KAMLOOPS — I must admit, initially I thought the news was a joke. The story of three ‘angry’ otters (quotation marks not mine) that attacked a golden retriever in Victoria, attempting to drown it, according to the dog walker, struck me. The dog waded in the water and chased one of the otters and in a couple of minutes, an attack was unfolding which made the dog walker intervene by getting in the ocean to save the dog. The story had a happy ending, and there’s good learning in it. But…
One of the owner’s comments was that those otters are ‘not the kind of creature you want to meet in a dark alley.’ Right. Good news is, otters will never corner anyone in a dark alley. They are water critters, cute and playful, albeit wild. Hence precisely what they are destined to be: otters.
Now, I love our dog dearly. She has recently turned two, which means that she is less trouble than a young pup or an adolescent one, though to be fair, she has been pretty good all along. When we take her out and off-leash, perfect recall is a must and I constantly reinforce it. Noting the above, I’ll have an extra pair of eyes for when we go near otter-containing waters.
As much love as I have for her though, I know that I could never blame a wild animal for defending itself or its territory should my dog chase it or corner it somehow. We humans and our dogs go out on the trails, or near bodies of water, often crossing invisible boundaries into the deep wilderness, often assuming that we can do that with minimum consequences. By all means, that is possible if dogs are so well-trained that they stay close no matter what, or if we opt to keep the leash on in some areas. In other words, we assume risks by letting dogs run free and possibly coming across wildlife.
We hear of wolves snatching small dogs at Long Beach near Tofino, and we hear of coyotes strategically and expertly luring our domesticated canines into the bush and, as of this last Friday, otters attempting to drown dogs, and we start looking at wild critters with a different eye, an unforgiving one most often, while hugging our shaken-but-thank-God-still-alive pets. Following the otter incident in Victoria, there are many who commented on the ‘sick’ habits of otters, some referring to them as blood-thirsty and angry. Truly, if we love animals, our pets included, we cannot think like that. The circle of nature has us all connected.
Speaking of loving nature and its offerings, this coming weekend is Family Day weekend in Alberta and B.C. conservation officers are on alert near Blue River and Valemount as snowmobilers from our neighbouring province are expected to descend for some fast and noisy winter fun in the said areas. Why have conservation officers you may ask.
Why, it’s the caribou of course. The woodland caribou in the B.C. interior has been facing multiple threats in the last years, which drastically reduced their numbers to the point of independent researchers and conservationists sounding the alarm over the possibility of their demise in the very near future. The threats come from increased human activity (industrial such as logging, resource exploration-related road building, and recreational – yes, snowmobiles!), and climate change, which affects food availability and terrain accessibility among others.
So, the conservation officers are there to reinforce boundaries. Snowmobilers often venture into forbidden areas which greatly stresses the caribou, hence the measures to protect them. Ideally, repeated notices about the reason certain areas are closed should be enough. After all, we’re in it together, humans and the wild frontier critters. They keep our world wild and beautiful, as we like it.
For Canada in general, and British Columbia in particular, there’s a lot of boasting about our amazing wilderness. For sure national and provincial pride can fuel some self-restrictive measures that would see us all able to participate willingly and happily in the conservation efforts. Understanding nature means loving it means protecting it.
In our own backyard too, local conservationists like Frank Ritcey of WildSafe BC talk of the same: be mindful of your tracks, respect boundaries, leave no trace, leash your dog when out where wild encounters could occur; you get the gist. It’s not just hearsay. It’s the message we all need to heed and be reminded of every so often. We are part of the big world, not its designers or owners. We influence the world around us because we have the means to do so and unfortunately, sometimes our actions are selfish and rather tunnel-vision-ish. Doing as we please unfortunately can only take us so far.
But we can do better. We can learn from wild encounters, without feeling protective of our pets but resentful towards the wild animals, but instead taking note about the need to improve on our own and our pets’ presence in nature, and aiming to protect through actions big and small, the very place we are so eager to find beautiful and pristine every time we head out.
It’s about the greater good; it benefits us in many ways to seek harmony, and to do our best to maintain it.