at the gateway to Elk Island National Park. After finishing a delicious hearty bowl of homemade bison stew, we sat down in the cozy living room, decorated with rustic furniture and art by both Wes and Johane. It was apparent that wildlife and nature were truly their passion.

Photo courtesy of Johane Janelle © www.johanejanelle.com

After working for more than 30 years with the charismatic bison, Wes has become a subject matter expert on the important role bison play in ecosystem health. His passion can be seen in his artwork and publications, such as Portraits of the Bison: an Illustrated Guide to Bison Society, A Field Guide to Plains Bison, and the soon to be published book called the Ecological Buffalo. Wes is also currently working on a Bison Management Plan for the Blood Tribe near Lethbridge, Alberta, where the goal is to replace cattle with bison on native prairie grasslands. Wes has been a keynote speaker at international conferences, seminars, workshops, and for schools and interest groups, and has been featured in documentaries on bison, such as Bison Return, Grasslands, and Elder in the Making. His wife, Johane, has coauthored numerous publications on bison with Wes, and is a professional wildlife photographer. Some of her work is featured in this interview.

Wes, tell me a little about yourself. What is your background? How did you become interested in bison?

I grew up in the magnificent foothills of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains where I enjoyed the great outdoors and its diversity of wildlife, and learned to appreciate their value and interconnectedness. I graduated from Lethbridge Community College in 1975 and soon after, worked as a Wildlife Technician for the Yukon Government. After a short stint attending the Banff School of Fine Arts in 1981, I began a career at Banff National Park as a Park Warden where my duties included taking care of and safe-guarding the plains bison in their fenced paddock at the time. Then in the summer of 83 to spring 84, I worked as a Park Warden in Waterton Lakes National Park. From 1984 to 2008, I worked at Elk Island National Park, where bison became my passion, and then from 2008-2012, until my retirement, at Grasslands National Park.

What are the two species of bison? How are they different? How many exist in the wild? Are there any pure breeds left? How many exist on ranches or in captivity? What is some of the history on populations?

The two species of bison in Canada are the Plains Bison (Bison bison bison) and Wood Bison (Bison bison athabascae). You can tell them apart by their differences in morphology, genetics, behaviour, and also by the type of habitat they inhabited historically depicted by their names; the Plains bison resided in the Prairies and Parklands of the Great Plains, whereas the Wood Bison resided in the Boreal forests and Mountain ranges. Wood Bison ranged northwards from about 100 km north of the South Saskatchewan River, while Plains Bison occurred about 100 km south of the river.

Originally, 30 to 60 million bison lived in North America. Most of the bison were killed within just 20 years between 1860-1880, during the industrial revolution and civil war when leather for belting to drive machinery were needed. Bison occurred in areas that had large expanses of grasslands for grazing. They even occurred as far south as the Oak Savannas in Florida, but they were most abundant in the northern mixed grass prairies.

Bison are around 5 foot 6 inches (1.67m) long, from nose to tail. The Wood Bison are generally larger (males averaging around 880 kg and females around 540 kg) than the Plains Bison (males around 739 kg and females 440 kg). Their morphology differs in the anterior slope of the hump (Wood Bison is more steeply sloped, and is ahead of the front legs, while the highest point of the hump on a plains bison is centered over the front legs), location of the highest point on the hump, angle of the hump, cape variegation and demarcation, upper front leg hair, frontal display hair, ventral neck mane, and beard. Both are listed under COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada 2013). The Plains Bison is listed as Threatened while the Wood Bison is listed as Special Concern.

About 600 Plains Bison reside in the Larson Block of Grasslands National Park near Val Marie, Saskatchewan. These numbers are managed biannually, reducing the population to about 350 animals to maintain the health of the habitat and the herd. Elk Island National Park (EINP) has approximately 400 plains and 300 wood buffalo at any given time. This includes the sale of some animals for ranching operations, with the majority going to conservation herds and to First Nations lands. Bison in Grasslands and EINP are considered genetically pure herds. Only about 5 herds in North America are considered to be pure (“wild by nature”). Others are mixed with cattle DNA, an experiment of agriculture hoping for a “super” breed, gone array. Luckily, the male offspring are sterile.

