Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Mighty Moose of Cape Breton


Moose (Alces alces) are the largest living members of the deer family in the world.  Here on Cape Breton Island they are in abundance.  This is not true on mainland Nova Scotia, where the moose has been officially listed as endangered and presently numbers less than 1000 individuals.

During the 1600's, with the onslaught of European settlers, the fate of the moose and caribou population, as well as the timber wolf, was sealed.  Overhunting as a result of greed, mismanagement of land use (including gross negligence resulting in massive fires), and the introduction of the white-tailed deer (they brought the 'brain worm' to the territory) caused the extirpation of the caribou and timber wolf, and all but wiped out the moose population on Cape Breton Island.  Records also indicate that by the early 1800's, the Micmac Indians became so outraged by the exploitation of the moose by the white man that they slaughtered up to 10 times more moose than they needed for their own survival, rather than leave them for the white man.

By the turn of the 20th century, moose on Cape Breton Island were all but extinct.  During the 1940's, a western species of moose was reintroduced to the highlands.   18 individuals were released, and by the 1960's their number had only increased to approximately 100.

In the late 1970's, the spruce budworm devastated the balsam fir forest of the upper plateau of the Highlands.  The regenerating forest has provided an abundance of high quality of winter food, for Moose love young fir best, and the opportunity to graze this prime habitat, and the absence of the wolf, has allowed the moose population to grow to its current size of approximately 5000 animals.

When food becomes scarce, as it often does toward spring, moose will strip bark from trees.

In summer, they vary their diet with leaves, some upland plants, and water plants in great quantity.  I was quite surprised to learn that Moose are quite at home in the water and can dive up to 18 feet or more for plants growing on a lake or pond bottom.

 However, once the animals reach such high densities, they reduce the ability of the land to support them through their destruction of successional stage browse plants in their winter range.  Some areas of Cape Breton are in jeopardy of being overgrazed as the population of moose has grown to five individuals per kilometer, the ideal being two.   In other words, they are eating themselves out of house and home!

Presently, 300+ moose hunting licenses are distributed each year by a lottery drawing, and moose country has been divided into four zones with three designated fall hunting seasons in an attempt to control this growing population.  To the best of my knowledge, the Micmac Indians are allowed to take moose, as needed, throughout the year.

To quote from a publication put out by the Canadian Wildlife Service in conjunction with Hinterland Who's Who - "Moose in many regions will be kept from starvation only if most Canadians understand that population control is essential for the health of the species."

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My World Tuesday


The weather has been too, too nice and I'm late with my post.  Today I'm going to take you up to the Cape Breton Highland Plateau, a place where most people do not have access.  But the loggers do!  And hundreds of miles of roads wind through the plateau for the paper company to access the wood.

Back in the 1950's, the Nova Scotia government gave the paper company the right to all the wood on all of the crown land.  Well, in Cape Breton, that is a substantial area.  I am imagining it was to sweeten the pot to entice the company to set up business here.  The agreement is so ironclad, that when the provincial government wants to designate an area as protected, they have to get permission from the paper company, and that only comes after the paper company has looked the land over to make sure there are no good trees on it.

Just what am I admiring here?
The reason the government needs to rescind,
or at least re-work, the agreement.
(The Ranger has a polarizing filter on his fancy camera.
makes a big difference!)

Welcome to Cape Clear, overlooking Margaree Valley.

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

White Admiral

White Admiral
aka Red-spotted Purple
(Limenitis arthemis)

The White Admiral is a mimic 
of the poisonous Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)
 and is typically found in open woodlands and along forest edges.
Their numbers astounded me, and they were a curious lot,
flying all around me, inspecting me from head to foot.

I had the funniest feeling, as if they were trying to communicate with me,
and it felt that if I held out my hand, they would have landed on it.
I felt like Cinderella.
(I didn't look or smell like her, though, after several hours
bushwhacking in the sweltering hot forest
swatting hundreds of deerflies and mosquitoes!)

      You'll find more Camera Critters HERE!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sand Castle Art Contest

My World Tuesday

I was asked to be one of three judges in the annual
 Sand Castle Art Contest
 at our local public beach on Saturday.  
It was an overcast, foggy day,

but it was the perfect day for building sand castles and sculptures.
No hot sun to fend off and nice wet sand to work with.

These are just a few of the entries.  Aren't they wonderful?
Everyone had so much fun, young and old.
I felt quite honored.

(Visit my other blog for a give-away!)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Meadow Walk

Pink-edged Sulphur 
(Colias interior)

This is a Boreal Zone species that also occurs in the U.S. in the west to Oregon and in the east from New England south in the Appalachians to Virginia. It is widespread in all provinces of Canada and into southern Northwest Territories at Fort Smith and Little Buffalo River.

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more Camera Critters!

Monday, July 5, 2010

My World Tuesday

Black Point
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

There's an advantage to having a Forest Ranger as a best friend!  
It gives me the opportunity to hike in some of the most
remote areas of Cape Breton!

We spent the day hiking along this isolated, cobble beach.

Where the ocean has ravaged the shore over time.


And erosion is evident everywhere.

A Kingfisher flew off upon our approach.
Here's it's nest.


Probably 8 feet high?

And one must be careful if walking at the top among the grasses.

There were some nesting Arctic Terns that weren't too happy 
about our presence.  They made sure we didn't get too close.
We happily gave them their space, but sat quietly with our lunches
and observed them for identification purposes.  

Circling the perimeter of the barrachois was the most interesting leg of our journey.

There were about 30 male Common Mergansers flying in and out.
They were difficult to photograph, but here are a few.

And the largest loon I've ever seen in my life.

Who was there, in the same spot,
 three hours later when we passed by again.

This young seal was either entrapped during a flood stage between the barrachois and the open ocean, or was dragged up into the tall grasses by a predator.

The coyotes pass along the top of the beach each morning to see what they can scavange.

The buzzing of the Nelson's (Sharptail) heralded
 from the tall grasses between the little lake and the open ocean.

The Savannah Sparrows watched us carefully as we trespassed upon their territory.

The Red Admirals paid no attention to us at all.

And this Spotted Sandpiper was too busy to care.

Further down the great expanse of beach,
the seagulls were holding their weekly convention.

I took a ton more photos than this, but they'll have to wait for another day!
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