Archive for the ‘Conservation’ Category

SeaWorld invests $10 Million in Killer Whale Conservation

- August 19th, 2014

SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. recently announced its plans to build new, first-of-its-kind killer whale environments and that it will fund new programs to protect ocean health and killer whales in the wild.

The new projects will build on SeaWorld’s legacy of providing state-of-the-art, innovative homes for its animals, and will offer park guests unique and inspiring killer whale encounters for generations to come.  As part of its vision for the future, the company also pledged $10 million in matching funds for killer whale research and is embarking on a multi-million dollar partnership focused on ocean health, the leading concern for all killer whales and marine mammals.

“For 50 years, SeaWorld has transformed how the world views marine life. The unprecedented access to marine mammals that our parks provide has increased our knowledge of the ocean and inspired generations,” said Jim Atchison, Chief Executive Officer and President of SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. “Our new killer whale homes and research initiatives have just as bold a vision: to advance global understanding of these animals, to educate, and to inspire conservation efforts to protect killer whales in the wild.”

Transformational New Environments

The first of the new environments will be built at SeaWorld San Diego where the killer whale environment is planned to have a total water volume of 10 million gallons, nearly double that of the existing facility. With a planned maximum depth of 50 feet, surface area of nearly 1.5 acres and spanning more than 350 feet in length, the new environment will also have views exceeding 40 feet in height, providing guests with the world’s largest underwater viewing experience of killer whales. 

Named the Blue World Project because of its size and scope, the new environment will allow for increased engagement with SeaWorld experts through new enriching experiences and other interactive programs. The environment will enhance the educational experience for guests, foster deeper knowledge of killer whales and their ocean environment and inspire them to celebrate and conserve the natural world.

Expanding on SeaWorld’s legacy of leading-edge animal environment design, the enlarged environment will provide killer whales with even more dynamic opportunities.  It will support the whales’ broad range of behaviors and provide choices that can challenge the whales both physically and mentally. 

Among other things, it is planned to include a “fast water current” that allows whales to swim against moving water, thus functionally increasing speed and diversity. Innovative features focused on husbandry and animal care will offer SeaWorld’s animal health professionals and independent scientists unique access to the whales that can lead to a better understanding and care of the animals both in the parks and in the wild.

The San Diego environment is expected to open to the public in 2018 with new killer whale homes to follow at SeaWorld Orlando and SeaWorld San Antonio. 

Killer Whale Research

 As part of the Blue World Project, SeaWorld has committed $10 million in matching funds focused on threats to killer whales in the wild, especially those identified by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration related to the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale.  That includes new projects already funded this year: one that will help to understand the hearing ranges of killer whales and the other that will provide insight into nutritional status and reproduction of the Southern Resident Killer Whale.  The matching funds will be in addition to killer whale research conducted by SeaWorld’s scientists, which includes nearly 50 studies to date. 

 Recognizing that ocean health is a leading concern for killer whales and all marine mammals in the wild, the company also announced it will be embarking on a major multi-million dollar partnership focused on protecting the ocean.   

Advisory Panel

SeaWorld will also engage an Independent Advisory Panel to bring new perspectives and ideas to the project. The panel will focus on the creation of an environment that maximizes the health and wellbeing of the animals. Given the particular expertise of current panelists and those expected to join, the panel will further advise on integrated research projects that can be conducted within the new environment and foster partnerships within the science and academic communities working in the wild. 


Current Advisory Panel members include:

  • Dr. Paul Boyle, Senior Vice President for Conservation and Education, Association of Zoos & Aquariums
  • Dr. Heidi Harley, Professor of Psychology, New College of Florida
    • Dr. Dorian Houser, Director of Conservation and Biological Research, National Marine Mammal Foundation
    • Dr. Linda Lowenstein, Professor Emeritus Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
    • Dr. Shawn Noren, Associate Research Scientist, Institute of Marine Science, University of California Santa Cruz
    • Mr. Tom Otten, Chief Executive Officer, Reef Experience
    • Dr. James F.  Peddie, DVM, Distinguished Faculty Chair, Exotic Animal Training and Management Program, Moorpark College
    • Dr. Paul Ponganis, Research Physiologist, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
    • Dr. Kwane Stewart, Chief Veterinary Officer and National Director, Film and Television Unit, American Humane Association
    • Dr. Pam Yochem, Senior Research Scientist and Executive Vice President, Research, Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute

