NEWSLETTER July 30, 2018

Veteran hunters are well aware that animals respond to hunting pressure and one of their survival tactics is to hunt/travel at night.

An article in the Vancouver Sun June 15, 2018 titled Animals Shifting from Day to Night to Avoid People makes a few points well known by veteran hunters: “The latest research found even activities like hiking and camping can scare animals and drive them to be more active at night. It suggests that animals might be playing it safe around people.”

The bookend of the pictures I am sending you start and end with California Bighorn Sheep.

Early August 2017 I watched two large groups of 30 plus bighorn ewes, yearlings and lambs converge adjacent to Highway #3 at the east end of the Rock Quarry. I have been around the bighorns in Grand Forks since their transplant in February 1984, 85 & 86 and have never seen two large groups of bighorns immediately adjacent to each other.

The Limited Entry Hunting Season on the Gilpin Grasslands starts September 1 and last year within a few hours of the start of the LEH hunting season a group of 13 rams moved west immediately adjacent to the west end of the wildlife fence.

That message came from my son, Bear via our FM radios. I know the area thanks to building and repairing the wildlife fence which is adjacent to Highway #3 and the NE boundary of the City of Grand Forks on the south side of the highway.

When I arrived on scene you could instantly see the new bighorn ram trail. The core area of the bighorn ram sanctuary east to west is approximately 1 ½ km and no more than 200 meters south to north, a small part of large District Lots all privately owned. Behind the fence is a steep rocky/grassland slope that moderates to a grassland ponderosa pine area and a spring used to fill a water trough for cows. North is open moderate/steep grasslands dominated by non-native grasses and weeds.

Both events, two large groups of ewes, lambs and bighorn rams seeking sanctuary on private land is driven by the behavior of predators which includes hunters. The mismanagement of mule and whitetail deer has resulted in few prey species for predators throughout the Boundary-Region 8 Okanagan, subunits 8-12, 8-14 and 8-15.

It is true that predators can and do negatively impact wildlife populations. I witnessed an uptick in the cougar population in the East Boundary-Greenwood, Grand Forks and Christina Lake in 1991. The grind of finding a cougar track suddenly changed but most of the tracks were young females.

In the near future I will send you a newsletter that centers on my experience of hunting the cougar that starts in 1971 and the political game that reminds hunters that the cougar has a growing number of friends.

Bighorn lamb survival on Gilpin has declined the last few years thanks to the wily coyote. But then again when you watch a group of ewes and lambs how many ewes are too young to have lambs and how many are too old? It is not uncommon to see a group of young ewes and banana curl rams.

 Gilpin ungulate winter range has an alarming road density magnified by a highly successful quad bike agenda that conveniently ignored transparency and accountability.

As a consequence of the road density and the dramatic increase in quad, mountain and dirt bike riders using every road/trail on Gilpin, every ungulate and predator responds to the presence of humans. The group of bighorn rams sought refuge on private property and they were still there when we were fencing in the adjacent rocks in April. According to my son the biggest rams on the mountain were the leaders.

The Draft Management Plan July 2008 for the Proposed Gilpin-Morrissey Wildlife Management Area states on page 61 “There are approximately 62 KM of roads throughout the proposed WMA plan area. The majority of these roads are non-status roads. The extensive road network is frequently utilized by motor vehicles (e.g. off highway vehicles and 4x4s) for recreation activities such as hunting, wildlife viewing and scenic excursions”

In 2008 I listed the 22 roads in the WMA proposal and calculated their length by using km road markers and came up with a total of 81 ½ km. Thanks to new logging roads the total to-day would be at least 84 km of roads.

Perspective-Rod Silver, Region 4 West Kootenay Provincial Government biologist sent a letter to members of the Overton-Moody Resource Management Plan Access Committee January 10, 1078. (Overton-Moody the bookend watersheds of Gilpin Grasslands).

Rod Silver listed the access management grievances and the justification for his argument that “Road access in the planned area should not be increased”. The Overton-Moody Unit (Gilpin) is recognized as one of the few most important ungulate winter ranges in the Boundary area, Green Belt purchases provide vivid testimonials to this fact”.

Access management in British Columbia is a non-starter and a major reason the province’s wildlife resource is in serious trouble so is Rod’s 1978 recommendation the answer in championing responsible access management?

It is recommended that the Overton-Moody Coordinated Resource Management Committee seek approval from the KRMC (?) to proceed with the following vehicular restriction via an Order in Council initiated and enforced by the Fish & Wildlife Branch.

An Order in Council never got traction in 1978 and as a consequence notwithstanding a few anemic attempts to control access, roads and trails are constructed with impunity in the Boundary.

Is there any hope for the province’s wildlife resource? It is an iffy proposition and the analogies that support that argument are well documented in “Who Killed the Grand Banks” by Alex Rose 16 years after MP John Crosby announced the moratorium on North Atlantic Cod. July 2, 1992.

The tipping point will only come when every stakeholder agrees or is forced to take less off the mountain!

I am sending you more pictures than usual, a salute to the guys and one gal who volunteered a total of 110 man hours to fence two small gaps (19 metal posts) at the western end of the wildlife fence constructed a generation ago.

I will send the pictures in two groups with an interval of a few days.

The western end of the wildlife fence was built to keep mule deer off Highway #3. Needless to say the mule deer population is grim as is the whitetail population, a point made by this year’s deer count on the Gilpin Ungulate Winter Range: 62 mule deer and 83 whitetails.

A small number of bighorns, primarily rams  have been end running the fence through the two gaps not fenced for at least the last five years. Why I don’t know? After all, the south side of the highway is dominated by two motels, a trailer park, a Fortis office and yard and Kootenay Car Care.

A small problem suddenly got a lot larger.

Barry Brandow Sr.

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