SUNDAY, APRIL 22
Dr. Shelley M. Alexander, Professor, Department of Geography, University of Calgary
Victoria Lukasik, PhD Candidate, Department of Geography, University of Calgary
We need to expand our compassion footprint to wild animals like coyotes. It is estimated that one coyote is killed every minute in the USA, which is a statistic echoed in Canada. For instance, in 2009 alone, approximately 70,000 coyotes were killed on a government-sponsored bounty in Saskatchewan, and untold numbers of dead coyotes dumped along borders and in landfills of adjacent provinces. The welfare implications of routine culling are ignored because coyotes are an extremely resilient species. Arguably, a lack of understanding of the emotional lives of social animals like coyotes plays into citizen requests for and management agencies compliance with the use of lethal force. Further, calls for more compassionate science and management that are based on the knowledge of animal suffering tend to dismissed considered "biased" research or "advocacy" – not science. The idea that coyotes are a menace and should be killed is supported by some citizens, and select interest groups can drive killing, even if the larger citizenship does not agree with this practice. Finally, some agencies are working to promote co-existence and no-kill strategies, but this is difficult in the face of multiple worldviews about what wild species deserve our compassion and belong in proximity to people. This talk will introduce Compassionate Conservation science and convey key findings from a decade of research on coyotes, concepts from animal geography and personal experience raising/studying orphaned coyote pups.
- The causal factors of human-coyote, coyote-pet entanglements.
- Elucidating the ecological, ethical and social pressures shaping these engagements.
- Exploring the emotional lives of coyotes as evidence of moral considerability and the need for compassion.
Dr. Shelley Alexander is a Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Calgary. She has more than 25 years of experience studying wild canids, specializing in wolves and coyotes in Canada, and is the Founder and Lead Scientist for the Foothills Coyote Initiative. Shelley is also a recognized specialist in geospatial analysis (GIS, Satellite imagery and statistics) for conservation and a road ecologist – studying the effects of roads on species movement patterns. Her other research collaborations include: modelling swift fox critical habitat with the Conservation Science Centre - Calgary Zoo, studying road effects on large carnivores in the Yucatan and developing species-environment models for endangered painted dogs with Painted Dog Research, Zimbabwe. She is a member of the Science Advisory Board for Project Coyotes, USA, Member of the Board for the North American Society for Conservation Biology and Science Advisor to Coyote Watch Canada.
Dr. Alexander's talk will be followed by a short presentation by Victoria Lukasik, a PhD candidate under Dr. Alexander's supervision at The University of Calgary.
Coyotes and other "resilient" (behaviourally-adaptable) species are often managed through lethal control methods, with limited consideration of ethics and social dynamics. Rural public perceptions that indiscriminate killing of coyotes and wolves helps to reduce livestock losses and "control" predator populations persist in spite of evidence to the contrary. In urban areas, perceptions of risk to human and pet safety can promote lethal removal of coyotes deemed too habituated to humans. These perceptions and actions create barriers to co-existence at municipal and regional levels. When the only vocal citizens are those in favour of shooting, trapping and poisoning "inconvenient" species, there is little incentive for wildlife managers and their agencies to strengthen regulations aimed at co-existence. These issues will be discussed with a focus on building bridges to more compassionate conservation of coyotes, wolves and cougars in Alberta and across North America.
Victoria Lukasik is completing her PhD in the Canid Lab, in the Department of Geography at the University of Calgary under the supervision of Dr. Shelley Alexander. Through this research, Victoria examines lethal carnivore management in western Canada and identifies barriers to more effective and compassionate wildlife management approaches. She previously studied urban coyote diet and human-coyote interactions in Calgary during her Master of Science research, and holds a Bachelor of Science from McGill University in Wildlife Biology. Her research interests center around human-wildlife coexistence, carnivore ecology, and conservation. She has worked on numerous research and conservation projects studying birds, mammals and amphibians in academia, government, NGO and industry. She also has experience in environmental education and is passionate about sharing science with public groups.
