REPORTING · 7th September 2011
When the Conservation Officers finished their presentation at Kitimat City Council, Tuesday, September 6, they got up to leave the Council Chambers. However, Mayor Joanne Monaghan got up to reel them back in, requesting they stay for another presentation. After the Rotary Club of Kitimat spoke to the upcoming day of peace, Curzio Miani got up to address Council. It was not Council he addressed however; he turned and addressed the Conservation Officers.
“In all my history here, I’ve never heard or seen wolverines running through our town the way they are now. I’ve personally lost three cats and I think some people are laughing. It’s a big joke. They’re property in the eyes of the law, I realize that, but they mean something to me. We phoned and asked them for help, they’re not going to help. They told my wife, the problems over, it’s ok, fine, we’ve lost two cats since then. Some of our neighbours have been kept awake by the wolverine in our back yard,” said Miani.
“This is not normal. I don’t know why you say they’re not aggressive and there is no report about them being aggressive when I have an aggressive action on part of the wolverine. I have a letter here from Anna Marie Carstens and she’s the one who had the personal experience with the Wolverine,” said Miani.
Sergeant Darryl Struthers stated he had a copy of the letter. Miani accused him of lying to Council on those grounds. Struthers promised to respond when Miani was finished. He said he was trying to keep his cats in. He takes care of them but he does not know what to do as they do not always come in at night.
“You don’t sound concerned on the phone, you are dismissive, it’s a big joke. They are not dangerous according to you. I personally do not believe that. I would like to hear what you want to say about that,” said Miani.
Struthers stated they and the RCMP have interviewed him after the attack happened. “Based on the interviews that we had with Mr. Carstons, and I personally spoke to Mr. Carstons. Based on the interviews we received from him, the wolverine did not act aggressively or threatening towards them,” said Struthers.
Miani asked if it was ok for the Wolverine to kill cats. Struthers pointed out Kitimat is surrounded by greenbelts. A responsible pet owner would not let their animal at large for the cat to prey on wildlife, the wildlife will prey on the cat.
In the background of this discussion, Councillor Gerd Gottschling was asking the Mayor if this should be allowed to proceed. Among the responses was ‘this was on the Council Agenda’.
In the meantime, Miani was saying the wildness was his backyard, the neighbour’s back yard and the park across from his house. “Can I say that then, because you made a statement, if my cat is outside, it is assumed to be hunting. Can I assume that if the wolverine is outside, it is hunting and then the hunter can become the hunted, is this what I am to assume?” asked Miani.
Struthers said he did not say that. Monaghan called for this not to become personal. Miani said he was trying not to be personal but it seemed to be ok for wolverines to run wild. After all, his father was a pioneer in the community and the wolverines have never been in Kitimat in the past.
It was suggested they were controlled by trappers and now the price of Wolverine Fur has dropped, the wolverines are no longer being trapped. The wolverines have moved into the town and they have found an easy food source, just like the bears. Miani pointed out they shoot the bears.
Struthers stated it was due to public safety. Monaghan finally stopped the exchange claiming this was beyond what can happen in Council. Miani apologized as he was upset. He then said he felt as if the community was on their own.
“What we ask the public to do is provide us with accurate and timely information and […] we have received reports that, at first 40 cats have disappeared. Then we heard 70 cats. Then we heard fifty cats had disappeared. Then it went to 80, then it went to 100. So, we do not have the complaints that back up this wolverine predating on cats,” said Struthers.
Sheila Eynon, who was sitting in the audience, stated they have done that.
Struthers explained the green spaces attracted wildlife to the community and some of this wildlife would be predators, foxes, Coyotes, wolverines or bears. “If you allow the potential prey source to go out into the wild, you can, in turn, expect wildlife to prey on that. It sounds pretty simplistic, but it’s really that simple. If you want to be a responsible pet owner, you have to look after your pet. If you are letting your pet wander off for two, three nights at a time and then come home, that pet is at risk. I’m sorry, but that is not my choice, that is the pet owner’s choice,” said Struthers.
