Community Journal

Little Known Goat Fact

In the last week of 2012 – December 18 to 22 – I was running farm field study. Farm is always filled with cute baby chicks, Ponty the turkey, sometimes aggressive chickens, Capital, Wilma, Miss Piggy, and, last but not least, the goats.

Farm is generally similar each time with different teachers – being upstairs and learning about different aspects on the farm, and then visiting with the animals for as long as possible – however, I’ll always remember this one field study. It was going pretty normal, and we were finally visiting with the goats. I was hanging out with some kids who were petting Thor, our only male goat at the time, when one of the kids put his hat on Thor’s horns. Thor was chill enough to let us take this picture. It probably happens to be the best picture we have of him.

 

Who knew goats could have so much swag?

 

By Kristina “Cartwheel” Lang

Cartwheel

Member at Large

 

A Wintery Wander

I spent this past Sunday in the best way I know possible: hopping in a car with good friends and seeing what we could find along the sea to sky highway. Our mission: to find a rare element called “snow”. We had grown weary of the grey skies in North Vancouver, and were looking towards whiter pastures. Friends, let me tell you, the Sea to Sky did not disappoint.

Sea-to-Sky

We had intended to go on a nice walk to Brandywine falls with our dog, but were met by a closed gate and snowed in parking lot. So on we went until we could find a parks path that had available parking. It’s important to point out here that as soon as our plans changed we sent a quick text to someone back home.

Always make sure someone knows where you are going when you’re headed into the woods, it doesn’t matter how old you are.

We ended up turning down towards the Athlete’s Village in Whistler by the Cheakamus Lake Service road. Where we ended up didn’t really matter in the end, but it’s how we spent it.

Before we could romp around in the snow we grabbed our warm gear (dog included) and packs full of snacks and water. It’s a good idea to carry a small first aid kit and emergency supplies.

Essential Emergency Gear

Here’s what I take with me when I go adventuring:

Inside this little bag I have:

  1.       Some basic first aid supplies in case of injuries.
  2.       Matches and a lighter.
  3.       Pocket mirror (for signalling and also potential fire starter).
  4.       Bandana, for wearing or for first aid, a versatile tool!
  5.       Whistle to call for help
  6.       Headlamp (with spare batteries)
  7.       A Sharpie with duct tape wrapped around it, because you can always find a good use for duct tape.
  8.       Pocket Knife
  9.       Garbage bag; good as an extra layer if you are lost, best if you can find a bright coloured one so you can easily be seen. You can also fashion it into a shelter if you have to!
  10. A bear bell.

It’s also important to pack lots of snacks, water and extra layers. Remember: it’s better to be over prepared, than under prepared!

NVOSAS_Blog_WinterWander_LongTrail

 

Once we were all suited up we headed out into that wonderful marshmallow world. Now I won’t tell you where we walked because that is not important, (sometimes it’s more about the journey, friends). I will tell you what we did; we had fun. I think when it snows a lot of the older folk tend to worry too much about how it will get in our way, and I was happy to take this chance to see the fun side of snow. So whether you’re young or old, grab someone you enjoy spending time with and go play outside. If you have time to get somewhere the snow is, do it. I promise you won’t regret it, and in case you are at a loss for fun filled ideas, I got you covered:

  1.       Slide down hills on your bottom (snow pants recommended).
  2.       Have a good old fashioned snowball fight.
  3.       Try to learn something from it.
  4.       Build a snowman (or snowdog).
  5.       Just take a minute to wonder at it all.

Dog-Snowman-sculpture

 

So that’s it, that is my wintery wonderland adventure. And here’s my last piece of advice; whether or not there’s snow, just go. Get outside, and take some good friends with you. It’s truly the best medicine out there, friends.

 

snow-sign

Happy Trails,

Genevieve “Jinx” Bailey

Genny

 

BC Spiders – Friend, Foe, or Average Arachno?

Fear of spiders is common. Arachnophobia – a very intense fear of spiders – is less common, but still prevalent.

But is it justified?

It’s difficult to pinpoint why people fear spiders, but the best theory has to do with ancestral memory (a fancy way of saying ‘instinct’).  Spiders were probably far more dangerous to our ancestors long long ago, without modern medicine .  This theory hinges on a psychology term called preparedness, which describes our evolutionary predisposition (again, ‘instinct’) to fear things dangerous to us.  It explains many commonplace phobias, including those of snakes, heights, the dark, deep water, etc.

