Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The (Western) Bluebird of Happiness

The Bluebird of Happiness might be winging its way to your home next spring and what a sad experience it would be if they could not find a suitable nesting site in which to raise a nest full of happiness.
Last year, during the first annual Metchosin BioBlitz on April 30, a pair of western bluebirds were spotted in the highlands of North Metchosin, after a twenty-seven year absence. As the female had food in her beak, it is hoped that these were a breeding pair. Building on that sighting, GOERT (Garry Oak Ecosystem Recovery Team) has initiated a Bluebird Recovery program in Metchosin. 
Western bluebirds, which were once common on southern Vancouver Island and nearby areas of Washington and Oregon, are thought to have suffered catastrophic declines from a combination of factors: loss of Garry oak habitat (over 95% gone), removal of standing dead trees (which supply cavities for nesting), reduction of insect prey from pesticide use, and competition for nest holes from exotic and aggressive birds, particularly starlings and English house sparrows. Changes in agricultural practices are thought to be another factor, with mechanization - ploughing and harvesting can be done right to the fence line, thereby removing the hedgerows that are critically important for berries and as habitat for their insect food source.
In the last few years there has been a successful reintroduction program in the San Juan Islands and it is possible that the birds seen and photographed last year were a pair from that program.
Western bluebirds are members of the thrush family. They are insectivores, usually hunting for grubs, cutworms, grasshoppers and other insects from their perch in the branches, swooping down to capture their prey on the ground, where they will also search for earthworms and ants. They are not so proud that they wouldn’t accept any insect that comes within reach though. They will sometimes hold their prey in their beaks and beat them against the ground, a crude but effective tenderizing process? In the winter, as their insect prey hibernates, they turn to fruits and berries.
In our area they have historically been found in sparsely forested ridges as well as open plant communities; grassy and herbaceous fields; weedy, logged or burned forests; farms; Garry oak woodlands and log-strewn or stony beaches. The birds reported recently were on a sparsely treed, open ridge.
The western bluebird male has a deep blue hood and upper parts, a chestnut coloured breast and a grey belly. The female’s head and back are brownish grey, wings and tail are light blue, breast a pale reddish brown and belly and undertail a dull white. She also spots a whitish eye-ring.
Start looking for them to arrive from their winter holidays around mid-February through the first week of April, with nesting happening mid-April through May, with a possible second brood after that. They use natural cavities that are two to six metres above ground and line them chiefly with grass and bits of conifer needles, fur, string and cedar strips; gently protecting the (usually) 5 pale blue eggs. They are considered monogamous…but someone is sneaking in or out as approximately 45% of nests have juveniles of mixed parentage. Hmmmm, doing their part to keep the gene pool strong I guess. Both the male and female share the chore of feeding the young but it is up to mom to offer the comfort of her warm feathers when they are being brooded. Sometimes siblings from the first clutch will help raise second brood.…Amazingly, violet green swallows have been known to feed western bluebird chicks and help defend nests.
GOERT is offering some free nest boxes to residents who have the appropriate habitat for western bluebirds. If you feed birdseed and consequently have many house sparrows or if you have outdoor cats, then your property might not be the best location for a nest box. The nest box holes are sized so that they are right for the bluebirds and starlings can’t enter, but house sparrows can and will attack and kill the mother and babies and usurp the nest for themselves. Grey squirrels can be a problem too.
If you do find the bluebird of happiness tweeting from your trees or hunting in your hedgerows, please contact GOERT immediately.
Interested in learning more about the Western Bluebird Nest Box program? Contact or 250-478-3838  or GOERT at 250-383-3427 or  or go to their website at

You can learn their song at:

Monday, August 15, 2011

First Annual Metchosin BioBlitz 2011

Comandra umbellata (Bastard Toadflax)