For more information on the Blue World Project, please visit


Coyote Seminar – Getting to know our wiley neighbours

- March 3rd, 2014

A seminar entitled;  Coyotes – Getting to know our wiley neighbours, came to Ottawa Friday night…too bad I only heard about it on Saturday after reading SUN Columnist Susan Sherring’s article.

According to Sherring’s column, the seminar given by Dr. Stan Gehrt - a world renowned wildlife ecologist from Ohio State University… was brought to the nation’s capital to “provide insight on how people in urban and rural developments can coexist with coyotes,”

It  would have been nice to attend this seminar since it is  topic near and dear to a lot of people’s hearts in this City and something I have been covering over the past few years, however no one in the City thought to mention it. Having someone who covers the outdoors locally attend the seminar, and then sharing details afterward would have been a terrific idea, don’t you think?

Ottawa’s wildlife seminar series is intended to increase residents’ knowledge and appreciation of wildlife to “promote coexistence through understanding and respect.”

Did anyone attend this seminar, I invite you to share the details of what was presented. There seemed to be some concern over the cost of this seminar, although I find $1300 to be minuscule compared to the importance of dealing with the Urban coyote situation we have.


Tough times for our white-tailed deer

- February 7th, 2014


As most of us have feared, this winter looks like it could be a doozy for our white-tailed deer population.  I suppose after a handful of mild winters we are now paying our dues, so to speak.

And bitter cold temperatures this year are the least of the deer’s problem. They can handle the cold but it’s the snow I’m worried about!

Snow conditions, with a weak crust formed by our mid-winter melt and pack, make travel and escape more difficult than usual. So far, we are a long way off the massive snow depth experienced back in 2008- 2009, but with higher than average snowfall this winter and a meagre crust unable to support a deer’s weight, times are tough indeed!

Our friend imacdon has witnessed the results first-hand in these graphic deer kill images taken around his property:




It is very disappointing to think that after more than 5 years of a population on the rebound, our whitetail herd could be in store for another big hit.

And with a healthy, relatively uncontrolled, predator population in eastern ON and western QC our whitetails will need to pull out all the stops this year in order to survive. Since December  my trailcams have captured scant few deer images, even in the whitetail wintering area. The number of coyote images captured has; however, remained steady.

I know I am crossing my fingers for the deer this year….and my toes too!


So,  what can we do to help? Here are three options (I’ve been practising option #2)

1)Backyard feeding

When carried out properly, supplemental deer feeding is a wonderful past-time and can be of benefit to these animals when snow depth reaches more than 1 metre. Finding the proper balance between protein and fibre for the deer’s diet can be tricky and without knowing it many backyard feeders may actually be hurting the animal’s chances of survival.  If you had not started a feeding program during early season, it is probably too late to start now, as the animal’s digestive system would have needed to adapt to the supplemented diet. 

2)Improved Access and predator control

There are other ways we can help deer during the colder months besides feeding.  By creating new access trails and cutting fresh browse, we greatly increase their food availability and expand travel corridors. A network of hard-packed trails will serve as escape routes from predators. By improving access to winter habitat and cutting additional feed, we go a long way to helping these animals make it through the winter. For folks who are looking to help deer this winter, perhaps get out for a little coyote hunting in areas where it is permitted.  It is a challenging sport and less predators around would also help the deer’s chance of survival.

3) Call upon MNR for assistance

Through the Emergency Deer Feeding Program - The MNR ‘s Snow Network for Ontario Wildlife looks at risk assessment and on the very rare occasion will implement an emergency feeding program in certain areas. Over the past 15 years, I believe I’ve only seen this program implemented once! During the winters of 2008-2009 when RECORD snowfall was recorded in Central Canada, no measures were put in place to provide aid to whitetail deer in Ontario. An estimated 30% of the population died-off in just two years!

