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Giant Pacific Octopus: A Large Piece of the Octo-Pi
The Giant Pacific Octopus is very much a unique animal, especially when considered in the context of the ocean. As a nocturnal predator who spends most of its time on its own, this octopus has developed certain abilities which help optimize its defense against other creatures that may be higher up on the food chain. Perhaps the two most important defensive abilities the giant Pacific octopus has in its arsenal are its camouflage and ink dispersal. In using specialized cells the octopus can change colour to match with its surroundings, making it harder to detect. If it were to be detected even still it has the ability to launch ink at the enemy as both an attack and a diversion.
The largest of its kind
As their name suggests, they are the largest species of octopus that we know of. Typically, this means that they measure approximately 16 feet in length, weighing a bit over 100 pounds. The average still pales in comparison, however, with the record holder. To date, the biggest ever giant Pacific octopus measured about 600 pounds heavy and almost 30 feet long — an absolute unit! While impressive, the external measurements are not nearly as interesting as the internal aspects of their anatomy. Octopi have not one, not two, but three hearts, nine brains, and blue blood!
Again, much like the name suggests, these octopi can be found all across milder Pacific waters from Alaska to Japan. Domestically speaking, this means we can find this species mostly on the coast of BC, although they can be a challenging find as they tend to live in caves. When feeding, they generally hunt for smaller aquatic animals like crustaceans, shellfish, and fish. Although they do not generally deviate from their preferred diet, it is not unusual for them to also target sharks and birds for meals in certain conditions.
So what's the issue? Luckily, the giant Pacific octopus is not an at-risk species! Despite this, however, saying that they do not face any threats would be inaccurate and irresponsible. The main threat they face is living in polluted environments, as they are particularly susceptible to distress from environmental changes.
What can we do?
We need to take care of the environment we share with creatures such as the Giant Pacific Octopus. They, along with many other species, are highly dependent on having an acceptable range of conditions in which to live. The energy we use, the waste we create, and many more of our day-to-day activities are directly correlated with the quality of the environment that we share with other species. This means that being conscious of how we treat the earth is essential to our longevity, the longevity of the BC coast, and the longevity of animals like the Giant Pacific Octopus.
Ways to introduce more birds, bees & butterflies into your garden
From bees to butterflies to birds, pollinators are an important part of our ecosystem. They provide billions of dollars worth of produce and agriculture to the Canadian economy, and help maintain healthy ecosystems and plant diversity. Unfortunately, many important pollinators, such as bees, are in decline mainly due to habitat loss and destruction, pesticide use, disease and infection, and climate change. Here are just a few ideas of how you can create a pollinator-friendly garden this summer to encourage pollinator diversity and abundance!
Include Flowering and Native Plants in your garden
Include a diversity of different flowering plants in your garden to maximize the visitation of a variety of pollinators. For example, milkweed is crucially important for the Monarch butterfly. There are many different species of milkweed that you can plant in your garden, such as the common milkweed (Asclepiassyriaca) or the butterfly milkweed (Asclepiastuberosa). On top of these plants, consider planting a variety of native nectar flowers, since Monarchs, as well as other pollinators, require nectar as a food source.Think about providing nectar throughout many seasons! A good idea for your pollinator garden would be to have a variety of flowering plants that flower at different times of the year, therefore providing nectar throughout the season! Some pollinator friendly plants include lilacs (Syringa vulgaris), red clovers (Trifoliumpratense), and Phlox species, as well as fruit and vegetable plants. Growing these plants in groups of three to five help attract pollinators to your garden.
Become a host for bees with a bee hotel
If garden space is an issue, consider building a “bee hotel”. This will hopefully attract wild bees to your home, as well as ladybugs and wasps. These hotels, or nests, provide a safe nesting site for pollinators. Combining these with flowering plants increases your chances of having pollinators visit your garden! Read this to find out exactly what you need to do!
Consider the environment
When creating your garden, some key things to consider would be do these pollinators have a place to rest? Water sources are an excellent feature you can add to your garden to accommodate wildlife. Ponds or small streams are excellent for small invertebrates. As well asbird bathscan provide adequate water for birds and insects. Butterflies like to bask in the sun, so consider laying out a few rocks and stones where the butterflies and perch.