In the early 1900’s, when bison populations were decimated to near extinction, concerned individuals moved 742 Plains Bison from Montana to Elk Park (now EINP), while their permanent home at Buffalo National Park (BNP), near Wainwright, AB was made ready for them. Once ready, the Elk Island herd was shipped to BNP, with the exception of about 50 animals that remained behind. These bison formed the foundation of the current EINP Plains Bison population. Between 1922 and 1925, 6673 plains bison were moved from BNP to Wood Buffalo National Park, where the Plains Bison and some of the existing wild Wood Bison herd interbred and created a hybrid. Currently, some of the Wood Bison from Wood Buffalo National Park are still tainted with cattle DNA, but it has dramatically decreased to about 0.002% cattle DNA, and even these populations are now almost completely pure. About 9 herds in Canada are considered pure Wood Bison. Some believe that the Ronald Lake and the Firebag River animals in Wood Buffalo National Park are genetically pure Wood Bison.

Why do you think bison are an integral part of ecosystem health?

Bison are very important to a healthy ecosystem in so many different ways. Bison have coevolved with their habitats and with many species of flora and fauna that depend on the bison for their health and survival.

Photo courtesy of Johane Janelle © www.johanejanelle.com

How are bison able to change a landscape? How is their grazing regime different from cattle? What are some physiological and behavioural differences? How have bison coevolved with native grasslands and their environment as well as other species?

Bison are key in sustaining and enhancing native biodiversity and the health of ecosystems. They create physical disturbances on the landscape crucial in maintaining habitat health. These include: the trails they form through winter to enable ease of travel for many species and minimizing disturbances to the soils and vegetation beneath the snow and ice, the manure they leave behind on the landscape that helps to fertilize the soils and recycle nutrients, while providing food for so many different species, the wallows they create that are important havens from the elements as well as for holding water and loosening soils, and the characteristic patch grazing where patches of longer grass are left for cover and food for a diversity of wildlife, whereas shorter grasses are preferred by the endangered Prairie Dogs so they can easily spot predators. The pugging they create with their hooves helps regenerate grasslands, whereby their sharper edged hooves aerate the soils and allow seeds to grow. Bison play an important role in the life cycle of many species, such as dung beetles, ticks and internal parasites. They are a main food source for predators, such as wolves and grizzlies, and for scavengers, such as crows, and their carcasses have ecological benefits, too.

Bison are a key component in the grassland food web relationship. They help facilitate grazing by deer, cottontails, pronghorn, and prairie dogs. The Sexton beetle buries bison tissue from carcasses and transports phoretic mites that help feed a huge number of birds, reptiles, and amphibians. The presence of bison and their activities in the prairies helps sustain 77 species of grasshoppers, which in turn are hunted by grasshopper mice. In the Yukon bison were introduced in the 70s and squirrels were observed lining their nests with bison fur, increasing their survival rate and populations immensely. Listed species, such as the Horned Lark, have been observed to make nests in the depression created by bison footsteps, and use shed bison fur to line their nests, thus increasing their survivability. The heterogeneity of the landscape created by bison provides for many species’ needs.

Bison share the landscape with many different species, including some 26 species of endemic birds, and some 35 mammal species, many of which are listed under the Species at Risk Act. Bison are an integral part of the ecosystem and benefit all life, from the microscopic spores and microflora and fauna to the largest animal species.

Pronghorn Antelope travel 800 km during their annual migration. There are some residents that stick around all winter and some that are migratory. It is thought that the removal of bison probably increased the migrations of Pronghorn Antelope and hence their mortality rates because the winter trails made by bison that the Pronghorn used were no longer available.