Monaghan asked if this meant there was no hope of trapping the wolverines, they will just be allowed to run around. Struthers replied there is no threat to public safety based on the information they have right now. He said he was not a wildlife manager, he was a law enforcement officer with a job to protect the public. The Wolverines do not present a threat to public safety and there is no record of a wolverine attacking a person. It is natural for the Wolverines to occupy the habitat they do around Kitimat.
Councillor Randy Halyk stated the Council meeting did not seem like the right place for this exchange to take place. Monaghan said she had asked for any inquiries. Halyk pointed out this was for inquiries to Council, not to an individual.
“It has always been that way Councillor. I’m sorry, it does not change because you do not want it,” said Monaghan.
In the meantime, Eynon had taken to the podium. She supported what Miani had said. She said she was a part of the Bear Committee as was Monaghan and Maryanne Baumbach. They helped usher through the bylaws. Politics got into the committee and someone charged Monaghan with having a squirrel feeder. Apparently there are lots of squirrel feeders in Kitimat.
“The wolverine was seen on Albatross three times last week. We know we’ve never had trouble with it before. Never. I’ve given you all the details and you have pictures of it disintegrated the front of my cushion and left its trail on my yard. It was like a long piece of intestine,” said Eynon referring to the a damage chair cushion and the excrement the animal left behind.
She said they [the CO’s] were short staffed and they have contacted Victoria trying to get more. Eynon expressed she loved the wildlife, the dear, “the everything”. However, she does not want them killing the cats.
She pointed out the Carsten’s cat was taken right from their front lawn. She pointed out two bears got caught in the trap and were destroyed. She said they did not want the bears killed because of the wolverine. When they caught the young wolverine, the older one came back and kept the neighbourhood up.
She asked for help and said they were willing to help them get more staff. She wanted to know why the wolverine was here in Kitimat after all these years. She also accused people in the community who don’t like cats of: “Jumping on the wolverine bandwagon.”
“It’s a joke to lots of people. It’s not a joke,” said Eynon. “We would like help and if we cannot get it, we should try and help the conservation officers. We should work together to try and get help to get some of the answers.”
Monaghan thanked the Conservation Officers for listening and thanked them for their presentation. Monaghan stated this would let them know how people in the town feel. They want something to be done. She added she has not seen this before. Monaghan invited them to stay and see what happens with their motion.
Halyk put two cents in. “I’m a little concerned about all of this. I don’t think this is something that should have happened in the corner of a Council Chamber. I don’t know. I’ve never seen this before, I’ve only been here for three years but I’ve never seen this before; people arguing in the corner of the Council Chamber. I do understand that this is a really visceral kind of feeling. There are concerns in the community about losing an animal, a pet. We all lose pets now and again and it hurts, but we are in the forest. My neighbour just had a porcupine quill their dog. Do we kill all the porcupines because the dogs are in danger? I don’t think so. I really feel that we need to go beyond looking at this as animals going out there and eating our pets. I think that our pets are important to us, they are to me and I wouldn’t like to lose a pet but at the same time, I don’t want to lose the wildlife in this community. If there was no wildlife, I wouldn’t be there,” said Halyk.
Monaghan said she did not want to see any conflict between the wolverines and a child. She did not want to see it happen in her community. Monaghan also hoped the next time she called the Conservation Officers, they would answer.
Baumbach stated during the meeting there were 103 cats missing but one did return home.
don't worry Maggie
Comment by Apocalypse Now on 11th September 2011
I hope she is more succesful getting another Conservation officer than she did with hiring a Bear whisperer.lol
Thanks for the info...
Comment by MaggieJo on 11th September 2011
'VERY good information provided by contributors to this story. Thx for that.
PS - Word on the schtreet is that the Mayor of Kitimat is petitioning for an extra CO to work in the area of Kitimat where there seem to be above-average call-outs in regards to wild animals roaming the neighborhoods. 'Might be a good idea to secure another CO in that regard who is apprised on how to professionally handle these types of situations.