Build a bird feeder
And while you’re at it, consider building a bird feeder to attract birds to your garden! Make sure to place the feeders near trees and shrubs in order to provide shelter for the birds. To maximize the diversity of birds, put out a variety of feeders and food. For example, finches prefer hanging feeders with individual perches and prefer sunflower seeds. These seeds also attract cardinals, juncos, chickadees, and nuthatches! Suet is another great option since it is high in energy and fat, and therefore favoured in the winter months. If you want to attract hummingbirds to your backyard, you’ll need to make a nectar solution and get a hummingbird feeder.The most important take away message is that pollinators are incredibly important to our ecosystem. Without them, most of the food we eat would not exist. It is therefore vital that we do everything in our power to protect these creatures and help their diversity and populations grow and flourish!
5 Ways to Reconnect with Nature
In today’s busy world, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the city. In fact, over two-thirds of Canadians live in urban areas, which makes it pretty easy for us to distance ourselves from the great outdoors. While most Canadians agree spending time outside is important, the Coleman Canada Outdoor 2017 Report found that 64% of Canadians surveyed spend less than two hours outside per week. With spring finally upon us, there’s no better time to buck this trend and bring nature back into our lives.With the benefits of spending time outside ranging from reducing stress, lifting our moods, and promoting physical health, here are five easy ways to help you reconnect with nature.
Explore your local parks
You don’t have to go far to reconnect with nature, even visiting your local city park is an excellent way to get back outside. Go for a walk with your family and friends, have a picnic, or toss a frisbee around—the possibilities are endless! Most importantly, leave your phone behind so you can be fully present in the great outdoors. Breathe in that fresh air, smell the proverbial roses (maybe a dandelion or two?) and listen to the birds sing!
Join a guided hike
You can even take visiting a park one step further by joining in on a guided hike! Many larger parks, whether national or municipal, have guided hikes put on by nature organizations or community naturalist groups. These are awesome ways to learn from local experts all about the plants and wildlife that call your neighbourhood home. From investigating animal tracking to identifying edible plants, there’s no limit for all the wild things you can learn. Plus, with programs ranging from family hikes to photography walks, there’s something for everyone! Check your local listings to see what’s going on in your neighbourhood.
There’s something special about taking a moment to watch the birds soar and sing their days away. To start bird-watching, you can visit a local park or install your own backyard bird feeder to bring the birds to you. These days anyone can easily become a birder—with free birding apps like Audubon and iNaturalist to help identify and record your sightings, bird-watching has never been easier to pick up! As many species are now flying back for the summer, you’ll be surprised by all the different species hiding out in your neighbourhood. You can even make it a challenge—see how many birds you and your family can spot!
Every year, March 17th has become a day where we all dress in green, put on green plastic beads and buttons and go to the pub to drink green beer. As exciting as this holiday is for some, it also brings with it a lot of waste. From plastic decorations to “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” t-shirts that are worn once and then discarded, there isn’t much green that goes with this holiday. This is why this year try to embrace being green year round, not just on St. Patrick’s Day.
Here are five Tips for how to have a truly green St. Patrick’s Day!
1. Get Outside
There isn’t anything greener than being outside in nature. It may not look so green yet with so much snow on the ground, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any benefits from taking a walk outside. Connecting with nature has proven to reduce stress, minimize depression, increase happiness, and overall increase one’s wellbeing and overall health. It is also a great way to learn more about the flora and fauna that are around you and appreciate the beauty of it all!
2. Eat Green
Eating green isn’t just about eating salads all day. It’s about eating sustainably, buying locally, reducing food waste, and reducing your carbon footprint. Eating green requires eating more fruits and vegetables, and reducing meat consumption, as well as buying free-range and organic meat products when available.
3. Use Green Transportation
If you are going out to celebrate, consider taking public transportation, carpooling with friends, or even walking! This will help you minimize, or even eliminate the carbon emissions incurred from transportation.
4. Say No to Plastics & Single-use items
Avoid buying plastic decorations such as green beads, glittered leprechaun top hats, plastic drinkware and plastic drink straws! Most of us will only use these decorations for one year and then throw them away. To avoid plastic waste, consider choosing decorations made from cloth, paper, metal, or glass, and keep reusing your decorations instead of throwing them out! Putting up more green plants into your home can also add a bit of St. Patrick’s Day magic and purify your home at the same time!
