The Current animal encyclopedia
In the Fraser Valley, wildlife is everywhere. You can find the animals in the forests, you can hear them in the wetlands. You can see them on your streets, and watch them in the rivers.
The Current has reported on many species that call the Fraser Valley home, from the common crow to the elusive cougar. You can peruse our growing encyclopedia below, or fast forward to your favourite here:
Inside an alpaca barbershop
The alpaca’s barber shop sat at the end of a long driveway lined with tall trees and a short wooden fence. The trees muffled the sound of Langley’s afternoon traffic.
A consistent buzz emanated from a large industrial barn. Inside, a dozen people worked away, many surrounding a fluffy animal on a large table. Here, electric shears gently cut through the fleece of an alpaca.
It was shearing season on Kensington Prairie Farm. The staff were on day two of a four-day, labour-intensive effort to trim the coats of 100 alpacas. They had corralled about two dozen alpacas in two corners of the barn. Some had already dropped the weight of their coat of fleece and others were waiting for their turn.
What a bear cub, an obese squirrel, and a toothless otter have in common
Drama is everywhere at an animal rehab centre.
Injured mammals struggling to heal, young animals trying to learn vital skills, obese squirrels trying to shed a pound: stories abound.
‘I never thought I would rescue bear cubs’
When The Current phoned Lydia Koot in April, the call went straight to voicemail. The 68-year-old Hope resident had been ready for an interview to talk about her time as the founder of the Hope Mountain Black Bear Committee—but in the bear world, sometimes things come up. Like needing to drive a black bear cub from Hope to Smithers to take it to the Northern Lights Wildlife Society.
“I never thought I would rescue bear cubs,” Koot said later. “I was only thinking about how to co-exist with bears, and other wildlife for that matter.”
The wild cats among us
It was 8:30 at night in July of 2020. The air was starting to cool after a warm summer day, and the sun had crossed over the top of Golden Ears Mountain. A dog ran along a trail in the provincial park. Its owners hiked along behind it.
Six minutes passed.
A cougar padded cautiously along the path. Its muscular shoulders moved with its gait; its long tail swept along the ground.
Snap. A trap was sprung. But the cougar continued its walk through the forested mountainside.
Cougar killings are on the decline. Why?
In the last decade more than 1,200 cougars have been killed by conservation officers or others in BC—but the last three years have seen a steep decline in the number of big cat killings.
On average, roughly 73 cougars have been killed each year. But since 2019, there has been a major decrease in the number of cougars killed by humans. Last year, 50 cougars were killed, while 10 years earlier the number was over 100.
The Happy Hoofer
It was like he was slicing Gruyère cheese. Kevin Hinton leaned near the cow’s elevated hoof, and with an expert snip of his clippers, exposed a section of creamy white sole. It looked soft, even pliable.
“It’s not,” Hinton said, holding up the forearm-length clippers. “My clippers are just really sharp.”
Clippers aren’t terribly common among hoof trimmers these days—“bovine podiatrists,” if you want to use the technical term—but Hinton doesn’t care. It’s what he learned to use 40 years ago, when he joined his father in Oregon one summer to watch him work. The connection then was electric. Seeing his father snip and clip the overgrown hoof away from the sole made him realize he wanted to do this for the rest of his life.
One day at a time: tackling the Fraser Valley’s dairy crisis
From her dairy farm in Agassiz, Juliane Treur watched the catastrophe taking place on Sumas Prairie with disbelief.
“Our hearts are just broken for our dairy farming peers and our friends,” she said. “We can’t imagine what they are going through right now.”
Over the past few days, huge volumes of water poured into the Fraser Valley from the Nooksack River, trapping many of the region’s dairy herds. Around 60 dairies were on alert or evacuation order, but farmers returned to their properties anyway, in hopes of rescuing their cattle from the rising flood waters. Some were successful. Others were not. Then the City of Abbotsford announced Tuesday night that the Barrowtown Pump Station was in imminent danger of failing. Farmers who had been caring for or attempting to save their cattle were forced to leave.
What blockchain can teach you about the cow you are eating
Blockchain. You may have heard that word connected to things like Bitcoin or cryptocurrency. You probably haven’t heard it connected with your steak.
Abbotsford’s Bakerview EcoDairy is planning to change that by using blockchain technology to track information about an individual cow’s life, and then giving that information to the person buying its meat at the market.
Born in the dog pound
The population of the valley’s dog pound grew in size—and cuteness—with the unexpected birth of eight healthy pups. Now, those pups are preparing for adoption.
In late spring, the puppies’ mother, who has since been named Marvel, was spotted wandering in the rain with two other dogs. (Staff have speculated they may have all been related.) The trio were three of 83 dogs impounded between April and June by the Fraser Valley Regional District, which handles animal control services for most of the region’s municipalities.
The paradox of salmon hatcheries
Writer and fly fisher Roderick Haig-Brown dreamed of a time when the North Pacific Ocean would grow a lot more salmon.
Haig-Brown was probably the most famous and influential fly fisher in North America during his lifetime. The author wrote from his home on the banks of Campbell River on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. He sat at a desk with a view of the river, far from where the arbiters of great writing resided at the time. The New Yorker regularly reviewed his books (always favorably) and in 1976, the New York Times reported on his death.
