MAN VS. BEAST: In the wake of elk shooting, a link to our spring feature on Ottawa’s struggle to come up with an effective wildlife strategy

By Ron Corbett

Forget about coyote sightings in Nepean and moose on the loose in Bell’s Corners. Forget about fishers dining on house pets in West Carleton and black bears meandering down Moodie Drive. For that matter, forget about beavers, white-tailed deer, the elusive eastern Ontario cougar, eels caught in a water filtration plant below Parliament Hill, and turkeys terrorizing senior citizens in Barrhaven. If you really want to know how plentiful and absurd wildlife stories can be in Ottawa, start with a robin.

Despite its geographic location, the city currently does not have a wildlife strategy — or a single worker tasked to handle wildlife strategies. Illustration by Anthony Tremmaglia.

Actually, let’s back up a little and start with a chipping sparrow. In June of last year, sightings of chipping sparrows along Holmwood Avenue sparked a row between some Glebe residents and a contractor hired to remove a stand of trees at Lansdowne Park as part of the redevelopment of the park. Chipping sparrows are migratory birds and, as such, are protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act. According to the residents, if chipping sparrows were living in those trees, then work at Lansdowne had to stop.

To make their point, they chained themselves to trees, gave media interviews, and taped pages from the Dr. Seuss book The Lorax to a fence. Only when it was pointed out to them that chipping sparrows nest in bushes, not trees, did the residents unchain themselves and go home. Surprisingly, no one from the City of Ottawa was able to diffuse the situation. That’s because the city has not a single worker tasked to handle wildlife issues — lots of bylaw officers, but not a single biologist.

Anyway, back to that stand of trees. After the chipping sparrows left, a cardinal’s nest was found. A cardinal is also a migratory bird. Again, it looked as though work at Lansdowne was going to stop until, over the course of several days of round-the-clock surveillance of the nest, no cardinal appeared. (more…)