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Vulpes, Vixen and … Vulpix? Foxes in folklore and popular culture
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Vulpes, Vixen and … Vulpix? Foxes in folklore and popular culture

[caption id="attachment_31795" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Amanda Simard Amanda Simard, Writing Intern[/caption] fox-1966595_640This blog was written by writing intern Amanda Simard. This month’s calendar photo features a Red Fox and was taken near Ottawa, ON. The Red Fox is one of the most widespread Canids, and foxes have featured in a variety of folklore and myths around the world. Often, they are portrayed as cunning tricksters, but they also feature as a wise magical spirits or alluring enchantresses. Here are a few instances of foxes found in folklore and in popular culture![gap height="25"]

The Native American fox

In Native American folklore, foxes appear in a variety of capacities, but often Fox is a trickster companion to Coyote, a male anthropomorphized Coyote spirit. In some myths, foxes are wise and benevolent. In others, they are connected to fire and the sun. Sometimes, Fox is a minor and clever spirit who helps people and animals in need, or punishes those who are arrogant. And sometimes, Fox is a bad omen, a greedy and mean-spirited thief. Did you know? Foxes are common clan animals in Native American culture.

image of a Red FoxCeltic fox

In Celtic mythology, the fox is wise and cunning. A trickster who knows the forest better than anyone else, the fox symbolizes the need to think fast and strategically. Highly adaptable creatures, they also symbolize the need to adjust to new situations. The Celtic fox is a shapeshifter who can switch between canine and human forms at will. This unique ability means the fox can easily slip in and out of places, especially those dangerous to anyone else. Foxes are also seducers, captivating unwitting souls with their charm and good looks.

The Asian fox

The different interpretations of the fox in Asian folklore feature similar ideology of the fox as a magical being, though it varies between being a good and bad omen. The Chinese Huli Jing is a playful trickster who integrates itself into human society. The Japanese Kitsune is a more deified being with an ambivalent stance on humanity. The Korean kumiho tends to be an ill omen, a seductress who is a literal man-eater. While scholars are unsure where any of the myths truly started, cross-pollination of fox spirit myths has resulted in some common themes. Generally, the Asian fox spirit is a magical shapeshifter, sometimes portrayed as having up to nine tails depending on its age and wisdom.

Foxes in Popular Culture

image of a Red FoxFoxes and references to fox mythology appear all over the place in popular culture. In North America for instance, programming aimed at kids — though often appreciated and beloved by children and adults alike – often features foxes aplenty. Disney is no exception to the trope, with Tod and Vixey from The Fox and the Hound, or Robin Hood himself in the film by the same name. Let us not forget the recent film Zootopia, which features a fox named Nick Wilde as the witty and misunderstood secondary main character. And for all 90s kids out there, or for those still hooked on Pokemon GO — it would be remiss to talk about foxes in popular culture without mentioning, at least once, the adorable Vulpix — the fox-like fire-type pokemon who evolves into Ninetails. Do you know a good fox myth? Who are your favourite popular foxes? Let us know it the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter!
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Women for Nature Explore the Local to the Global
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Women for Nature Explore the Local to the Global