All  those things pose a threat to us, or at least posed a threat to our early human ancestors when we developed the instinct to fear them.

So yes, fear of spiders is definitely justified.

However it’s becoming less and less necessary: modern medicine’s advent has rendered most spider bites a nuisance at best to us.  And yet our instinct to fear spiders, although diminished, has continued to ride our genes down the ancestral highway.

So although it was justifiably developed, our fear of spiders is no longer relevant – at least in BC.  However, if you live in Australia or South America or Africa, maybe keep that fear of spiders closer to your heart.
There are three main spiders commonly feared by residents of BC, and I’m going to tell you the important basics about each of them.  Spoiler Alert: they’re not as bad as they seem.

Wolf Spiders

Have you ever been sitting on your couch, watching TV, reading a book, or just relaxing, when suddenly a large brown blur scurries across the floor and disappears from sight underneath the couch?  You probably just saw a Wolf Spider.  These hairy brown beasts are known for their speed and their unique hunting style among other spiders.  Rather than building a web and waiting for their naïve, juicy prey to come to them, the Wolf Spiders hunts their food and chases them down.  Thanks to their size, they’re able to take on a large menu of other insects to eat, from ants to crickets to other fairly sizeable spiders.  Thankfully, humans are NOT on that list.Wolf_Spider_White_Background

Bites from Wolf Spiders are rare, as they will only do it if backed into a corner and provoked.  That plus there aren’t many situations they come into contact with humans; Wolf Spiders spend most their time in dark, underneath-things places, and are nocturnal so they prowl the open hallways when you’re safely tucked in bed.  But even if they do happen to bite, their venom is not lethal.  It causes swelling, itchiness, and irritation.  However, you should still see a doctor if you’re bitten by one, because research is inconclusive on the extent of the effects of Wolf Spider venom.  While some people have attributed some deaths to Wolf Spider venom, other research has shown otherwise.

But Wolf Spiders are more friend than foe because they play a very important role – they eat the pests and the not-so-nice insects.  They even keep Hobo Spiders away.

It’s best to leave Wolf Spiders to their work because they will do a lot of pest control, however if having one in the house makes you uncomfortable, the best thing to do is put it outside – just don’t kill it.  If you see a Wolfie, just grab a glass and a piece of paper, trap it in the glass and the floor, and slide the paper under.  Pick up the glass, keeping the paper firmly against the opening to keep it trapped, take it outside, and let it go.  Wolf spiders like the warmth of our houses, however, so don’t be surprised if it sneaks back in every now and again.

Hobo Spider

Ah, the Hobo Spider.  Notorious for being an introduced species1, having deathly venom, and having a kinda funny name.  Also generally thought of as aggressive spiders (often called an ‘aggressive house spider’), partly thanks to a misinterpretation of a part of their Latin name, agrestis, which was misinterpreted as aggressive, but really translates to ‘field.’  These spiders come from Europe, where they’re considered non-aggressive spiders, and, you guessed it, live in fields!  They tend to pop up in human habitats, but not as much as you might think.BC_spider_hand

Now everything above is true except for them having deathly venom: that is a misconception.  Many cases of spider bites that have been considered medically important have been attributed to Hobo Spiders, but without sufficient evidence to back it up (the sample spider that did the deed was not found or provided).  There are no verified cases of Hobo Spider envenomations in people.  The jury is still out on the extent of damage a Hobo Spider bite can cause someone, and that’s mainly due to the extremely low occurrence of bites in the first place.

Hobo Spiders spend most of their life on a web close to the ground, out of sight.  They don’t do much except wait around for bugs to land in their web, and they definitely do not seek out human flesh.  It is only in the fall – when the male Hobo Spiders leave their web to search out a female to mate with – that it might be more common to see one scurrying across the floor, or – better yet – trapped in a sink or bathtub and unable to climb out.

These arachnids are no reason to cause alarm, however if you think you may have been bitten by one, it’s best to keep an eye on the bite and see a doctor.