Comment by max on 9th September 2011
I agree with the comments about not letting your cat roam. I am a cat owner who will not let my cats out at night. They go out in the morning and that is it. I do not like it when cats are fighting outside my house at night, spraying on my outdoor furniture, and such. I also know that if my cats do go outside, they are prey to other animals. Also domestic cats are noted as being the worst for preying on things. They are domestic cats and should not have a need to kill when they go outside, but how many times have you seen a cat with a mouse, bird, squirrel in its mouth. Domestic cats don't need to kill as they are feed by humans, they just like to kill. So people if you let your cats outside it's prey for something bigger. It is not up to the conservation officers to look after your pets, it is up to you. You also live in the north with forest all around. Maybe these poor wolverines would have stayed where they were before, but us humans have chased them out with our logging and expansions of territory. Remember people of Kitimat, animals were here first before us, so get use to it. Yes I would hate to see a human get hurt, but I believe the only way that would have is if you let your young children outside and do not watch them too!!
Comment by c. sandecki on 9th September 2011
Thanks, TS, for this excellent website. Lots of interesting info.
MaggieJo, these excerpts from TS's website may offer some explanation for why wolverines are suddenly prevalent in Kitimat:
The most difficult times for wolverines are during mild winters, when survival rates of ungulates such as
moose, caribou, and elk are high and therefore carrion may be in short supply.
Most study animals maintained different areas of activity in different seasons,
and range boundaries were not necessarily the same from year to year for each individual, likely
reflecting differences in local food availability over time.
Wolverine populations consist of a stable core of adults with distinct home ranges (residents),
and varying numbers of less established animals referred to as transients. Transient wolverines are
mostly dispersing young, but may also include older animals that have abandoned their home ranges
because of injury, old age, or inadequate food supplies. Males are more mobile than females and
are more common in the transient class. Transients are less secure than residents, often travelling in
unfamiliar terrain. They are more regularly exposed to extreme hunger and are generally the most
likely to encounter trap sets or to come into conflict with humans.
an individual having difficulty finding food may travel well beyond the boundaries of its usual area of activity. There is
also some evidence that adult females may undertake a period of extensive travel in late January
and early February, in search of a suitable den site and/or reliable food source (e.g., an ungulate
carcass) in preparation for producing and supporting the young.
In addition to normal movements within and temporary excursions from established home
ranges, transient wolverines may travel longer distances in search of vacant home range areas.
Link to BC Gov Study on Woverines
Comment by TS on 8th September 2011
Below is a link to the recent study done on Woverine in BC. There is alot of information that can help people to understand the animal and how to handle the situation. The Conservation guys should have this information, one Wolverine can take down a caribou - I think cats are just the beginning.
Comment by c. sandecki on 8th September 2011
Thank you for your kind comments.
So far I cannot locate my original research notes. I recall reading about a caribou study being done in some ?northeastern part of B.C. where Wildlife was trying to count their numbers and conclude why their population was dwindling.
As part of their scientific study, they had built a wolverine trap resembling a doghouse with one side of the roof propped up so that when the wolverine took the bait the roof dropped down trapping the animal inside.
I believe they were taking blood tests and hair samples for DNA, but I cannot truly remember the details. They were trying to figure out what role, if any, wolverines played in the smaller caribou population.
I learned wolverines are solitary animals, for the most part, each one ranging over a vast territory and traveling many miles every night in search of food. They largely eat carrion, stealing carcasses from other animals. Kits stay with their mothers for perhaps two years before going off to claim their own range.
They are wily, sneaky, travel swiftly on snow so they can tire out a caribou. Under normal conditions, they are seldom sighted.
I'm no expert by any means but my sense is keeping cats in might discourage them and they might return to the woods
I spoke by phone to a wildlife biologist. I think he was stationed in Prince George. He explained the study to me and satisfied my curiosity about the special trap.
Somewhere here yesterday I read a comment by a Professor Charles Xavier of Westchester County, New York offering advice on wolverines. I googled him. He seems to be connected to Marvel Comics, so I'm not sure how much help he might be.