[caption id="attachment_29288" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Jaime Clifton Jaime Clifton-Ross[/caption] This blog is written by Jaime Clifton-Ross, Research Curator, CRC Research and Changing the Conversation, School of Environment and Sustainability, Royal Roads University. Like climate change, biodiversity does not respect political borders, given the lengthy migratory paths that many species journey, either by land or water. Protecting wildlife and conserving ecosystems is especially challenging as such efforts require global governance systems. To unpack these issues and to explore potential solutions, Changing the Conversation hosted the second e-dialogue from our 4-part series, Biodiversity Conversations: How important are the common loon and polar bears to Canadians. Led by Women for Nature and moderated by co-chair Ann Dale, the panelists brought expertise in soil biodiversity, marine mammals, climate change, conservation, and monarch butterflies. Overall, it was a thought-provoking discussion given the invaluable knowledge and experience of our expert panelists. Image of Black eye susansThe e-conversation used the Monarch Butterfly and their migratory cycle to illuminate how many species are highly dependent on both local and global ecosystems. We learned that biodiversity loss often begins at a local scale— whether through habitat loss and fragmentation, resource extraction or exploitation, invasive species, etc.—and often becomes a problem of global proportion, which in turn feeds back into the local. They also discussed how many conservation strategies and official plans do not account for species migration. Like marine protected areas, landscape corridors are also critical since many species spend much of their lives away from their breeding and feeding grounds. As local biodiversity loss reflects global biodiversity loss, action at the local level can make a huge impact. Unfortunately, many global actions have not been effective, including the Convention on Biological Diversity, because they have failed to make this connection. After agreeing that conservation must simultaneously occur at multiple scales, the panelists explored the need to break-down political boundaries and to augment cross-border cooperation and collaboration. They also shared many examples of existing initiatives and organizations throughout North America. A concluding consensus was that we need to creatively engage people with nature, especially at a young age. This may personalize experiences with biodiversity loss and subsequently help consumers better understand their individual and collective impacts on their environment. To view the full conversation, download a PDF copy here which includes many sources highlighted during the conversation. You can also download a PDF copy here.  To dive deeper on the subject, check out our curated biodiversity library featuring a collection of resources on our Changing the Conversation platform. Our next conversation will take place at the end of January 2018 and will focus on the drivers and barriers of biodiversity conservation. Upon completing the series, we will be transforming our dialogue into action, drafting a biodiversity conservation action agenda to circulate to Canadian decision-makers across the country. So, stay tuned.

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Barn and Bank Swallows Legally Listed as Threatened
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Barn and Bank Swallows Legally Listed as Threatened

[caption id="attachment_31795" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Megan MacIntosh Megan MacIntosh, Purple Martin Project Coordinator[/caption] Not long after fall songbird migration wrapped up for another year, two familiar summer residents, the Barn Swallow and Bank Swallow, were officially listed as threatened species under Schedule 1 of the 2002 Species at Risk Act (SARA) in Canada. This moment came many years after COSEWIC, the scientific advisory committee, made the recommendation (2011 for Barn Swallow and 2013 for Bank Swallow). Nature Canada congratulates the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Catherine McKenna, for pushing these listings through. With natural habitat significantly altered over the past century, swallows, in an incredible demonstration of resilience, have adapted to rely on human structures for breeding habitat. As migratory birds, they are protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act (1994), and have been included in various multi-species action plans at historic sites and conservation areas across Canada. Provincially, Barn Swallow and Bank Swallow are listed as threatened in Ontario and endangered in Nova Scotia, and the Purple Martin, North America’s largest swallow, is listed as special concern in British Columbia. What does this mean? How can it be that the Barn Swallow, the most abundant and widely distributed species of swallow in the world, came to be threatened? Image of Barn Swallow Let’s start with the glaringly obvious bad news: Their populations’ are in trouble, and their disappearance is part of larger trend impacting songbirds – a distress signal from ecosystems widely out of balance. Over the past 40 years, swallows and other birds that rely on a diet of flying insects have undergone steeper declines than any other birds in Canada - some by more than 90%. While scientists are still working to understand more about the cause, threats such as climate change, use of pesticides, decreased insect prey availability, loss of wetland and foraging habitat, industrial activities, competition from invasive species, and increased predation pressure all play a role. If nothing is done, it is possible that we could lose these wonderful species, and with them, their beautiful songs as a symbol of spring. The good news is that SARA was enacted precisely for this purpose – to prevent the disappearance of species at risk. Through SARA, definitive actions and resources can be set in place to get these birds some of the special attention they need. For example, the government is now required to produce a federal recovery strategy for the Bank Swallow and Barn Swallow within 2 years of the date they were listed. A recovery strategy serves as a detailed management plan that includes an assessment of the species and its needs, identifies threats and critical habitat, and sets priorities and approaches towards stopping and reversing their decline. In the meantime, we cannot rely on this as our only plan.  For species so closely connected with humans, a strong stewardship effort is needed to help provide a safe place for swallows while they raise their young in our backyards. Anybody can help. Learn more about Nature Canada’s Purple Martin program, or discover resources by our partners at Bird Studies Canada. To see the full list of scheduled species to SARA, visit https://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=en&n=24F7211B-1

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Both cunning and stunning: Discover Canadian foxes!
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Both cunning and stunning: Discover Canadian foxes!