From the 1930s to the 1970s, Haig-Brown led readers into the realm of Pacific salmon: chinook, sockeye, coho, chum, and pink. In his 1941 book, Return to the River, a lyrical story about one fish that moved a critic to call the author an immortal in the field of nature writing, Haig-Brown dug into the soul of a fish. He created a world from a wild chinook salmon’s point of view, allowing the reader to tag along on the cyclical path of a fish named Spring, from birth to death in an Oregon stream. Her life story is both wondrous and harrowing. Spring’s journey reflected all that Haig-Brown fretted about over 80 years ago: logging that decimated streams, dams that blocked rivers, and development that buried creeks. He fretted about hatchery fish, too.
Can the Semá:th First Nation save the salmon using sonar?
Rain plunked down onto the swift-moving waters of the Vedder River, creating a mosaic of ripples above the salmon swimming upstream. There were more fish than you would expect in the river—more fish than you could see from the surface at any rate. Some idled in the current, swimming just enough to keep stationary in the water. Others used their powerful tails to fight their way upstream to their spawning grounds further east.
Above the water, the song of the river and the rain melded with the sound of a gas-powered generator. It was humming underneath the red tent where Richard Bussanich was sitting, watching a computer screen intently. A man in bright yellow jogging gear ran along the path towards him, slowing as he neared the tent.
“Can I ask, what are you guys doing here?” the man asked, curious.
Bussanich beckoned him closer. “You can take a look at the screen, you’re more than welcome to,” he said. On it, blue-grey images of salmon were lit up: a digital representation of the fish swimming in the Vedder in real time.
Q&A with Murray Ned: Save the fish. Save the people
We told you about the Semá:th First Nation’s foray into sonar imaging, and the hope that more accurate salmon counts can preserve a species in crisis. Among those we spoke to for that story was Murray Ned, a councillor for the Semá:th First Nation and executive director of the Lower Fraser Fisheries Alliance. He shared his involvement with the sonar project and his perspective on the relationship between Indigenous people and salmon.
Why are young sturgeon disappearing from the Fraser River?
Sarah Schreier loves a good puzzle. It’s why she has dedicated a large part of her conservation career to figuring out why the number of white sturgeon in the Fraser River has plunged.
The new findings of a two-decade-long study show that the Lower Fraser’s population of juvenile sturgeon—a youth phase of the fish—has dropped by nearly 71% over the past 18 years.
Counting a murder (of crows) in Langley
Residents in south Aldergrove may have witnessed a nightly murder in their neighbourhood for the last four months—or at least heard one.
The birds gather at dusk during the wintertime to sleep for safety. The sound of thousands of crows flying to their winter roost is incredibly loud. The seasonal migration is unremarkable and crow-watching is hardly a desirable activity—they’re ubiquitous year-round. Some people, however, have found a good reason to count them.
Bird flu poses new threat to Fraser Valley’s flood-hit poultry industry
The Fraser Valley’s storm-hit poultry farmers and egg producers have yet another thing to fret about. But a spokesperson for BC’s egg industry says farmers will “roll with the punches” to get through the latest episode in a tough 12 months.
The detection of bird flu in the Okanagan last week was the latest sign that the bird-killing virus is moving west.
While avian influenza doesn’t pose a risk to humans or to food, it can kill large numbers of birds, and has now been detected across a huge swath of North America. It will be a significant worry to poultry farmers in the Fraser Valley, where it killed hundreds of thousands of birds in 2014.
Meet your local frog neighbours—and invaders
It’s dark, and stars are dimly shining above the mountains. You’re outside with a warm summer breeze tickling the leaves. What do you hear?
If there is a pond or wetland a kilometre away—and in the Fraser Valley there often is—you might hear the low foghorn call of a bullfrog. If the pond is closer, you might hear the sound of a plucked rubber band coming from an adult green frog, or the cricket-like ribbit of a Northern Pacific treefrog. If you’re particularly lucky, you may hear the stuttering call of the red-legged frog or even the rapid staccato of the Oregon spotted frog.
The insect invader that grows in your berry blossoms
Acres of raspberries. Fields of strawberries. Roadsides filled with blackberries. All could be at risk from one bug the size of a pencil eraser: the strawberry blossom weevil.
“Could” is the operative word. So Michelle Franklin is working to find out exactly what this weevil is up to in fields across the Lower Mainland.
Worms, people, and produce: turning food waste on its head
The mixture of manure, cardboard shavings, and food scraps is dark—and that’s just how the worms like it. Although they don’t have eyes, red wigglers are sensitive to light and are happy to spend their days eating compost scraps in the peaceful gloom. Stuart Lilley is just as happy to show them off.
He lifts up Walmart-branded cardboard squares that shield the worms.
“They love bananas, it’s just unbelievable,” Lilley says. He runs his fingers through the mulch, revealing the thin bodies of dozens of worms. The worms don’t like the light. “We put the cardboard overtop just to give them an environment where they can just do what they do without being distracted.”
Here, on a combination farm and distribution plant in Langley, the worms eat old produce so Lilley can sell their poop as fertilizer. But it’s a little more complicated than that.