Catch & Release...
Comment by MaggieJo on 8th September 2011
To: C Sandecki
I LOVE your posts on Terrace Daily, by the way. You tend to join in conversation in good researched form; along with personal experience to boot!
RE: My enquiry about catch & release - I realize it is not legal to catch/release cats to a different location, but I was curious if homeowners were free to do so with wolverines. But then...who the heck wants to take DAT chance of potential injury, heh? Not me!
It seems that the Kitimat residents are extremely frustrated and I fear they may start taking matters into their own hands, which could cause potential personal injury/ liability claim suits in the interim.
In your research of Wolverines...was there any "control" information you came across? 'Might be good to share your researched knowledge with the Council of Kitimat. It wouldn't hurt, heh?
But, even so...we must remember that Kitimat is a slightly "remote" wilderness area...and wild animals WILL continue to frequent the area in search of food. Would you by any chance have any input into why there is a rise in wolverine activity in that area this year?
This story is very intriguing. I hope the rise of wolverine activity doesn't upset the balance of the natural wildlife/domesticated animals in the area.
Thanks for contributing your comments C Sandecki.
Catch and releasing wolverines
Comment by c. sandecki on 8th September 2011
I once researched wolverines for an article I was writing. I learned a wolverine will burrow in the snow and take down a passing elk by attacking it from underneath. Yet Kitimat cat owners are thinking of trapping this animal and releasing it? Dream on.
I doubt they could buy or construct a trap to hold a wolverine for more than five minutes. And if they did trap it, how would they move and release it? Think Tasmanian Devil here.
If I lived in Kitimat and had a cat I cared about, I would keep my cat indoors all day every day.
People who own dogs would thank you. Cats prowl, causing outdoor dogs to bark, getting dog owners in trouble.
To discourage bears, residents are asked to remove attractants like garbage and fruit.
To discourage wolverines, restrict their access to cats, an easy food source.
catch and release
Comment by MaggieJo on 8th September 2011
I realize it is not legal for homeowners to catch and release cats to a different location, but are homeowners permitted to catch and release wild animals like these wolverines?
I presume they would be liable for any personal injuries.
Are you three kidding me?
Comment by TS on 7th September 2011
I don't usually comment on other people's comments however: I am stunned at the attitude demonstrated below. I have seen these same people comment on many other articles and didn't much like what they have to say but, I kept my mouth shut. Not on this one.
This is differrent. It is cruel to speak as you have below. Wait until someones child gets attacked then revisit your comments and see how it looks and feels to eat your words.
A good start? Shame on you. To me, you are no different than a person who harms animals, just as far as we know, so far, it is only with your words. These are people's pets. When pets are prey, next always comes kids. Give your head a shake!
Comment by One who votes on 7th September 2011
I think the wolverine should run for Mayor. I am sure it could conduct meetings with the respect and decorum that has been lacking, it would solve the irresponsible domestic pet problem we have, be a great tourist attraction and have a great presence at meetings outside the community.
Comment by Mr. Peters on 7th September 2011
Are they naturally this stupid or are they giving out classes in Kitimat? What do you call 103 cats missing in Kitimat? A small start. Come one people, if you are dumb enough to let your cat wonder around the neighborhood, crapping in people's yards, marking their territory, etc...., and then you are shocked that fluffy became a meal for someone higher on the food chain, really?
If you guys are going to live trap it and rent it out were is the waiting list as I want to place my name on it.
Apparently you can not fix stupid.
I don't want to sound heartless but.......
Comment by Searle on 7th September 2011
Domestic cats are the one single largest group of predators of North Americas small wild birds. How often have you seen cat owners who are responsible and bell their cats?? Cat owners seem to feel entirely free to let their cats out at night to claw up and crap in their neighbours gardens. Cat owners do not even have to purchase pet licences from their city even though cats are the overwhelming majority in the local animal shelters. I think that these Wolverines are a god send. Kitimat could make a bundle by live trapping them and selling them to less fortunate cities.............like Terrace.