5. Choose Sustainable Beers
When it comes to St. Patrick’s Day, you really can’t avoid beer, particularly the green beer. This year, why not opt for an eco-friendly beer option, rather than the artificially dyed green beer you can see offered everywhere. A good option is to get your beer from a local brewery that uses natural ingredients. This in turn reduces the carbon footprint of your beer, so you can have a nice drink and feel like you are doing your part to help the environment. Choosing organic or eco-friendly beer also has much less of an impact on the environment than regular beer by producing less carbon emissions and using energy and water more efficiently in the brewing process.
Whether you try all these tips this year, or just one, hopefully these tips help you enjoy St. Patrick’s Day while making the day a little bit greener than usual!
March Calendar Image: Silver Fox Kit
Don’t be fooled by its name. The Silver Fox is the exact same species as the Red Fox, Vulpes vulpes. The main difference being colour. Where a red fox has a coppery tone to its fur, the silver fox, while there is a lot of variations in the colour (some being completely black and others mostly silver) is mostly black with silver showing through on the top of its fur.
It is estimated that silver foxes make up about 10% of the Vulpes vulpes population.
On average, silver fox adults can weigh anywhere between 5 to 7 kilograms. Measured from head to tail, they can reach up to a meter long. Their striking silver pelts are very highly valued for their colouring and this has resulted in silver fox farming, where they are raised specifically for profit off their pelts.
Where is the Silver Fox found?
The silver fox, along with the red fox, is one of the world’s most scattered species from the Order Carnivora (these are mammals that are carnivorous and have teeth). From North America, Asia and Europe to Australia, these foxes are able to thrive in many environments varying in temperature and habitat. But similar to the red fox, the silver fox has to owe some of its success and dispersion to humans who brought them from England for the sport of hunting.
The silver fox lives about 3 years in the wild, where they remain very independent. They will often store their food, in order to save it for a rainy day. These omnivores indulge in both meat from rodents or rabbits to plants such as berries. This flexibility is what has allowed the silver fox to thrive throughout the years and across many continents.
The silver fox’s mating season varies depending on their location in the world. Usually occurring in January or February, female foxes, or vixens, can mate with multiple males before deciding on one that she will breed with annually. Silver foxes do not always choose to mate with other silver foxes, and so they may often mate with red foxes.
The gestation period is just under 2 months, with the average number of kits per birth at around 5. It takes 2 weeks until they will open their eyes and another 3 weeks to leave the dens that they were born in. The family stays closely knit until the Fall season. By this point, the kits have reached maturity at 10 months old and will set out to find their own place.
The Polar Bear: Rider of Icebergs
Legendary commercial actor, close friend of Santa Claus, and explorer of the North, the Polar Bear is nothing if not the symbol of Arctic life. Their Latin name, Ursus maritimus, translates to sea bear and provides great insight into how they live. As apex predators, polar bears spend lots of time hunting in and around Arctic waters for their prey, their favourite of which is the ringed seal. Polar bears are recognisable by their white coat and their large size. Males tend to weigh between 350-600 kilograms while females will weigh between 150-290 kilograms, both can be over 10 feet tall when standing. Their bodies are made to withstand all the cold that the Arctic climate has to offer, as their two layers of fur and thick layer of blubber offer them more than enough warmth to survive – sometimes even too much warmth for the summers!
Apart from the big screen, polar bears live across the Arctic region, particularly in five countries: Canada, the US, Greenland, Russia, and Norway. As such, polar bears represent history for many peoples across the Arctic. For millennia, various indigenous groups have counted on polar bears as key contributors to their ways of life. They are still hunted today as part of their long-held traditions, but the process is very monitored and respectful of the prey. Nearly every part of a polar bear is used by the hunters, whether for weather-appropriate clothing or for calorie-rich meals. Many regulations have been imposed on the hunters, serving to protect polar bear populations from being threatened by direct human action.
So what’s the issue?
