Sage Grouse revisited

Dave 07

Last week we were back in the tiny community of Manyberries Alberta. The beleaguered ranchers and oilmen of that area have put together a promising new organization called Sustainable Canada. Great name and mission, but here’s what they’re up against.

Ecojustice, a left-wing, richly financed offshoot of the Sierra Club, sued the Canadian government to place Sage Grouse on an endangered species list. Mainstream media cooperated by running headlines stating that Sage Grouse are in danger of extinction.

They’re not. There are at least 500,000 of them in the United States. They are only in danger of extinction, in Canada, but Canada is the extreme northern tip of their range. I’m quite sure that Sage Grouse have never recognized the Canadian/American border, and undoubtedly they have gone “extinct” in southern Alberta/Saskatchewan, several times since the peak of the last major Ice Age, 18,000 years ago. It’s certain that had moved much further south  when the area was under a mile of ice.

So what has caused the current decline in Canada? The most likely culprits are coyotes, foxes, and West Nile Virus. When I was a kid growing up near Consul, a village in extreme southwest Saskatchewan, we lived less than a half mile south of the community and an East/West railway line. About a mile west there was a branch line angling toward the southeast, and a municipal road that ran north and south on the east side of this small triangle.

Trains ran almost daily back then, and there were far more farmers, and more farming activity. But within that busy and noisy triangle, Sage Grouse mated and nested. In the 50s and 60s, I personally watched them strut and drum just west of our buildings.greater-sage-grouse2-brian-currie

Then, in the late 1960s, coyote fur went out of style, and coyote numbers skyrocketed. There had been sheep on our farm for nearly 60 years, and while coyotes always enjoyed an occasional easy meal, in the late 60s and early 70s our losses began to increase dramatically, until one year, nearly 140 sheep were destroyed by coyotes. (A few years later, after my brother had taken over the farm, he made the decision to quit raising sheep entirely. Coyotes were actually coming into the farmyard to make their kills.)

I’ll hazard a guess that coyotes like a varied diet, and Sage Grouse might be a nice change from mutton and gophers. But in addition to the natural increase in coyote numbers, and at about the time Sage Grouse numbers began to decline, Red Foxes also showed up in the area. More lately, raccoons have arrived, and now, West Nile virus. Raccoons love eggs, and across the border in Montana, one localized Sage Grouse population was nearly wiped out by West Nile.

The Sage Grouse population  began a rapid decline during the time all these natural factors came into play. Do you suppose there’s a clue here as to why the Canadian population is threatened?

But there’s more! Here’s a release from Alberta Environment. “Swift foxes were first officially released in Alberta in 1983. By 1996, 540 foxes had been released in the Alberta-Saskatchewan border and Milk River Ridge areas, parts of the species’ native range. Swift foxes depend heavily on mice, larks, insects, and ground squirrels,” and note this; “the eggs of ground-nesting birds are eaten in the spring, and many grasshoppers are eaten in the summer.” The Alberta Government did this when Sage Grouse were already under pressure!

Yet who is blamed for the near extinction of Sage Grouse in Canada? Why ranchers and oilmen of course. But the true culprit is simply, Nature; Nature, with an assist from misguided governments and radical environmentalists. Coerced by environmental groups, the Canadian government has introduced regulations that will have minimal effect on saving the Sage Grouse, but, if fully implemented, may lead to the extinction, -in that area – of ranching as we’ve known it.

During our visit to Manyberries, we spoke with ranchers who have to deal with regulations so absurd that you’d think they’d been dreamed up by City of Calgary bureaucrats. More about our visit next week.

We need come together as a community of concerned citizens, urban and rural, who are constantly forced to deal with a wide variety of similar issues, and fight back!

The Let’s Do It Ourselves (LDIO™) online community has been created to do exactly that.

You can become a member of the community today, and become part of a movement designed fight for property rights, and other essential freedoms; push back against foolish over-regulation, and educate our young people. It costs less than a cup of coffee a week. That’s a pretty modest investment in your children and grandchildren’s future.

The Let’s Do It Ourselves community website is at http://www.ldio.org/join-ldio/.

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