If you’re wondering about “introduced species,” that’s just a term given to any species that originates in one area and then spreads to a new habitat it previously didn’t inhabit – usually through human involvement. too!  The Hobo Spider managed to cross the ocean by riding barges transporting crops.

Black Widow

The Black Widow is probably the most dangerous spider in North America, having venom potent enough to kill the young and elderly; however, only a very nominal percentage of reported bites have been proven to be fatal.  Young children less than 40 lbs and elderly with immune disorders are most susceptible to the venom.  In adults, however, the venom is far less than fatal.

spider_finger_venom

Black widows are, so far, the only spider of concern on this list, and although they may not be fatal to adults, their bites can cause a lot of pain.  If you suspect a bite from a Black Widow, immediately seek treatment from a doctor.

Following the trend of the spiders so far, Black Widow bites are far less common than most people think.  They aren’t aggressive; they will only bite in self defense when backed into a corner, provoked, or squished.

Black Widows stick to dark places, wooded areas, small crevices, etc, and many bites are purported to occur from people grabbing wood from a woodpile without proper preparation.  Wearing gloves usually eliminates that risk.

Honourable Mention:

Brown Recluse Spider

This guy’s name is often spoken with a hint of fear and awe at the power of his venom.  Well, surprisingly, just like with most spiders, there are actually a lot of misconceptions around him.  These non-aggressive spiders are less venomous than the Black Widow spider, yet probably feared more.  News and media often perpetuate false myths about these guys by showing swollen, blackened hands, or something similar to that, and attributing it to the Brown Recluse Spider.  As such, there is so much more danger associated with them than they deserve.

As with all the spiders so far, they are timid and actively avoid contact with humans, unless pinned down in which case they can bite.

But none of that matters.  The absolute kicker about these spiders is: they don’t actually live in Canada at all.  They’re entirely restricted to the southern US.  People all over Canada claim to have been bitten by them, and yet there have been no verified, proven identifications of the spider north of the American border.

So if you live in British Columbia and still think spiders are fearsome creatures, well, hopefully some of these facts can put your mind at ease.  Their main source of food is the bugs that actually bother us.  They have proven themselves to be far more helpful than detrimental to us, and cause no need for concern.

Final Fun Facts:

   Medically significant events are caused by dogs at more than 60 times the amount of medically significant events caused by spiders

   There’s an urban myth that’s something like “people swallow seven spiders a year in their sleep,” and that is entirely bogus

   Spiders are everywhere.  There’s some truth to the adage that you’re never more than 3 feet away from a spider at any given time.  While not entirely true, it captures the idea that spiders are far more abundant than you think!

 

 

Solid Sources for your Continued Education:

http://ibis.geog.ubc.ca/biodiversity/efauna/spiders.html

http://www.royalalbertamuseum.ca/research/lifeSciences/invertebrateZoology/dangerousSpiders.cfm

Sources of Photos:

Wolf: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Patrick_Edwin_Moran

Hobo: http://biodiversitybc.blogspot.ca/2013/03/ask-expert-brown-recluse-spiders-in-bc.html

Black Widow: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/family-finds-black-widow-spider-in-bag-of-grapes-1.991572

Fish + Friendship

Featured Video Play Icon

Community Connections at the Coho Festival

Did you make it to the Coho Festival this September?

This local annual event takes place every Fall to celebrate the return of the Coho Salmon to the North Shore’s spawning channels. The big day starts early for some, with about 700 athletes running a 14K course from Kitsilano all the way to Ambleside Beach.

ambleside_beach_lions_gate_bridge

This is where the festival really gets going, with environmental groups of all kinds coming together to celebrate the successful return of the salmon.

Salmon weren’t the only stars of the show this year: the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) brought some very…interesting samples of local fish most people don’t know about.

This friendly looking fella for example is a Cabezon Sculpin, found in kelp beds from here to California.

cabazon_sculpin_dfo

coho-festival

Cheakamus Centre

Cheakamus Centre and the Alumni Society even had a booth! Staffed by Cheakamus Centre Vice Principal Kate Keough, and alumni Genny ‘Jinx’ Bailey & Temma ‘Poppy’ Shandon, visitors learned about salmon spawning cycles, and about different kinds of local seabirds.

coho-festival-3
Kate even brought down a select few taxidermied (stuffed) birds to give folks a look at real birds up close.

nvosas_cheakamus

Talking to local families and adults alike about salmon and bird identification is always a treat for us. But, there was something else in the salty sea air that day…something special: we were a community drawn together by a common cause.