Believe it or not, bison snot is one of the most important components of grassland health because it is the microbes in the dispersed bison snot that drives the entire ecosystem. When bison graze, the nostrils are exposed to the vegetation. They inhale dust, microbes, bacteria, and fungi, which gets hung up in the nasal vestibules. The bison licks its nostrils and swallows the microbes and fungi, which provides a whopping 1/4 of its protein intake and also aids in digestion. Millions of microorganisms are digested this way. The fungi break down the starch, the bacteria break it further down into sugars and provide fibre, the protozoa hunt the bacteria, and the fungi breaks down the cellulose. Protozoa occur by the millions in the rumen. All this gets excreted, and comprises the bison patty ecosystem, which is populated by the fungi, bacteria and protozoa. This concoction in turn feeds the dung beetles, flies, and other insects. These insects lay eggs on the dung, then the larvae hatch and are eaten by birds and other creatures. And the cycle begins again.

Dung beetles are nature’s gardeners. They solely rely on dung. They eat protozoa and bacteria, and fun fact, the “rollers” only roll their brood ball from dung during full moon. Prairie dogs eat the dry dung in early spring. One manure dung patch can support 100 species of insects. It is estimated that 300 billion insects were produced during peak bison populations. Imagine how many animals that must have fed. The decline of the bison naturally led to a decline in bison snot and bison dung, and hence a decline in birds and other species relying on it for food.

In winter, bison created grazing lawn micropatches. These were the first to green up in the spring providing active soil microbes where pocket gophers thrived. The pocket gophers created many underground tunnels, which provided habitat for snakes and up to 29 other species. In one study, prairie rattlesnakes preyed on pocket mice that ate the seeds of plants. The seeds then germinated during snake digestion and spread, which increased vegetation diversity and habitat for other creatures.

Bison hair was also abundant. It is the second warmest fibre in North America, the first being the fur of the Musk Ox. Many species used bison fur for lining their nests. It was also used as an olfactory masking agent for birds against predators. The bison fur was also water repellent. Thus, the survival rate of birds increased. Ground squirrels also used bison fur to line their nests. Bison wallows provided dust bathing for other animals to condition fur and skin and get rid of pesky flies and other pests and parasites. Wetlands created by the wallows were used by the endangered Spadefoot Toads and Great Plain Toads. Eggs were also laid in these wallows. Pronghorn babies used bison bowls to hide from predators and as protection from the strong winds. The endangered Mountain Plover used the crumbled bison patty for nests. The endangered Sage Grouse used the wallows for dancing grounds. Ant hills were established on bison dung. Northern flickers hunted ants and created nesting cavities that northern flying squirrels used for a variety of purposes, including cavities used as their toilet. Hidden in flying squirrel dung are tiny dung beetles that are found no where else.

Once the bison was removed from the ecosystem it resulted in an ecosystem collapse, as all components were affected. The ecological consequences were profound. It is hoped that bringing back the bison will re-establish these significant connections and hence increase biodiversity and ecosystem health.

Since bison no longer have natural predators, e.g., wolves, grizzlies, cougars, on the prairies, how can their numbers be managed? Should these predators be encouraged to repopulate to help rebalance grassland ecology and restore predator-prey relationships for a healthy ecosystem, including other species? It is known that some grizzlies are starting to move back onto the plains. How could this be achieved in the best possible manner?

Predators, such as wolves and grizzly bears do move in naturally, but they are generally not tolerated by landowners and are usually killed and hunted. Introducing large predators to National Parks are usually not supported by adjacent landowners, such as ranchers, but if these predators arrive on their own then they are afforded protection within the boundaries of the Park. However, as soon as these large predators leave the safe haven of the Parks, they are generally shot and killed. This makes it difficult for large predators of bison to establish and evolve a balanced predator-prey relationship and thus, human management of bison is continuously required. Until we learn to coexist and manage our own tolerance and behaviours, it is unlikely that large wild herds without human interference will ever be achieved.

