Special thanks to Publisher of The North Island Eagle, Kathy O’Reilly
Originally printed Friday, March 23, 2018 in The North Island Eagle
Caring for Spring
It’s Sunday, March 18, 2018 and the sun is finally poking through the grey winter sky. The morning dew has lifted off the grass and golden rays warm the ground. Yet, the ocean breeze is still cool to the face and my bare, sockless feet. A reminder that spring is near but not yet arrived. Outside, little birds chirp, a robin flies by and I hear a dove coo as the foggy memories of winter drizzle away in my thoughts. I am reminded of all the North Island has to offer; an untouched social emerald away from the fast pace and disposable nature of the big cities. Some might call it a “last frontier.” As I sit at my kitchen table overlooking the town of Port McNeill, the ocean and the distant snowcapped mountains, it is not the sounds that I hear which surprise me – it’s the sounds that are absent. No sirens, no loud voices, no highway traffic, no machinery, no fast pulse of a big city heartbeat. The angst and immediacy of action is absent. As the morning fog bank rolls out to sea, uncovering my small sleepy town, I am awed at the little logging camp and fishing village that has come so far.
I am quite flattered to be offered this opportunity to write an environmental column for the North Island Eagle. As I sit to think of topics I wonder, “How can I help celebrate true North Island life?” Drawing on my past experiences as a Conservation Officer for the community, I thought I would share my thoughts on things that I have seen here in the Tri-Port communities and ways we can all help protect what we cherish most, the environment that makes this place we call home so special.
In the last ten years or so the North Island has become world renowned for its breathtaking views and experiences with wildlife (both ocean and terrestrial). People come from all over, especially Europe, to see whales, bears, eagles, creatures small and large, life below and above our waters, our forests, our ocean, our home. For me, too often I forget where I am. I forget that what others cross a world to experience and spend a fortune to see, I live with every day. Taking care of our home is therefore important not just for each of us that lives here, but for our collective image we share with the world.
Things we can all do
As this spring arrives, and as visitors come and go, I wish to share a few thoughts on what we can all do to help protect our home. My thoughts that follow are based on my experiences as a Conservation Officer and Special Provincial Constable here on the North Island. They are presented to first address public safety concerns, second to highlight environmental protection, and third to touch on the care of our wildlife.
- Camp fires – it is important this year to ensure our camping habits are safe. When camp fire bans come, please follow the rules. Use propane flame and keep a fire extinguisher near-by. If you come across people that are not from the area and who are having open fires, remind them that this is our home and we have a collective responsibility to ensure we keep it safe for all species.
- Illegal dumping – many of us will be doing spring cleaning this year. Please, take your garbage to the dump. Our forests are shared with wildlife and fish bearing streams that do not need our plastics and garbage contaminating their water and food supplies. If you see someone involved in illegal dumping please report it as soon as possible. Environment aside, I’m pretty sure people don’t come from all over the world to look at black garbage bags and plastics in our rivers and forests. Closely related to this, and specific to bears, is an issue which comes up every year – the issue of attractant management. Simply put, pick your fruit (if you have it), keep your barbeque clean, place your bird feeders high or remove them completely, freeze fish cleanings, and most important put your garbage away!
- Wildlife care – we live in a community that is on the edge of world class wildlife habitat. This includes marine and terrestrial animals. Living with and co-existing with these other non-human species is our collective responsibility. Spring poses many challenges. With the birth of new offspring and with humans also getting back out into the wilderness to recreate and work, wildlife sightings are expected to increase. Remember, we are not alone on the North Island. So, if you see a baby fawn, seal, bear cub, wolf pup, eaglet, or cougar kitten, leave it alone and leave the area! Mom is probably near-by! Of course there are exceptions to every rule and sometimes injured wildlife can be helped by human intervention – but this is not the norm. While I cannot hypothesize every situation that may occur this spring, as a general rule don’t touch baby wildlife. If you have questions regarding a specific situation or wildlife you believe is in distress, seek answers from qualified individuals. Always remember, just because you see wildlife does not mean there is an emergency nor does it mean humans are in danger. Use sound judgement and only call for help if there is a true emergency or risk to human health and safety. We all live with wildlife and as summer approaches an increase in sightings is to be expected. If you have friends or family that are visiting or recently moved here, educate them on the wildlife in our area so they are not surprised by what they might see.
I was told once that the North Island is not a nice place to live because it is always one colour, grey. Well, I am right now looking at fluffy white clouds, a clear blue sky, a diamond sparkling ocean, and green forests that seem to hop across the water from island to island until they reach the mountains on the other side. Another person told me that if you look really close during the winter the sky isn’t actually grey but different shades of dark blue and white that are mixed with something exciting. I have decided that those who make the North Island their home for any length of time each have a unique perspective of why they stay. I’m looking forward to this spring and I hope you are too!
Bryce Casavant is a former B.C. Conservation Officer for the North Island. Bryce made international headlines in 2015 when he declined a provincial kill order for two small bear cubs. The cubs, Jordan and Athena, were successfully released back into wild. Bryce ran for the BC NDP in the 2017 provincial elections. Bryce is currently a Doctoral Candidate with Royal Roads University. He writes for the Eagle from his home in Port McNeill.