For more information on the Snow Network for Ontario Wildlife:




Safety expert wants deer cull for Eastern Ontario

- December 30th, 2013
Roy Khabbaz

Roy Khabbaz


Following a terrible accident involving a deer near Kemptville on Christmas day, the Canada Safety Council’s past President is speaking-out on the status of Eastern Ontario’s whitetail herd.

The freak accident which claimed the life of 31-year old Roy Khabbaz, was just that, a freak accident, but Emile Therien once head honcho of the Canada Safety Council feels it’s time to thin the herd through a cull.

Therien was quoted as saying;

“There’s a heck of a lot of deer out there and they’re not going to go away, and I think at some point governments are going to have to decide how big the herd is and how many do they want to cull”

An article on the subject appearing this weekend in a local publication pointed-out, among other things, deer collision statistics for Ontario as well as the “Speeding Costs You Deerly” awareness campaign – a program run by the City which I’ve not heard of until now.

Yes, we do have a solid number of deer in this Region, there’s no arguing that…

It will be interesting to see how this recent call for a ‘deer cull’ is perceived, with someone from the Canada Safety Council bringing it to light. Anytime a hunter or conservationist mentions that dreaded four-letter word (Cull) Antis are all over us, like Oprah on a baked ham! (sorry Oprah)

The truth of the matter is, the deer herd in Eastern Ontario is actually in rebuild mode; still down substantially in numbers from 5-6 years ago. You see, Central Canada delivered its own style ‘cull’ at the time in the form of two wicked winters in a row; wiping out as much as 1/3 of the deer in some areas. Fact is, we are a piece off the number of deer this region boasted some 8-10 years ago.

Please don’t get me wrong, the accident on Christmas day is a terrible loss of a young life and my heart goes out to family and friends. As does my heart for the victims of the awful accident along the 148 in 2011 where a large black bear claimed two lives.

But is now the time for an all-out deer cull in eastern Ontario?

My opinion is that sustained white-tailed deer harvest is required; based on sound population surveys where available, along with hunter harvest statistics to help control and manage the herd. (Hunter’s harvest statistics are not currently being heavily utilized in Ontario, as the MNR do not have the resources to do so.)

Managing deer in our region has always been a conundrum and it seems nothing has changed. We’ll see if the Canada Safety Council has any pull in that regard.

What do you think?



Dogs hazardous for whitetails during winter

- December 16th, 2013

Winter weather is tough enough on white-tailed deer populations, and domestic dogs on the loose will only exacerbate the situation!

I can recall one morning a couple of winters ago as I was leaving for work,  the howl of a barking animal in the back field broke the early morning silence. At first I thought it was a coyote but its distinctive domestic canine sound reverberated.

One of my neighbour’s dogs had apparently gotten loose and was chasing deer through the field!

My heart sank as I knew the implications. The deer I was feeding at the time, which included an orphaned fawn and a buck with a bad leg (pictured above) were not seen again for more than a week.

I never did locate the dog, but evidently it had put the run on them good as my lame buck returned limping worse than ever. Less than 3 weeks later that same buck could walk no more and the Ottawa Police were called-in to have it put down.

The incident was a first-hand reminder of why we must control our pets especially during wintertime!

Pet owners who allow their animals to run wild -regardless of the breed – are not only breaking the law, their actions can be devastating for deer at a fragile time of year. MNR Conservation Officers deal with belligerent pet-owners every winter and are authorized to destroy any dogs observed chasing or injuring deer in areas where herds gather for the winter. Penalties for allowing your dog to be at large during the closed season for deer, range anywhere from $155 up to $25,000. 

Both domestic and feral dogs can create undue stress for whitetails as they gather in yards for protection. At this time of year, when deer subsist largely off fat reserves, the simple act of running through deep snow can drain much needed energy reserves, and leave the animals unable to cope with cold winter temperatures. Winter stress is also directly proportional to the health of fawns born in the spring.

Should you witness any dogs on the loose in your area, please call 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667) toll-free any time.