How can ranchers be encouraged to augment or switch to bison ranching from cattle ranching on native prairies? What are some pros and cons? What are some of the benefits and advantages? How can this message be delivered effectively or be promoted? Is there a risk to upsetting social structure of the animals in these controlled scenarios?

Most ranchers think cattle are best and that is what they are used to. They think bison are difficult to handle and manage. You have to learn the behaviour of bison to be able to effectively handle them. Setting up infrastructure for handling and managing bison can be quite complicated and costly at first. However, once established, it becomes very efficient and cheap. When you cage and tag young bison, the mom becomes extremely protective and dangerous. You have to be able to isolate the calves effectively without interference from the mother. Therefore, fall is the best time to tag when the mother leaves the young. Transponders placed in the tail have been known to be effective. Ranchers also view the bison industry a threat to the cattle industry.

Bison are a lot gentler on their environment than cattle and are virtually maintenance free. When bison drink from dugouts they do not muddle the edges like cattle, but vegetation remains along the edges. They drink and walk away from the dugouts, and do not hang around like cattle do, dispersing on a larger more diverse landscape. They do not over-utilize resources. They eat 1/3 less than cattle and retain nutrients 1/3 longer, and they do not drink as often. They can go as long as 6 weeks without water, obtaining their water needs purely from vegetation. It is hypothesized that bison wallowing mixes the rumen contents, which also help to absorb moisture. But until ranchers are convinced that bison could be a more cost-effective, lucrative and natural alternative to the cattle industry, and better for the environment, the battle between bison and cattle will continue.

What is the status of bison in Wood Buffalo National Park? Where are the largest wild self-sustaining populations found in Canada and the US?

The largest self-sustaining wild populations of Plains Bison are found in Yellowstone National Park. The purest populations occur in Pink Mountain National Park in BC where there are more than 1000 Plains Bison, the largest disease free purebred herd in North America. Elk Island National Park has disease-free herds and this is where most of the source bison come from if an area needs to be repopulated.

Do you know the status of the bison reintroduction in Banff National Park? Will it be a success? What are some of the challenges they are facing with that program? What could be done better in the future? What are some opportunities?

The Banff National Park bison reintroduction program received much public support. The program was initiated by the Bison Belong campaign as a citizen-based effort to support the reintroduction of wild Plains Bison back to their natural habitat in Banff National Park. In 2009, the Eleanor Luxton Historical Foundation championed the reintroduction effort, advocating to renew the ecological, cultural and historical values of this iconic species in their native habitat.

The reintroduction was first talked about in the early 80’s by Cliff Whyte, a retired biologist in Banff, who was passionate about bison. He was a key influencer in challenging Parks to pursue the reintroduction program. A Blackfoot elder, Leroy Little Bear, was also instrumental in the program as he saw a rock shaped like a bison in the fall of 2016, which he interpreted as a sign that the reintroduction must occur at that location. In February 2017, the bison reintroduction became a reality.

Within the confines of the release area in Banff National Park, the area has a carrying capacity for about 1000 bison. The program has a 5 year trial basis. The population status for this year has not yet been established. The area of release is designated as a Plains Bison Wildlife Zone. Parks continues to work with surrounding land owners and the Parks management team to monitor the health, behaviour, movement and population of the herd to ensure everything remains on track.

What is your message to wildlife biologists regarding bison? What kind of research is lacking? How can people promote bison reintroductions and conservation?

Get involved, get educated on bison, and take action to advocate for their reintroduction and protection of critical grassland habitats. Learn and teach about coexistence, biodiversity and the web of life. Familiarize yourself with the Parks Management Plan, a key document to help in the reintroduction effort. Have a plan in place and be able to clearly relay the message of the important ecological roles bison play in the environment. Connect with groups that promote bison conservation and education.

