“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has” – Margaret Mead
The morning is beautiful, crisp, clean and cool. As we walk over the grassy field still tipped with frost all I can hear is the panting of the Labbies, the rustle of the grasses as they move through them and a crow telling the world about his night.
As we move over the last hill I call the Labbies back to me and leash up my boy Gunner. He is older now and somewhat unpredictable when it comes to coyote. Most days he will recall but sometimes when the mood strikes him he will chase and when he goes the other Labbies follow. This is not alright with me, it is dangerous for coyote and dangerous for Labbies and it is not how we roll. With Gunner on leash and not able to give chase, the other Labbies will remain close by, now everyone is safe.
I start to whistle and talk loudly to the dogs, I want coyote to know we are there so he can leave if he chooses. Though coyote seems to know everything about his world, even he can be engaged elsewhere and in the past we have startled him, so now I maintain respect by letting him know without a doubt that we are there.It is only now that I can reflect upon the beauty of the day before, The Celebration of Wildlife.
This magical event was hosted by The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals, a passionate group of highly educated, kind and knowing people. Lesley Fox Executive Director for APFBA began the day by welcoming us to the event which was “a message of hope, kindness and compassion for animals”. “Fur bearers”, she said “ are not a nuisance, they belong here and it is up to us to protect them”.Louise Liebenberg of Grazierie, the only Predator Friendly farm in Alberta was a great surprise to me. She is a rancher and though I am a vegan she was able to reach under my cloud of dislike for ranchers and what she said made sense. The meat industry is not going away. If we are going to make any changes at all we must work with ranchers and provide them with real solutions to their very real problems. This is a big industry in Alberta and other places in Canada and they have a powerful voice. If we can extend an olive branch I think we can make a difference in not only creating a culture of co-existence with wildlife but also with respect to animal welfare overall.
“It is about responsibility, biodiversity, respect and simply about sharing the land with the wildlife that inhabits this country” – Louise Liebenberg
Dr. Shelley Alexander’s talk on Finding Coyote was mesmerizing for me as she talked of play interaction between coyote pups. Play is a vital tool in cementing the skills for interaction amongst themselves that will will need in order to be successful as adults. Play teaches young animals about right and wrong as well as empathy in the young pups. If they bite too hard, play will end and an “apology” (perhaps a play bow) will be needed if play is to continue. There is much to be learned from coyote. Coyote Watch Canada and Project Coyote are tremendous resources for coyote information and co-existence with this willy, intelligent, adaptable animal.
Lisa Dahlsiede from the Cochrane Ecological Institute and Northern Lights Wolf Centre was brilliant. Her talk was introduced with the film “How Wolves Change Rivers” and if you have not seen it, please do. It is a short film that describes how just one species, the wolf, changed the landscape and ecosystems of Yellowstone National Park. In spite of this knowledge (that is not new with some studies dating back to the 1950’s, but is thankfully re-emerging) neither Canada (who supplied the wolves to the United States to reintroduce the species) or the United States (who are in the process of delisting the wolf) seem to have learned how truly important trophic cascades really are and that every species is necessary. Both counties are hunting wolves relentlessly and subjecting them and other animals to horrific and unnecessary death. For more information on this check out websites for Northern Lights Wolf Centre, Wolf Matters and Just Beings.
Kerri Martin brought us some beautiful wildlife moment captured for all time in her photographs. She is truly a friend of the wild ones and her message was crystal clear in the words of her mentor “leave ‘em like you found ‘em”. I encourage you to take a look at her photos which are breath taking and truly the only way that the wild ones should be captured.
Charlie Russell, what can I say of this fine gentleman and kindred spirit to the wild ones. He had me captivated at his first word and my attention was not drawn away from him during the entire presentation. Having seen this wonderful man and heard his stories in his own voice there is no question in my mind as how he is able to live with bears. Trust and respect, it is no more complicated than that.
And so as the day drew to a close I was filled with a great warmth towards those around me and I knew we could make a difference and we will.
Kirsten Rose is a Certified Behaviour Consultant and Certified Professional Dog Trainer in Calgary, Alberta. To learn more about Kirsten and her amazing work with dogs please visit www.caninemindsandmanners.ca
Coyote Watch Canada Note: We thank Kirsten for sharing her experience at The Celebration of Wildlife with our keen and committed coexistence audience. Kirsten is a long time CWC supporter and we are thrilled to have Kirsten on our team.