MONDAY, APRIL 23
Christina Carrieres, Vice President, Board of Directors, Wildlife Rehabilitators' Network of BC
Heather Schmitt, Board of Directors, Wildlife Rehabilitators' Network of BC
As our urban areas continue to expand and human-wildlife interactions increase, with it is a growing demand for humane care for distressed wildlife. This trend is paired with a growing public expectation that wildlife rehabilitators provide care that meets professional standards comparable to those in place for companion or exotic animals.
Barriers to meeting this demand include the position of wildlife rehabilitation centres as non-profit organizations relying on charitable support to provide a needed public service, a lack of available formal technical training, a high rate of professional burnout, succession planning challenges and uneven geographical access to wildlife rehabilitation facilities.
The Wildlife Rehabilitators’ Network of BC has begun a dialogue with rehabilitation professionals across British Columbia to explore how best to support the field and enhance wildlife welfare. The initial findings from this exercise have offered valuable insights into the common issues faced by the rehabilitation community and have provided a starting point for creating professional development resources.
- What is the current landscape of wildlife rehabilitation across British Columbia?
- What are the common challenges faced by the rehabilitation and wildlife welfare community?
- What connections can be created or strengthened among rehabilitation facilities and other animal welfare professionals?
Christina Carrieres is an Animal Health Technologist, a Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator and an instructor for the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. She worked at BC SPCA Wild ARC for more than 12 years, where she led a team of wildlife rehabilitation staff and volunteers treating more than 3,000 wild patients every year. She is originally from Montreal, where she worked with marine mammals at the Parc Aquarium de Québec for some time before moving to Victoria in 2003 to complete a Double Major in Biology and Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria.
Christina is the Vice President of the Wildlife Rehabilitator’s Network of BC, the Vice President of the Oiled Wildlife Society of BC, and the WRNBC trustee within the Oiled Wildlife Trust of British Columbia. She also volunteers with Vets for Pets, a local organization that provides free basic medical care to low income and homeless people’s pets and is a member of the Canadian Animal Assistance Team.
Over the years, she has completed a number of training courses and has gained experience volunteering in various wildlife rehabilitation centres in different countries, such as Guatemala, Belize, South Africa and the US (Hawaii) where she worked with endangered species. She also attended numerous conferences related to wildlife in order to provide the best possible care for Vancouver Island’s wild patients.
Heather Schmitt is a Certified Volunteer Administrator and completed a Bachelor's degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Victoria, as well as a Master's degree in Environmental Studies from Queen's University. She has worked at two of the busiest wildlife rehabilitation centres in Canada, serving as Assistant Manager at BC SPCA's Wild ARC, and staffing the emergency wildlife hotline at Toronto Wildlife Centre. Heather is on the Board of Directors for the Wildlife Rehabilitators’ Network of BC, and has furthered her knowledge of the wildlife rehabilitation field by attending numerous conferences and completing the Oiled Wildlife Society's First Responder training.
SUNDAY, APRIL 22
Rob Laidlaw, Executive Director, Zoocheck
This illustrated session will examine the status of wildlife captivity in Canada and some of the key issues, trends and challenges associated with captive animals, including those on public display in zoos and aquariums and wild animals held in private hands as pets. It will also examine several key housing and husbandry considerations for captive wildlife and provide an introduction to some quick assessment systems, including the ZEQAP and EMODE. The session will conclude by looking at future possibilities for wildlife in captivity by providing a number of recommendations for change at both a local and regional level.
- Obtain an understanding of the wildlife in captivity issue landscape in Canada.
- Learn about several wildlife in captivity assessment programs that can provide assistance and guidance when dealing with captivity issues.
- Get insight into strategies for addressing wildlife in captivity issues on a local and provincial level.
Rob Laidlaw is a Chartered Biologist, award-winning author of nine children’s books and Executive Director of the wildlife protection charity Zoocheck. His work throughout the years has taken him around the world and has involved almost every kind of advocacy initiative from lobbying governments to rescuing animals, including many successful initiatives to change laws, policies, practices and to improve conditions for wildlife in captivity.
Read our interview with Rob Laidlaw here.