[caption id="attachment_31795" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Amanda Simard Amanda Simard, Writing Intern[/caption] Written by writing intern Amanda Simard. This month’s calendar photo features a Red Fox and was taken near Ottawa, ON. How much do you know about foxes? The Red Fox is the most widespread fox species, with over 45 recognized subspecies. Did you know male foxes are called tods, dogs or reynards, while female foxes are called vixens and young foxes are called cubs, pups or kits? The Red Fox is one of four species of fox found in Canada, two of which are threatened species. Learn more about Canadian foxes![gap height="30"] [caption id="attachment_32350" align="alignright" width="200"]image of a Red Fox Red Fox[/caption] Red Fox

  • Scientific name: Vulpes vulpes
  • Status under SARA: no status
  • Canadian range: throughout Canada
  • Habitat: they prefer mixed vegetation habitats but are adaptable to a wide range of habitats including forests, tundra, prairies and even urban areas.
  • Size: length (with tail): 90 - 112 cm; weight: 3.6 – 6.8 kg
  • Description: Red Foxes range from pale yellowish-red to deep red. They have white undersides, their paws are usually black and their tail is white or black tipped.[gap height="30"]
[caption id="attachment_32346" align="alignleft" width="200"]image of an Arctic Fox Arctic Fox[/caption] Arctic Fox
  • Scientific name: Vulpes lagopus
  • Status under SARA: no status
  • Canadian range: northern Canada
  • Habitat: arctic and alpine tundra.
  • Size: length (with tail): 75 - 115 cm; weight:5 - 9 kg
  • Description: Arctic Foxes are white in the winter and brown in the summer – the back, tail and legs turn dark brown while the underside stays somewhat paler. A small number of Artic Foxes have a blueish-gray coat through the winter.[gap height="60"]
[caption id="attachment_32347" align="alignright" width="200"]image of a Grey Fox Grey Fox[/caption] Gray Fox 
  • Scientific name: Urocyon cinereoargenteus
  • Status under SARA: Threatened. The 2015 COSEWIC assessment also designated the species as “Threatened.”
  • Canadian range: Ontario
  • Habitat: often deciduous forests, but they are adaptable to a variety of habitats. Their dens are often found in dense brush.
  • Size: length (with tail):5 - 156.8 cm; average weight: males – 4.1 kg, females – 3.9 kg
  • Description: The Gray Fox has a grizzled gray colour, with red fur on the neck, sides, and legs. It has a black stripe down its back to the tip of its tail.[gap height="30"]
[caption id="attachment_32352" align="alignleft" width="200"]image of a Swift Fox Swift Fox by Drew Avery (CC BY 2.0)[/caption] Swift Fox
  • Scientific name: Vulpes velox
  • Status under SARA: Threatened. The 2009 COSEWIC assessment also designated the species as “Threatened.”
  • Canadian range: Alberta, Saskatchewan
  • Habitat: open short-grass and mixed-grass prairies.
  • Size: length: approximately 80 cm; average weight: males – 2.45 kg, females – 2.25 kg
  • Description: The Swift Fox is smaller and paler than the Red Fox. It has relatively large pointed ears and a black-tipped tail.[gap height="75"]

Conservation

One of the main threats to both Gray Foxes and Swift Foxes is hunting and trapping. Additionally, the Swift Fox is vulnerable to habitat destruction.

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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back—Scientists propose more species to be listed as at risk
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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back—Scientists propose more species to be listed as at risk

[caption id="attachment_22697" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Stephen Hazell Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation
and General Counsel[/caption] On December 4, 2017 following several days of meetings in Ottawa, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) announced its recommendations for changes to listings of 44 wildlife species under the Species at Risk Act. The good news is that COSEWIC now considers that the Peregrine Falcon is no longer at risk of extinction throughout most of Canada thanks to a ban on the pesticide DDT and a captive breeding program. The bad news is COSEWIC recommends that a number of other species be listed as endangered, threatened or of special concern.  For example, COSEWIC recommends an endangered listing for eight of the 24 populations of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River. Two populations are recommended for threatened status and five populations for special concern status. Nine populations were stable or increasing and so were assessed as being Not at Risk. [caption id="attachment_14583" align="alignright" width="200"]Peregrine falcon Peregrine falcon[/caption] Two of three populations of Pacific Grey Whale using Canadian waters are also recommended for endangered status. These represent Grey Whales' last global stronghold. All three groups winter in Mexican waters, but move along the Canadian coast to spend the rest of the year feeding in different regions. A remnant population that summers along the Russian coast, and a second small group that feeds near Vancouver Island and adjacent waters, were both assessed as Endangered. The largest population, which travels along the Pacific coast to Alaska, was assessed as Not at Risk. Other species found to be at some level of risk:

  • Vancouver Lamprey, found in only three Vancouver Island lakes (Threatened)
  • Northern Saw-whet Owl brooksi subspecies, unique to Haida Gwaii forests (Threatened)
  • Quebec Rockcress, which grows only on certain Gaspé Peninsula limestone cliffs (Endangered)
  • Verna's Flower Moth, which is found exclusively in the Canadian prairies (Threatened)
  • Lumpfish, an Atlantic Ocean species fished for its caviar-like eggs (Threatened)
  • Dolphin and Union Caribou in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, which migrate across sea ice affected by climate change and shipping activity (Endangered).
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Mentorship: A Conversation with Women for Nature’s Sharolyn Mathieu Vettese
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Mentorship: A Conversation with Women for Nature’s Sharolyn Mathieu Vettese

[caption id="attachment_35323" align="alignleft" width="150"] Marsha Mann, Women for Nature[/caption] [caption id="attachment_35323" align="alignright" width="150"] Sharolyn Mathieu Vettese, Women for Nature[/caption] Featuring Women for Nature member's Sharolyn Mathieu Vettese. Written by fellow Women for Nature member Marsha Mann.  M: When were you a mentor? S: My first, and only experience as a mentor was to a top 20 under 20 women in Canada. She had wanted a mentor who was political and environmental. Since David Suzuki’s daughter was unavailable, the organization approached me, and of course I agreed. I had been a Green Party candidate both federally and provincially, and I was also an environmentalist. I believe in democracy, and the importance of having a choice on the ballot, and to step up when needed to make things happen. My participation brought about several changes, such as candidates having their parties along with their names listed on the ballot. I practice environmentalism every day to reduce waste, and be considerate of the wildlife around me. I took every opportunity to educate my own children about the importance of our environment and worked toward reducing my family’s carbon footprint. various NatureHood ActivitiesI met my mentee when she was just graduating from high school. She was academically accomplished and a school leader. She was confident, had ambitious goals, and she was going to change the world. I thought this arrangement would last one year during her first year at university, but it lasted for 5 until she had got her Masters from Oxford University. It was satisfying for me to see someone I had been there for doing well and making changes in world. If I can do it again and make a difference I would. The world is changing rapidly, climate change is already happening exponentially and we need strong leaders who can help our planet. So, when Jodi asked me to consider being a mentor for Women for Nature, I said sure. M: How did you arrange your meetings with your mentee? S: I made myself available by any form of communication including phone, text, email, and, of course, in person. I have not yet been matched with the Women for Nature mentor program, but I am looking forward to it in the next round. M: How is mentoring different than say, coaching or managing? S: Managing is more about expectations, especially work, but mentoring is about caring about the whole person. It is more like nurturing. Whatever she was facing, or needed I was there to support her. Her family gave me a plant to thank me for being the soil that made her grow. M: What inspired you to become involved with Women for Nature? S: I was one of the first women who donated to Nature Canada in a significant way for over 30 years. Jodi said she wanted to engage and involve more women like me who are committed to nature, which became known as "Women for Nature". I think it is important for women to choose their own causes, and be leaders in those causes. For me, it is the preservation of our wilderness. M: Who inspired you? S: My father was always very supportive of whatever initiative I wanted to take. He had an adventurous spirit, and was always willing to try something new. He wasn’t afraid. I later appreciated how big of a person he was since he had four daughters and no sons at a time when sons were preferred. He never made us feel we were second-rate. He encouraged all of us to go to university at a time when many women weren’t. My father made me feel I wasn’t handicapped being a woman. My mother was more traditional, and supportive in other ways, but I think my father was the bigger influence in my life. He was an original thinker. He got me thinking how important it is to get women in a leadership position to implement gender equality, and be environmentalists if there is going to be a cultural shift. M: Sharolyn is still an environmentalist. Her company, SMV Energy Solutions offers services in cap and trade, and provides simple smart solutions to reduce energy consumption which positively impact the triple bottom line. It was a pleasure to spend time with Sharolyn and getting to know her.

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