Photo courtesy of Johane Janelle © www.johanejanelle.com

USFWS Announces $100,000 White-nose Syndrome Challenge to Save Nation's Bats

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is announcing a $100,000 challenge to combat white-nose syndrome (WNS), a lethal fungal disease that has killed millions of bats in North America and pushed some native bat species to the brink of extinction. Awards will be given to individuals or teams who identify innovative ways to permanently eradicate, weaken, or disarm the fungus.

You don’t have to be a bat expert to enter the White-nose Syndrome Challenge. This opportunity is open to anyone with an innovative idea for tools or techniques that will lead to solutions to reduce the effects of the fungus without harming other beneficial species or the environment.

White-nose syndrome is caused by a fungus that sometimes looks like white fuzz on bats' faces and wings. The fungus thrives in cold, damp places and infects bats during hibernation. It disrupts bats’ winter dormancy, causing them to expend too much energy stored in their fat and often resulting in dehydration and starvation before spring arrives.

Since 2007, white-nose syndrome has been confirmed in 33 states and seven Canadian provinces. At some affected sites, 90 to 100 percent of bats have disappeared, most succumbing to the disease.

There is no known cure for white-nose syndrome, but scientists worldwide are working together to study the disease and how it can be controlled. Winning ideas from this challenge will be the focus of future collaborations with scientists, designers and engineers to bring solutions to life.

The deadline for individuals or teams to enter the Challenge is December 31, 2019 by 11:59 p.m. ET. For additional information regarding rules and eligibility, visit the White-nose Syndrome Challenge web page or www.challenge.gov.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will hold an informational briefing for anyone interested in entering the Challenge on Nov. 20, 2019 at 2 p.m. ET. Advance registration is required. For more information, please visit the White-nose Syndrome Challenge web-page.

Please help us to spread the word about the Challenge by sharing this email and attached flyer with your peers, contacts, networks and the public. Thank you for joining the fight to save our bats!

Christina Kocer

WNS Regional Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

ACTWS Website Gets an Update

The ACTWS webmasters, Layla Neufeld and Lucas Habib, have done excellent work updating the ACTWS website. The new layout now includes a members only area that allows access to all of the past newsletters, chapter documents and conference registration!

And the new website looks prettier!

The job board has been revamped, where anyone can submit a job that we can then approve so it appears on the site. Speaking of which...

ATCWS is Looking for a New Executive Director

The Alberta Chapter of The Wildlife Society (ACTWS) is pleased to announce that we are seeking an Executive Director (ED) to lead our organization. In this exciting position, the successful candidate will interact with a multi-disciplinary team of wildlife professionals to advance the ACTWS mission: “To inspire and empower wildlife professionals to engage in science-based management and conservation of wild animals and their habitats.”

Does this sound like you? If yes, please submit a cover letter, resume, and names and contact information for three references as a single .pdf to Dr. Andrea Morehouse, President of the Alberta Chapter of The Wildlife Society, via the ‘Apply for Job’ button below.

THE WILDLIFE SOCIETY POSITION ANNOUNCEMENT: EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, WILDLIFE SOCIETY BULLETIN

Application Period Ends: January 3, 2020

Preferred Start Date: May 1, 2020

The Wildlife Society (TWS) seeks applicants for the position of Editor-in-Chief for its peer-reviewed publication, Wildlife Society Bulletin. Issues of the Wildlife Society Bulletin are produced quarterly. The Editor-in-Chief is responsible for coordinating production with authors, Associate Editors, TWS Council, TWS staff, and TWS’s journal publisher and producing annual reports outlining journal activities.

TWS seeks a highly qualified and motivated individual who has a proven ability to work and communicate with people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives to assume Editor-in-Chief duties. Desired qualifications include a Ph.D. in wildlife or related field, experience publishing in peer-reviewed journals, experience as an Associate Editor or Editor-in-Chief of a peer-reviewed journal, knowledge of TWS and TWS journals, and a diversity of experience within the wildlife discipline.