What is more fun than Christmas, Easter and Halloween combined? The First Annual Metchosin BioBlitz, held on Saturday, April 30th, would easily compete for my favourite day of the year.
Is anything more exciting than waking to the first sunny day in a long, long time and sharing it with dozens of equally delighted scientists, naturalists and residents as you engage in a treasure hunt of immense proportions?
Metchosin District lies within one of the rarest forest ecosystems in Canada, the Coastal Douglas-fir forest, a component of which are our endangered Garry oak and associated ecosystems. For many years some of us have waged a stealthy campaign to painlessly impart knowledge of the biodiversity and importance of the natural ecosystems and native species of Metchosin to its residents. To that end there have been dozens of Talk and Walk (natural history) events, newspaper articles, a booth at our annual Metchosin Day fair, school walks and myriad other efforts aimed at developing an enthusiasm and appreciation for our wild areas and species, which we hope will in turn foster a culture of stewardship.
A BioBlitz is a 24 hour recording frenzy of all living species within a certain area. In 1996, at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Washington, DC, Sam Droege and Dan Roddy conducted the first modern BioBlitz and the concept has been gaining popularity since then. Whistler had its first BioBlitz in 2007.
Without significant funding from any level of government in the foreseeable future, the responsibility falls upon landowners and residents to provide protection of habitat. Unfortunately, most people can’t name even twenty of the native species with which they share their community, let alone understand the complexities of the interrelationships that comprise ecological communities.  BioBlitzes and similar events help landowners and residents to put names to species; knowing the names awakens in us a comprehension of the non-human species that live in our communities.
Andy MacKinnon, raconteur, author of many field guides, and fungophile (Andy puts in fun in fungus), Kem Luther, author, computer whiz (, and talented amateur botanist and teacher, and myself, self confessed keener and incessant prodder, organized the Metchosin BioBlitz. Both Andy and Kem have been involved in the Whistler BioBlitz in previous years and we were eager to craft a “made in Metchosin” version of this event.
Partnering with CRD Parks, The Metchosin Foundation and the District of Metchosin, our first BioBlitz was a huge success as we recorded 850 species, including 325 species of vascular plants, 60 mosses, 14 liverworts, 60 lichens, 71 fungi, 28 algae, 4 amphibians, 5 reptiles, 110 birds, 2 fishes, 5 mammals and 166 invertebrates. Of these 13 were blue-listed and 6 red-listed species. There are many more species to be recorded in future fun-filled BioBlitzes, but even this beginning list demonstrates the diversity and abundance of our wild neighbours to local residents.
It was interesting to note the breadth of knowledge of many of our 60+ experts. It was a birder who found a rare plant, a botanist who found the exciting rare bird sighting and two mycologists who found the rare slugs…
For those participants who had the desire and stamina, Hans Roemer led a dedicated multidisciplinary team on an all day foray into the Metchosin hinterlands and Sugarloaf Mountain. They came back with an impressive list of more than 225 species.
Botanically speaking, the highlight of the day had to be the sighting of Viola praemorsa ssp praemorsa (yellow montane violet), a red-listed species.  Found within a local regional park, it was the first record ever of this delightful little violet in Metchosin. Sitting demurely by the edge of a path, with only a few yellow flowers to mark its location, a violet-eyed birder was the first to spy this gem.
Red-listed Grindelia hirsutula var hirsutula (hairy gumweed) was found on some rocky outcrops at higher elevations. It can sometimes be found in association with Orobanche californica ssp. californica (California broomrape), although this broomrape species doesn’t make an appearance until July and August.
Limnanthes macounii (Macoun’s meadowfoam), a diminutive annual linked forever in my mind with Adolf and Oluna Ceska, was another red-listed species spied during the day.
Allium amplectens (slimleaf onion) was recorded at one site, but only because the recorders knew where to look. Examples of this blue-listed species would be quite a challenge to find so early in the season, long before the emergence of their distinctive flowers.
Allium amplectans (Slimleaf onion)
Blue-listed Pseudocyphellaria crocata (yellow specklebelly lichen) made the day for Daryl Thompson, the lichen expert, who was overjoyed at his good fortune at being able to add this species to his life list.
The second Metchosin record for the semiparasitic Comandra umbellata var californica (bastard toadflax) was also identified during a walk along the shoreline of Parry Bay. It is widespread but not common throughout the province, except on Vancouver Island where it has a very limited occurrence.
Youngest ever found blue-grey taildropper
(Photo by Adolf Ceska)
Very young, tiny, blue-grey taildroppers (Prophysaon coeruleum) were found nestled within a hollow mushroom, perhaps giving researchers a new glimpse into the habits and habitats of these elusive slugs. Rare mollusks were also represented by a threaded vertigo (Nearctula sp.), a minute snail (less than 3 mm), that resides in rich, mature second growth and old growth mixed conifer and deciduous forests.
The spider brigade claimed they found the most exciting species of the day with two unique spiders. The finding of Nesticus sylvestrii was only the second record of this species on Vancouver Island and the first since 1930. Coreorgonal petulcus, which has a very peculiar head, even for a spider, has only been recorded three or four times before.
The birders were also crowing about their find, a pair of western bluebirds (Sialia mexicana), whose Georgia Depression population is red-listed. The female had some food in her beak, so the hope is that they are a nesting pair. Western bluebirds are occasionally seen migrating through in February but their appearance in late April gives further credence to the possibility they are raising a family. The last nesting western bluebirds on Vancouver Island  were seen over thirty years ago. Our American neighbours have reintroduced them to the San Juan Islands and it is possible these birds ventured onto our island from those successful releases.  
Western Bluebird
(photo by Jeremy Gatten)
From the ordinary to the extraordinary, discovering the treasures of your natural communities can increase the awareness and appreciation of their value and encourage stewardship of our wild lands. Plans are already afoot for Metchosin’s second BioBlitz on May 5, 2012, when stalking will be an accepted activity.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Winged Wonders of Metchosin - Butterflies of Metchosin