According to both SARA and COSEWIC, polar bears are a species of special concern. Although effective in curtailing over-hunting, the regulations do not address the main threat polar bears face; climate change.Polar bears rely on sea ice as their habitat. This has historically worked very well for them as it allows them plenty of room for hunting, but lately, with rising global temperatures as a result of climate change, living on the ice has become more trying for them. Different polar bear populations face different challenges, but among the most threatened are those living in regions of Seasonal Ice and Polar Basin Divergent Ice.
The existence of Seasonal Ice, as the name suggests, is dependent on the season as it melts in the summer and begin to return in the fall. When the ice melts it leaves polar bears unable to hunt, forcing them into a fast. Fasting is not new to them, but the duration of the melt is getting much longer than it used to be, making it more challenging for polar bears to fast through longer summers. For Polar Basin Divergent Ice regions the challenges are similar. The sea ice builds up near shores and will retract from the shores as it melts in the warmer months. Climate change accelerates this process and melts more of the ice near the shore. This forces the bears to either go back to land where they would have to fast or swimming further out in search of more ice.
What can we do?
The most important thing we can do to keep polar bears safe is to support environmental initiatives in government. Making green choices from the top-down is essential to fighting climate change on a macro scale, and the best way to do this is to stay informed on the issues along with the candidates who advocate for them. On a more personal level, supporting polar bear charities or conservation organisations goes a long way in furthering research, and making eco-friendly decisions in our daily lives can push others to follow suit.
The Leatherback Sea Turtle, a Unique Giant
Identifiable by its lack of bony shell, the leatherback sea turtle – also known as the leathery turtle, lute turtle, or luth- is the largest of all living turtles. Inky blue in colour, these gentle giants can grow up to an impressive 2.3m in length, and up to a whopping 2000 pounds1. Their hydrodynamic body structure streamlines their movement in the ocean, allowing them to be the deepest divers of all turtles- up to 1.2 kilometers!
These world travellers have the largest population range of any reptile species, having populations in the Mediterranean Sea, and the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans1. Adult luths are known to swim as far North as Canada -Atlantic Canada watches these turtles swim by every year due to the abundance of jellyfish2- and Norway; whilst still being able to swim as far south as New Zealand and South America. Leatherbacks have acquired the adaptations necessary to allow them to make these journeys in northern cold waters. Being extra-large in size, changing their swimming activity and blood flow, and a thick layer of fat2 are all unique qualities that the leatherback has to allow them to create and maintain their body heat, and make theses journeys possible.
The leatherback sea turtle undergoes a very lengthy mating cycle, involving the female making long migrations from South to North, to hatch her eggs in the warmer southern sands2. After laying and burying her eggs in the sand, the females return to sea. The temperature of the nests will determine the turtle sex- warmer temperatures producing females, and cooler temperatures producing males1. A very small percentage of hatchlings will survive and return to sea2.
A living relic, leatherback sea turtles evolved about 100 million years ago, and lived amongst dinosaurs! Leatherbacks are also the only living genus in its family, Dermochelyidae, making them truly the last of their kind.
So what’s the issue? Both COSEWIC and SARA list the leatherback sea turtle as Endangered2. There are several knowns threats to the leatherback turtle, including entanglement, coastal development, vessel collisions, acoustic disturbance, climate change, poaching, artificial light, and marine pollution. In Atlantic and Pacific Canada today, the biggest risk to the leatherback is entanglement in fishing gear2 and marine pollution by plastics. Entanglement of fishing gear can cause injuries resulting in death, or even drowning2. Leatherbacks are also known to consume marine plastic pollutants, up to 11 pounds have been found in the stomachs of some!1 All of these man-made issues are seriously maiming the populations of leatherbacks, and the Atlantic and Pacific populations remain endangered.
So what can we do in order to help these peaceful giants? The biggest thing that you can do today is start ensuring that plastics and floating debris stay out of our Canadian Oceans! Responsible recycling, and proper discarding of non-recyclables is a great place to start. Try to use reusable shopping bags, and lunch packaging. If you enjoy recreational fishing, always ensure that you are following safe fishing practices to reduce the risk of polluting in our oceans. There is a lot of ongoing work in researching more effective fishing practices to minimize entanglement in fishing lines as well2. You can contact the Canadian Sea Turtle Network to find out how to get involved locally on our coastlines today.