Interested candidates may contact Mike Conner (mike.conner@jonesctr.org), Chair of the TWS Publications Subcommittee, for more information. Nominations of potential candidates by others are encouraged and welcomed. Applications should consist of a curriculum vita, a summary of previous experience as an editor, a statement of editorial philosophy, and an indication of employer support if applicable. Applications will be accepted until 3 January 2020, with the intent to select a new Editor-in-Chief by 16 March 2020.

Applications are encouraged from all qualified individuals including members of visible minorities, women, people with disabilities, and other individuals who may be underrepresented among Scientific Editors.

Scholarships and Awards

Graduate Student Award for Moose Research

The Albert W. Franzmann and Distinguished Colleagues Memorial Award is a competitive annual award for graduate students working on the biology and management of moose within their circumpolar distribution or other ungulates or mammalian carnivores overlapping moose range. Deadline is March 15, 2020. For details see the Alces website. Applicants, recipients of this award or not, are encouraged to apply for the Alces “Newcomer’s Travel Award” that will assist their attendance at the Alces annual conference.

Do you want to promote a scholarship or award, please contact Ian to have your scholarship or award included in the next issue.

Photo Contest

Would you like your wildlife photo showcased on the cover of the next issue of The Alberta Wildlifer? Please send your photos to one of the new editors.

Mystery Wildlife

Can you identify this month's mystery wildlife? Check your answer on the ACTWS blog. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Melsted)

Upcoming Events

2020 ACTWS Annual Conference - March 13-15, 2020, in Camrose, Alberta

Ontario Chapter/Canadian Section Joint TWS Conference - March 27 to 29, 2020 in Peterborough, Ontario

U of A Chapter of The Wildlife Society Tracks and Scat Workshop and Field Trip - November 30, 2019 from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm at Elk Island National Park, Alberta

We will meet in the Park at the theatre (directions and maps will be provided). The Friends of Elk Island Society will be leading this event with a 1 hour presentation about tracks and scat identification followed by a guided hike. We’ll wrap up the event by roasted hot dogs over a campfire.

Come prepared for hiking in snow, and bring water/snacks!

  • 9:45 am: Meet at Astotin Lake in Elk Island National Park
  • 10:00 am: Indoor presentation on tracks and scat identification
  • 11:00 am: Guided hike through the snow to looks for tracks and scat
  • 12:30 pm: Roast hotdogs over a campfire
  • 1:30 pm: Event wrap up

Canadian Section of the Wildlife Society Webinars

Arctic Acoustic Environments: The impacts of climate change and shipping activity on marine wildlife by Dr. William Halliday - January 9, 2020 at 1:00 pm (ET)

Climate change impacts on polar bears by Dr. Andrew Derocher - February 10, 2020 at 2:00 pm (ET)

R package for animal movement, managing tracking data, and conducting habitat selection analyses by Dr. Tal Avgar - April 29th, 2020 at 12:00 pm (ET)

Wildlife Snow-tracking for Professionals

An intense and challenging two-day course aimed at individuals interested in wildlife track identification for research or consulting purposes, but is open to anyone interested. Instructor is Joesph Litke and there are two locations available.

January 7th & 8th 2020 in Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan

January 15 & 16, 2020 in Elk Island National Park, Alberta

Anyone interested hosting or helping arrange a course in their region should contact Fiera directly at: info@fieraconsulting.ca

Alberta Society of Professional Biologists

ASPB Introduction to Data Analysis and Visualization with R/RStudio - Tuesday, November 26 and Tuesday, December 3, 2019 from 10:30 am to 5:00 pm in Calgary, Alberta.

Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan (PCAP) Native Prairie Speaker Series

Prairie pond abundance and breeding success of tree swallows: What can the birds tell us about retaining ponds in agro-ecosystems? by Dr. Lisha L. Berzins (webinar) - November 21, 2019, 12:00 pm

Multiple Species Management Workshop & Conservation Appreciation Supper - Thursday, November 21, 2019. Workshop 1:30 pm to 5:30 pm, Supper starts at 6:00 pm in Eastend, Saskatchewan

Pronghorns at the Northern Edge of their Range by Andrew Jakes, National Wildlife Federation (webinar) - December 21, 2019 at 12:00 CST

2020 Native Prairie Restoration/Reclamation & Transboundary Grassland Workshops - February 25-27, 2020, in Regina, Saskatchewan

Grassland Restoration Forum Annual Information Session - November 14, 2019, Claresholm, Alberta

Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute Introduction to Wildtrax Webinar - November 27, 2019 from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm MST

Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? We were faced with this question as we began deploying 100 trail cameras and 1000 autonomous recording units (ARUs) around Alberta every field season. How do you handle, and get the most out of, the terabytes and terabytes of data produced by these sensors?

The solution for us has been the development of WildTrax, a new initiative that has just gone live. WildTrax is an online platform for storing, managing, processing, and sharing environmental sensor data. Users can upload their data, take advantage of sophisticated AI-based automatic processing tools to classify observations, and discover new data or share their own. They can do all this themselves, or contract the WildTrax team to do it for them.

What does all this mean for you? After many rounds of testing with pilot users, WildTrax is being released publicly, and is available at www.wildtrax.ca. We plan to keep improving the platform too! We’re already working on developing a data discovery map, a citizen science version of the platform that will let anyone help ‘crowd source’ data processing, and increasing the range of data privacy options. Sign up and try it out! We think you’ll love it, and if not, we welcome your feedback as we add new functions. Read more about WildTrax on our blog, or watch the introductory video, or join the webinar on November the 27th.

Have questions? Contact Alex MacPhail at info@wildtrax.ca.

Association of Professional Biologists Inaugural Seminar on Aerial Ungulate Surveys and Wildlife Techniques - November 25 to 27, 2019 in Prince George, BC

The APB works at providing practicable training options for biology professionals to advance their career. This seminar course is an opportunity for biologists to become familiar with wildlife survey methods, discuss large-scale ungulate declines, and see how modern techniques in population surveys can translate into conservation actions.

The Birds and the Bats: Guide to Backyard and Local Wildlife Care - Saturday, November 30, 2019, Three Hills, Alberta

Learn about the the birds and the bats, meet Otis the owl, and build your very own bat house! This full day workshop in Three Hills hosted by Kneehill County will provide essential information for enhancing your backyard for wildlife. See the event poster at https://www.albertabats.ca/wp-content/uploads/The-Birds-and-the-Bats-Final-Small.jpg for more information. There is a $25 admission fee to the day time talks and a $50 fee for a bat house kit (this is a discounted price). Be sure to register on Eventbrite:

Bird Studies Canada 2019 Christmas Bird Count - Various locations throughout Alberta between December 14, 2019 and January 5, 2020. This marks the 120th year that the National Audubon Society has run the Christmas Bird Count. Calgary has been participating since 1952 and Edmonton has been participating since 1955. You can find your local Christmas Bird Count at Bird Studies Canada.

Map showing all Christmas Bird Count Locations in Alberta. (Map from: Bird Studies Canada)

Nature Calgary Calgary Birding Challenge 2020 - Nature Calgary is promoting its Big Year challenge for people in Calgary to identify as many species of birds in Calgary city limits during 2020. The previous Big Year challenges were in 2000 and 2010, as well as the Calgary region challenges in 2005 and 2015.

Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation Winter Fun Day - December 7, 2019 from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm at Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park, Alberta

To inspire and empower wildlife professionals to engage in science-based management and conservation of wild animals and their habitats

The Alberta Wildlifer

November 2019 Volume 30 Issue 4

The Alberta Chapter of the Wildlife Society

P.O. Box 4990

Edmonton, AB T6E 5G8

Created By
ACTWS Newsletter Team
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