Two-banded Checkered Skipper

Flamboyantly garbed or mutely camoflauged, butterflies evoke a sense of delight…..Butterflies have become an pleasurable interest of mine over the past few years, although learning their identification has been a challenge. Understanding their complex life cycles, their needs and preferences, has broadened my understanding of the interrelationships between plants and animals and our place in their ability to survive.
James Miskelly, biologist and entomologist (bug guy), was the guest speaker at the April Talk and Walk, presenting beautiful photographs of our local Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), while informing us of their multiple stages of life and the difficulties they must overcome in order to successfully produce succeeding generations of these lovely creatures..
There are sixty-eight species of butterflies on Vancouver Island, fifty-five of which are resident, three non-native and seven migratory. Thirty species have been recorded at my home on Camas Hill, although I have only seen twenty-six myself. Three other species are termed accidental, meaning they have arrived here by accident and soon left. Monarchs are one of these, they don’t naturally occur here, as their host plants, members of the milkweed family, are absent from Vancouver Island. Monarchs do occasionally show up, the result of a faulty guidance system, a severe storm or perhaps just an individual butterfly with a sense of adventure….
In 1884, George W. Taylor remarked on the extreme abundance of butterflies in the Victoria area, writing that “nearly forty species may be recorded as abundant”. Dr. James Fletcher noted in 1901 “the dead butterflies may be seen in vast numbers, floating on the sea around Vancouver Island (probably Pine Whites) or thrown up along the beach in windrows sometimes an inch or two deep”.
What has changed to bring us to the severely reduced numbers and species we have today? One of the reasons is likely the change in the landscape, the conversion of  grasslands and forests to urban, industrial and agricultural uses and the loss of micro and macro habitats; climate change might be having an impact as well.
Most adult butterflies have short lives. Once they emerge from their cocoons they generally have only a week or two to find a partner and reproduce. The temperature at which they can fly must be at least 10-12Âșc and they don’t do rain-they are fair weather fliers. The female has to find just the right host plant on which to deposit her eggs. Host plants are the (often very specific) plant on which the young caterpillars feed and there must be enough of these plants, growing in the right conditions, in the sun, to ensure sufficient food for the caterpillars, until they are ready to pupate. Often with a late spring or early heat wave, the host plants are not in sync with the butterflies’ needs., they emerge late, dry up early, have poor bloom or sparse numbers. Nectar plants, the ones the adult butterflies use as a food source face the same requirements, they must be available at the right season with enough nectar to supply a butterfly’s nutritional needs. It’s a wonder any butterflies make it at all.. Rare butterflies, already struggling with low population numbers, can succumb to extinction rather quickly if there are a few bad years in succession. On top of all these factors, many, many other species think butterflies are a lovely meal. Birds eat them as both caterpillars and as adults; many butterflies have bits of their wings missing, showing near misses with a hungry bird. There are wasps who lay their eggs on living caterpillars, who will serve as meals to new generations of wasps. It’s a tough world out there for these gossamer winged beauties.
If you’re thinking that our cold, wet, grey springs lately might be hard on the early butterflies, you would be correct.
Moss' Elfin