We all go about our lives – volunteer and personal – blissfully unaware of everyone else who cares about the same things that we do. Unconscious of the scope of people dedicated to the same work we put our heart and souls into.

Sometimes it can feel a bit overwhelming: can we protect a whole species of salmon on our own? Or protect the perilous ecological balance in the Pacific Northwest (where we live) on our weekends? Or teach every child in our community to respect and connect with nature?

The Coho Festival really showed us that we’re not alone in this fight. Every other organization that had a booth at the Coho Festival plays an important role in shaping the relationship between us (human beings) and our local environment.

Community Connections

While Temma, Kate, and Genny were manning the Cheakamus Centre booth, I had the luxury of walking around and chatting with a few of these other organizations. The variety of folks out there at the festival was impressive.

The North Shore Bear Society, for example, works to sustain the fragile relationship between our region’s black bears and encroaching human civilization on their territory. They do this through public education, teaching North Vancouverites about bear safety and incident prevention.

Taking a different approach, the Old Growth Conservation Society works to protect the last remaining old growth trees in the mountains of West Vancouver. The area they protect includes trees (Western Red Cedars to be exact) which are over 900 years old!

The folks at the Seymour Salmonid Society engage with our local natural world in yet a different way than these other two. They maintain the hatchery up by the Seymour Dam and engage in public education about the importance of salmon to our ecosystem. Spoiler alert: salmon are a “keystone” species, which means most other living things in our region rely on them some way or another. Since a rockslide blocked salmon spawning channels in the Seymour Conservation area, they’ve also relied on volunteers to literally carry fish upstream to spawn, then back down afterwards. They’re always looking for volunteers for this and other important projects!

While these three organizations seem to do very different things (bear encounter prevention, tree conservation, and salmon stewardship) they all deal with similar struggles. They work to rebalance the fragile equilibrium that exists between human activities – building houses, polluting oceans/rivers, feeding on fish, and building golf courses – and our ecosystem. In the North Shore specifically, bears who used to have large territory to roam and enough food to eat now root through trashbags, compost bins, and bird feeders. Like this fella in my backyard a month ago…

north_vancouver_black_bear_society

The point is, we all have a common goal: preserving our (super)natural environment, and deepening the connection we humans have with nature. So, why not organize and work together?
Hopefully you’ll soon hear of projects we’re working on with some of these amazing local community organizations! In the meantime though, if you’re especially passionate about something one of them does – reach out and volunteer for them!

 

5 Steps to Make the Perfect Campfire

Axe_Campfire

If you’re like me, then you love the outdoors. Hiking, camping, backpacking, kayaking, and canoeing. Those are just a few of the fun outdoor activities I like to do. I bring these up because they can all put you in scenarios where you might need to make a fire. Fire is fun and exciting to make – but it can be dangerous, so please be careful. There are many ways to make a fire, but I’m going to teach you the style I use the most.

The Log Cabin Campfire

Burning_House

Not quite like this…

Step #1

You’re going to want a bunch of small narrow pieces of wood or small branches/sticks about the size of a thick pencil.

Twigs Cut Logs

You won’t need this many, but a big handful or two would be great!

 

Step #2

Stack the pieces up like a log cabin. Make sure there is a good sized gap in the middle. Try and have space for air to flow in.

Fire_safety

 

Step #3

Place something flammable in the middle, like paper or tinder.

Tinder

This is real tinder.

Step #4

Make sure you have small twigs nearby. Light the tinder, then add as much tinder or paper as you need to get the log cabin burning.

 

Step #5

Keep slowly adding bigger sticks to keep the fire going and increase the size.

Campfire

Make sure you have a fire extinguisher or bucket of water nearby, in case your fire gets out of hand. Now it’s time to sit back, relax, make some s’mores, and enjoy your fire!

Tip: Good air flow is the key to keeping a fire going

 

By Cam “Scruffy” Cottrell

NVOSAS Headshot Board

Snowshoe Guide studying Outdoor Recreation Management at Capilano University

Member at Large, Scholarship Director – NVOSAS

 

Loves puns and making funny faces.