Calendar Image: The Lynx
The Lynx is a medium-sized wildcat, easily recognized by its short tail, long legs, large paws, and its tufted ears. There are four species of lynx found around the world. The Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) tend to be larger than the North American species, the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis). There is also the familiar Bobcat (Lynx rufus) that is the most abundant wildcat in the United States. The final lynx species, the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) is also the world’s most endangered cat, with a population of about 400 individuals. Lynx species tend to weigh approximately the same, ranging from 5 kg to 14 kg, and measuring around 90 cm in length.
The habitat range of lynxes varies between species. For example, the North American bobcat is widespread in the United States, and can be found in southern Canada as well as Mexico. Whereas the Canada lynx can be found in most boreal forests across Canada, and in western Montana, Idaho, Washington and Utah.
The Canada lynx tends to prefer forested habitats, such as old growth boreal forests, where they can make their dens underneath fallen trees, tree stumps, or thick bushes. However, the lynx will populate other habitats providing there is an adequate number of prey, and minimal forest coverage.
Lynxes tend to be very territorial and solitary animals, only being around other lynxes during the winter breeding season. Mating usually occurs between February and March of each year, with the young being born in April and May. The kittens are born under brush piles, uprooted trees, or in hollow logs to provide shelter from the cold, and are reared solely by the female. Female lynxes can start breeding as they approach one year of age, but this depends on the availability of snowshoe hares and on their own physical conditions.
Figure 1. Habitat range of the Canada lynx (Canadian Geographic).In the winter, more than 75% of the lynx’s diet consists of the snowshoe hare. When snowshoe hare abundance is large, a lynx may kill one hare every one or two days. In the summer, the lynx’s diet appears to be more varied consisting of hares, grouse, voles, mice, squirrels, and foxes. Like most members of the cat family, the lynx hunts silently and will hunt at night, watching and listening to their prey.
The lynx has a few predators, including cougars, wolves, and coyotes. However, the biggest threat to lynxes are humans. In Canada, fur trapping is one of the biggest causes of death for lynxes, apart from the population decline of their main prey, the snowshoe hare. Lynxes are fairly easy to catch, and when prices rise for their fur, most lynxes can be removed from a given area. Even today, the lynx is trapped in all provinces and territories except Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. Luckily, there are regulations put in place to restrict the number of lynxes that can be killed during the given year. Biologists have also suggested closing trapping seasons if the lynx population drops into a low cycle. It is important to keep studying the effects of fur trapping and monitoring the populations to ensure the Canada lynx does not become a threatened or endangered species!
5 Tips to Raise a Nature Lover
Any parent knows that taking your kids in nature is extremely beneficial for physical . However, in a world dominated by technology and screens, it becomes very complicated to make your kids go out and enjoy a day in nature. Even though the outside world is fascinating, it is tough to take kids away from all the electronic games they can play indoors. So, what can be done? The best solution is to start from an early age and raise your kid with a love for nature. Here are five tips to raising a nature lover.
1. Take activities outside
Not every parent has the necessary time to go hiking in a park, or easy access to walking trails. Fortunately, there are several indoor activities that can be relocated to the outdoors. For example, you can read your kid’s favorite stories on the porch of your house or in the backyard. If you do not have access to a backyard, you can also have playdates at the park, or even have an outdoor picnic with family! Do not worry if it is cold outside – there are also plenty of mom-approved winter activities to get kids into nature!
2. Cultivate a curiosity for nature
Kids are curious by nature. The outdoors offer endless opportunities for exploring, and discovery. This is why it is crucial to expose children to nature and cultivate their sense of wonder at an early age. Once they’re outside, challenge them to use all their senses! What animal sounds can they detect in the forest? How many colours do they see in one natural space? Can they see any animal marknigs on the ground, or feel the direction in which the wind is blowing?
3. Include nature in your family traditions
Good habits should always come from the family. Thus, if you want your kid to love nature, then you should do it as a family tradition. For instance, you can have a regular family tradition to spend time outdoors on several occasions. You can go each month for a picnic or have dinner under the full moon. Don’t be afraid by stormy nights. If you have any fear related to nature, then it will be transmitted to your kid as well. So, even if it’s “pouring cats and dogs,” take your kid’s hand and go out for a full moon walk, showing him how nature changes its face under heavy rains. Furthermore, you can create other family traditions like collecting snails after rain or stones shaped in weird forms. Start with something that’s easy and fun to accomplish together.