One of our earliest flying butterflies is the Moss’ Elfin. With a wingspan of only 2 cm and cryptic brown colouration, it can be easy to miss. I have recorded them as early as late February, though more often in mid-March through to early May. This year they appeared in mid-April. This elfin is considered one of our less common species. It lays its eggs on the developing flower bud of our native broad-leaved stonecrop. The caterpillar must emerge, feed and pupate before the flowers are finished. In a year like this, when the elfins have been hiding under leaves, under rocks and in cracks in trees, waiting for weather in which they can fly, there is little time to complete their lifecycle. Stonecrop itself has been impacted by development, it grows on rocky outcrops and on cliff faces, areas which have seen a good deal of development in the last few decades. Deer, too, appreciate a tasty stonecrop morsel and the increase in deer and shortages in their food sources has put more pressure on stonecrop patches. When elfin populations have been decimated and their numbers are not abundant, there is a real possibility that these charming little butterflies might disappear forever.
Propertius Duskeywing
Propertius Duskeywing is another cryptically hued brown and grey butterfly that is in flight in April and May. It is a Garry oak obligate, meaning that is the only food source for its caterpillars. These butterflies are considered threatened, with rapidly declining populations. As you look around the Victoria area you might wonder why as there are still many oak trees in yards and parks. Unfortunately for the little Propertius Duskeywing, its caterpillars like to attach their cocoons to a leaf and overwinter in the leaf fall at the base of the trees. With our propensity for tidy lawns and yards, the caterpillars are raked into piles and sent to the compost or burn pile. The adult butterflies that have been fortunate enough to survive in a natural area, untouched by rake and lawnmower, don’t realize the danger of leaving the parks and venture out to any likely Garry oak, most of which suffer the indignities of our too tidy complex. If you are so fortunate to share your home with Garry oaks, please resist the urge to rake and burn….it’s easier on you and better for the butterflies. Go read a book instead.
Anise Swallowtail
One of the more common species in Metchosin are the swallowtails. Large and strikingly coloured, they are sometimes misidentified as Monarchs, although the species are much different. We have three species of swallowtails in Metchosin and the Anise can be distinguished from the others by the wide, dark band of scales across their upper wings. Flying in early April, it can be found in open, rocky areas, searching for springold, Indian consumption plants and cow parsnip, three native members of the carrot family. The Anise can have another generation during the summer, and as the rocky outcrops dry and the plants wither, they will seek out fennel and a variety of cultivated carrot family species on which to lay their eggs. Most gardeners remove them as pests, not realizing the beautiful Anise butterfly waits inside it’s less lovely young. 
2nd Instar Anise Swallowtail
The very juvenile, small caterpillars look like bird droppings, as they mature, they exhibit yellow spots, in their final stage they are a large green caterpillar with black bands in which there are yellow markings. Perhaps you can find it in your heart to reserve some of your carrots or fennel for these stunning butterflies (they only eat the leaves–not the roots).
Western Tiger Swallowtail
Pale Swallowtail
The large (7.6 cm) Western Tiger Swallowtails and their very similar Pale Swallowtail (9 cm) cousins can be seen in relative abundance from May through the summer and Westerns can be seen as late as September. The Tigers use native willows, bitter cherry and poplar while the Pales lay their eggs on red alders, Saskatoon, oceanspray and bitter cherry and both species use cultivated apple trees.
Spring Azure
Spring Azures are a small (2 cm), gloriously hued blue butterfly although it can be a rare experience to actually see the blue while the butterfly is at rest. Often their wings are held folded together above their body, with only the grey dotted undersides on display. They are common from April through early June and you can sometimes find a congregation of them sipping their mineral supplements at a mud puddle, hence the term mudpuddling. They lay their eggs on the buds of oceanspray, blueberry, spirea and red osier dogwood. According to Peterson’s First Guide to Caterpillars, the young are termed slug-like and are tended by ants for their honeydew. Having ants concerned about your welfare is a good strategy to keep predators at bay.
Lorquin's Admiral
Lorquin Admirals are usually found in edge habitats, often along hedgerows where they strongly defend their territory, males can be seen perched five metres apart, heroically ready to battle any and all intruders. These large (5.6-6.5 cm), striking, dark butterflies are brightly banded in white across their upper wings, with orange tips. From June through September, the females use willows, poplars and bitter cherry as well as orchard trees on which to lay their eggs. In the fall, the caterpillars (who appear a lot like bird droppings-another defensive measure) will roll a leaf around themselves, use their silk to attach the leaf to a branch (a better strategy than Propertius Duskeywings?) and prepare to spend the winter comfortably swinging in the breeze. If the days warm up sufficiently they will take the opportunity to graze. Adults will feed on nectar plants, fresh animal droppings and rotting fruit. I have observed them feeding on the few rotting plums the bears didn’t manage to eat…
Pine White
Pine Whites are a medium sized (4.5-5 cm) summer butterfly, superficially resembling the introduced Cabbage White. The Pine Whites have a dark border to the wings and are usually seen high in the canopy of Douglas-firs, their preferred host plant. One summer I spent quite a lot of time looking out a hospital window where I  enjoyed the slow, graceful ballet performed by the Pine Whites high amongst the trees.
Purplish Copper-female
Purplish Copper-male
Purplish Coppers on the other hand are small (2.5-3.5 cm), quick and known to be fearless, attacking larger butterflies that encroach on their territory. They are a widespread butterfly of the west.  Males and females have different colourations and sizes, the males are smaller and sport the purplish sheen that has given it their common name. The larger females are quite orange on their topwings and both sexes have a thin orange zigzag band across the bottom of their hindwings. Their host plants are sorrel, dock, smartweed and knotweed, many of which are weedy species. Purplish coppers can be found in a variety of habitats, preferring moist areas but also found on disturbed sites (the usual habitat of introduced and weedy species). They have two generations per year, and you can find them flying most of the summer with peaks in June and August.
Common Branded Skipper (ssp oregonia)
The Common Branded Skipper subspecies oregonia is a very rare, small, brown butterfly with white markings, known only from two remaining locations. One in Metchosin and another on the Peninsula. It’s host plant is believed to be some type of native grass, many of which have disappeared from the area, overwhelmed by invasive species such as broom, hairy cat’s ears and a multitude of introduced grasses. It generally flies in late July through early September , when nectar plants are in short supply-most having succumbed to drought. It will feed on pearly everlasting and our native asters as well as garden nectar plants.
I find butterflies a reason to get up in the morning, I wait in anticipation all winter for their return. The cold, wet springs that seem to be extending their season and the loss of habitat are reasons for concern for the survivability of even our more common butterflies, however stewardship options abound. Habitat protection is critical, preserving our remaining natural areas will allow butterflies and the plant species they use to continue to co-exist, especially important are open sunny areas, Garry oak woodlands and rocky hilltops. Restoration of habitat by removing broom and other invasive species supports biodiversity and allows the native plants that sustain butterflies to regain their hold on the landscape.
If you are a keen gardener, you could consider planting butterfly host and nectar plants. Butterflies seem to have a preference for nectar plants that are yellow or blue, save the reds for the hummingbirds. Plant in full sun, the butterflies will rarely venture into shade, and plant a succession of nectar bearing flowers, so there are always some plants for a stray butterfly to sip. Nectar plants should also supply nectar that is accessible, ones in which butterflies can reach the nectar with their proboscis (tongue), rhodos are useless to butterflies. The flowers also need to support the weight of the butterfly, very small flowers such as blue-eyed Mary are too minute even for a small butterfly. Some good nectar plants include asters, lilies and members of the pea family. If you have a lot of space and are unconcerned about being overrun by certain plants, both our native Douglas aster and pearly everlasting supply valuable summer and fall nectar for butterflies and many other species of insects. You will never be bored watching the flurry of winged activity around these flowers. 
Host plants also need to be planted in full sun and be large and dense enough to allow the development of the caterpillars, they can’t wither or be totally consumed before the larval development is complete.
Mylitta Crescent-female
Some butterflies appreciate patches of wet soil, for mudpuddling while others will welcome alternative food sources such as rotting fruit, sap, carrion and dung. A few species will overwinter as adults under shingles and loose pieces of bark.
These winged denizens of our open fields and wild lands have suffered severe reductions in their populations, for reasons beyond their control. Metchosin is fortunate to be home to some of the rarest species and with good stewardship we can hope to bring them back from the edge of extirpation (extinction on a local scale). Enjoy your summer and your butterflies!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Lives and Good Times of Northern River Otters

