Close confining of wild animals; a source of human disease?

Disease continues lethal spread in wildlife

Monday my plastic gets “Declined” in the nationwide VISA meltdown; Tuesday, column day, at 6 a.m., electricity and furnace are off, and outside it is minus 30 and feels like minus 48 with the wind chill: couldn’t go to the den and start typing, even with gloves on. But events like this do get a man looking back.

Monday my plastic gets “Declined” in the nationwide VISA meltdown; Tuesday, column day, at 6 a.m., electricity and furnace are off, and outside it is minus 30 and feels like minus 48 with the wind chill: couldn’t go to the den and start typing, even with gloves on. But events like this do get a man looking back.

When I was a small boy, the gas well in Brooks quit during a prolonged deep freeze. Fortunately, not trusting the new-fangled, my canny and frugal father converted to gas in such a way that furnace reconversion back to coal was easy, and the last load of coal was still in the bin. Our warm house was a popular place, until they finally thawed the wells and got gas flowing again.

Aside from worrying how future Albertans will survive when the oil and gas run out, my own memories put into a perspective I’m not sure I understand the unusual spate of nostalgic, or Alberta-angst-ridden, even angry, letters calls and emails I am receiving from readers lately. I suspect the current “bitumen bubble” (I prefer “bust”) and yet another downturn for one-trick pony, company town Alberta, has much to do with it.

Several correspondents look back to the thirties and living off the land from habitats that no longer exist in an Alberta that was a nicer, kinder place; one of these is from a woman whose late husband’s family drilled the first oil well in Turner Valley. Did any of us alive when the Leduc and Redwater gushers blew in, contemplate how greatly they would change Alberta? Some correspondents ruefully concede that, as individuals, we have more money, but we are quickly becoming poorer in the things that really matter: our land and landscapes, our renewable resources, our forests, fish and wildlife.

Calgarian, Darrel Rowledge, highly informed advocate for public wildlife and opponent of game ranching, has phoned and emailed about the documentary film, “No Accident,” he has been working on for some time. Basically, the film documents scientific discoveries showing that an alarming number of serious human diseases have their origin in the domestication of animals, or, as I prefer to put it, the close confining of wild creatures that habitually run free into ghettoes of infection.

Chronic Wasting Disease, the scientifically-predicted inevitable result of legalizing game ranching, continues its always-lethal spread through Alberta’s deer and elk herds. Rowledge, “No Accident,” and more and more scientists are suggesting the “jump” of CWD from infected wild animals is just an inevitable matter of time.

Many readers are angry with yet another unscientific Alberta intervention into the ecosystem: innocuously called the woodland caribou management strategy, but actually an unholy war Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development is waging against wolves, supposedly to protect the woodland caribou which have already fundamentally been wiped out by oil, gas and forestry fragmentation of their habitat.

Gwen Arterberry emails from Edmonton to point out that helicopter and ground poison wars are a very expensive waste of money, and totally ineffective in that the wolves will quickly “breed up” any losses; the way to go is to fill in the cut lines, pipeline rights of way, etc., that expose prey wildlife to the wolves.

Yes, in many places in Alberta “thar be” many wolves. Another reader sends a chilling picture of 25 marching along, single-file, said to have been taken near Manning.

Disease continues lethal spator-prey relationships, and predator control methods, and is outraged, even rants somewhat, about Alberta’s war on wildlife, particularly the incidental poison and snare kill of innocent, non-target species.

Dwight says several poison methods are humane, selective and safe compared with the strychnine ground baits spread around the Town Creek Natural Area, south of Winfield and allegedly picked up on weekends, so as not to kill hiker’s Fidos. These small baits can easily be dispersed by ravens, magpies, etc., can be buried by other creatures, and are non-specific, killing a wide variety of non-target species; he wonders by what authority they were spread.

Rodtka says that Environment and Sustainable Resource Development does not officially support the wolf bounty being paid to trappers by some fish and game associations, and wonders why they do not stop it, because too many non target species, mostly deer, are being killed in the snares.

Why aren’t Albertans raising hell with government to put an end to, or change so much that is changing Alberta for the worse? Vivian Pharis, doyenne of the Alberta Wilderness Association, thinks it must have something to do with “the changing Albertan,” who does not have the values Albertans once held, or doesn’t realize the consequences of what is going on.

A fortunate few changing Albertans, when the bitumen bubble busts and the money stops, will be able to retreat back to where their roots are and to an environment that will at least sustain them, because it has not been destroyed for big bucks.

Bob Scammell is an award-winning columnist who lives in Red Deer. He can be reached at

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