4. Build memories
One great activity is building specific memories that will encourage your kids to identify with nature. While it is great to discover new places, there is value to creating a routine by taking your kid back every year to a natural spot they enjoyed in the past. Point out how the place changed each year and make them curious and excited to come back the next year!
5. Allow your kid to spend time alone in nature
Even though you are nearby, you should let children have their moments of solitude in nature. Give them enough time and space to explore and analyze the natural world. This will encourage them to observe and appreciate nature on their own from a young age.
“There are many natural spaces which are worth visiting with your child. If you take the natural areas, protected by law, you will discover breathtaking sceneries which will make them curious to explore their surroundings. Thinking of the protected areas from Canada, there are so many things your kid can learn from wildlife and nature”, says Camelia Williams, CEO of a company dedicated to reviews for essay writing services.
Daniela McVicker is a freelance writer, psychologist and a family counsellor. Her passion is writing about leading a healthy family life and helping people enjoy their lives to the fullest.
Not Every Bug Is Harmful – 7 Most Common Household Bugs That Aren’t Harmful
The sight of insects in the house has most reaching for a swatter or bug spray. But did you know that there are quite a few insects, commonly found in or around our homes that aren’t harmful? In fact, they are actually good for the ecosystem, meaning that you and the environment can benefit from leaving them as they are! Before you reach for a fly swatter or bug spray - make sure you aren't
The Honey Bee
Bees are an crucial aspect of ecosystems because they help with the pollination process of flowers and crops. On average a single bee can pollinate up to 100 flowers in one trip!
You don’t really have to worry about a honey bee unless you spot a beehive around your home. It is better to have the hive removed unless you plan on starting a bee farm.
Ladybugs, are one of the most harmless insects you can come across. They may be a nuisance if they come inside your home but they do no harm. They do play a role in eating smaller pests such as mites, aphids, and fruit flies. So they actually do you a favor by ensuring there is no infestation of smaller pests in your home. Pests that can actually be harmful, more so than the ladybug.
You rarely find harmful spiders such as the black widow or brown recluses in homes. Those are obviously spiders you need to be careful because of their venom. The common house spider, wolf, and the long-bodied cellar spiders are not harmful. Like the ladybug, these spiders also help get rid of household pests and smaller insects around your home. So these can actually prove to be quite useful to keep around.
The Praying Mantis
If you have a garden, then you are probably well aware of the wonders of the praying mantis. The insect can help keep your garden clean of all types of pests. This ensures that the insect population is controlled and your plants remain intact. Of course, we recommend you make sure that the mantis stays outside and doesn’t come in. But that doesn’t occur very often as the mantis prefers the outdoors.
The Solider Beetle
The soldier beetle isn’t the most appealing insect, it kind of resembles a cockroach. However, they are beneficial for the ecosystem of your house garden. The beetle feeds on aphids, which can be dangerous for the health of your garden. They also help with pollinating flowers, helping your garden grow.
While the centipede is one of those creepy crawlers that we hate encountering, they aren’t harmful to humans. They usually have anywhere from 15 to 177 pairs of legs, which give it that repulsive look. While it contains venom, the centipede doesn’t have the capability to prick through the human skin, so it isn’t harmful. It does keep other insects in check and ensures that pests don’t easily infest your home.
The Yellow Jacket Wasp
The yellow jacket wasp looks a lot like your honey bee, but they are bigger in size. Like the honey bee, they are also great for flower pollination. Besides this, they also prey on numerous pests you find around your home like grubs and caterpillar. These wasps do sting harder than the bee but you normally have nothing to worry about with them.
Insects aren’t all harmful, make sure you know the insect you encounter before you exterminate it. If they fall in this list, it is probably better if you learn to live with them. They will prove to be more beneficial than harmful for you and your home.
About the Author
Luqman Butter has been a pest control technician for over 20 years. He is passionate about solving people’s pest and wildlife control problems through innovative, eco-friendly and humane methods.