Canada Ottawa spends $5.7 million on deer eradication in Haida Gwaii featuring New Zealand sharpshooters

16:32  11 april  2018
16:32  11 april  2018 Source:   Vancouver Sun

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A massive deer eradication on Haida Gwaii will mean venison for school lunches and marksmanship training for local youth. Ottawa . Change. quickly access local content from your selected region. Select a new default local region: British Columbia.

Restoring Balance, Haida Gwaii , British Columbia, Canada. The eradication of invasive deer from the islands will enable the natural restoration of temperate rainforest constituents, including the regeneration of native and endemic herb, shrub, and tree layers.

040918-bait_stations_being_hiked_into_key_feeding_locations_on_Ramsay: .© Parks Canada .

The federal government is spending $5.7 million over three years to eradicate introduced deer on six islands on Haida Gwaii  — including the hiring of New Zealand sharpshooters to fire from helicopters, boats and on the ground with tracking dogs.

The program, which enters its second year of eradication this spring, is designed to allow vegetation on the islands to recover from foraging by Sitka black-tailed deer, which were introduced to Haida Gwaii, then the Queen Charlotte Islands, for hunting starting in 1898.

The islands involved in the eradication program — Ramsay (largest at 1,600 hectares, and the primary focus), Murchison, Bischof, Faraday, House, and Hotspring — are grouped within Juan Perez Sound within Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site.

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In The Haida Gwaii Lesson, former University of California journalism professor and Mother Jones editor Mark Dowie shares the story of the Haida people, relating their struggle for sovereignty and title over their ancient homeland as a strategic playbook for other indigenous peoples.

An overview of things to do in Haida Gwaii , British Columbia, including information on fishing, hiking, camping, surfing, artists and art galleries, Aboriginal culture and history, and the Haida Heritage Centre. English - New Zealand .

In 2017, a total of 598 deer were shot from March to October and their meat distributed for food on Haida Gwaii. Five Kiwis who specialize in deer eradication were hired to fire mostly .223 Remington rifles from low-flying helicopters and from the ground with tracking dogs, a mixture of breeds including Hungarian Vizsla equipped with GPS collars so hunters could follow them to the deer. Shooting also took place from boats along the shoreline.

Prior to the hunt beginning, a sweep was conducted of the islands to ensure no one was camping there.

“Although we have a lot of great local hunters, we wanted people who are eradication specialists,” Robyn Irvine, project manager for Parks Canada, said in an interview.

“The deaths of these animals were as humane and quick as possible.” New Zealand has a long history of dealing with the impact of introduced species, including deer and feral goats.

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Red Deer . While there are rats on main islands of Haida Gwaii , they aren't overrun with rodents like the unpopulated islands. While it's the first time it's been used in Canada, the method has been successful in New Zealand , the United States and Mexico.

It features the gumboot-clad Haida who in 1985 famously blocked logging roads and whose protests ultimately led to the 1993 designation of the Gwaii With few resident predators their population has exploded to an estimated quarter of a million deer , equivalent to 25 per square kilometre.

The SPCA confirmed it was impressed by the clean kills that minimized suffering to the deer.

“I was blown away at how professional it was,” said Sara Dubois, the SPCA’s chief scientific officer. “They would only take head shots — no body shots — and only if they could guarantee an instant kill.”

The program started by attracting the deer with a combination of dry corn, cedar boughs, and fresh apples at bait stations, where some could be quickly picked off, then moved into a more aggressive and wide-ranging seek-and-destroy mission throughout the islands.

Four Americans who specialize in wildlife behaviour also participated in the program as well as 32 residents of Haida Gwaii, both Haida and non-Haida, including four sharpshooters (one of whom joined the Kiwis for helicopter-based shooting) as well as logistical and technical support.

Two non-profit organizations, Coastal Conservation and Island Conservation, also assisted in the program.

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James Cowpar, co-owner of Haida Style Expeditions with his twin brother, Shawn, runs the tour company that brought us to Gwaii Haanas. As he barbeques our halibut lunch he explains how marksmen from New Zealand are helping Parks Canada staff eradicate deer in the Llgaay gwii

We chose to spend the year in Auckland. As New Zealand ’s largest city, we hoped that this would make it easier to find work—which was our largest concern. Auckland has a population of 1.3 million and is small enough to get around by foot.

Already some of the vegetation is starting to return. Western red cedar, a tree strongly tied to Haida culture and artwork, is also expected to recover and grow to monumental size. Over time, the islands will even sound different, as species return to native habitat.

“The deer have had a crazy impact … on all levels of biodiversity,” Irvine said. “Invertebrates and insects of all kinds decrease with deer, the soil depth becomes thinner because of the trampling and browsing, and with the loss of shrub cover you wind up with a loss of songbirds and seabird habitat.”

This year the program will resume on a limit basis by boat and with dogs at Faraday Island, and it will wrap up in 2019. Although a few hungry wolves might have accomplished the job, the fact is wolves are not native to Haida Gwaii, either.

“That’s come up more than once,”  Irvine said. “To bring in one non-native species to deal with another one can sometimes cause more problems.”

Parks Canada is also involved in an ongoing program to eradicate introduced rats on Haida Gwaai to help protect seabird nesting colonies.

lpynn@postmedia.com

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