Tuesday, March 30, 2010  
   Volume 80 - Issue 12 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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Quote of the Week
“This is just absolutely scary as a result of our linear assessment.”
- Marion Vanoni  
- on the municipality’s new   
budget crisis   


Several longtime residents of the Crowsnest Pass will tell you that river otters were once common up and down the Crowsnest River, and in Crowsnest Lake. A book published as recently as the late 1970s –– Canoeing Chinook Country Rivers –– described many otters in the Castle, Crowsnest, and Oldman Rivers.
In recent decades, however, the presence of river otters has seemingly diminished, to the point where many believed that they either no longer existed locally, or that the population was so small as to be unsustainable.
But an ongoing push, led by local scientist David McIntyre, is seeking official recognition of the river otter in area waters, in hopes that special protection can be legislated to ensure their continued survival. With this push, proof that otters still swim our rivers has been coming in, including recent photographs of the animals playing in the Crowsnest River.
"I've had a lot of people come back to me," says McIntyre, "and we have additional sightings. The biggest hurdle has been having the otters' existence recognized. In fact, many local people have told me they don't exist."
McIntyre says that, despite regular use of the river and its banks year-round, he has never seen an otter in the Crowsnest River himself, but has noted their tracks, slides, and other evidence of their presence. With members of the public now providing pictures and stories of their own otter encounters, he hopes that the evidence will overwhelmingly show that river otters still live in the waters of the Crowsnest Pass and surrounding area.
The problem, he says, is that the province tends to manage species populations on a provincial level. Thus, he says, because river otters are doing well in northern Alberta, there is no pressure to afford any special protection to the possibly dwindling numbers in the Crowsnest River.
"With these sightings," says McIntyre, "I'm hopeful that my vision for enhanced protection might be initiated. These animals are hanging on a thread right now. I'd like to see them thrown a real rope, rather than hang on a thread."
McIntyre says that Richard Quinlan, Species at Risk Biologist for Sustainable Resource Development, has written to others in SRD to see if otters in one part of the province might be managed differently than otters elsewhere.
McIntyre notes that the provincial government states that it seeks continuous improvement to achieve excellence, and hopes that the government can achieve excellence for the river otters of southwestern Alberta.
Within one generation, he says, the Crowsnest Pass has virtually lost its river otters, and he believes some level of protection may be necessary to ensure we keep them for future generations, and as a further selling point for the community. The otters, he says, in some ways personify natural virtues that the Crowsnest Pass promotes, and are a part of the community's natural heritage.
"Somehow," says McIntyre, "these otters have walked, or slid, or swum through the valley of the shadow of death. While we'll never be able to give them a world in which they can fear no evil, a measure of protecting legislation is in order."
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   Volume 80 - Issue 12 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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