One of the most wonderful and memorable sights I have experienced was during a typical wet and chilly west coast day. With rain soaking through my clothes and water dripping off my nose - while remaining absolutely still - I watched entranced as a small group of three coastal river otters frolicked over and under logs at a creek along the shoreline of Parry Bay, Metchosin. For half an hour they chased each other, sliding into the creek, swimming under the logs and pouncing on each other for the sheer joy of the game. Only uncontrollable shivering and incipient pneumonia released me from viewing their playful antics.

Like watching youtube videos of cute kittens or listening to babies laugh, river otters make me smile, and I am delighted to find out that they are just what they seem, a group of otters out for a good time. Otters love to toboggan and slide on the stomachs - across ice or snow and down muddy banks. They dive for pebbles they throw in the water and they play with sticks and bits of floating flotsam. All this play is apparently the result of efficient foraging techniques that free up lots of disposable time.

Coastal river otters (Lontra canadensis) have not been well studied and new evidence is emerging about their habits, which are markedly different from their interior relatives. The dynamic environment in which they live and their ability to forage in both marine and fresh water, provides them with many food options. Most of their food is comprised of slow moving intertidal species such as sculpins, gunnels, rockfish and crabs, although they will eat almost anything, even blackberries have been observed as part of their diet.

The latest theory on why some otters congregate into groups is that they can then hunt fast moving prey more efficiently. Three otters have been observed dragging a large halibut onto the shore, a meal that a solitary otter, hunting alone, would be unlikely to acquire.

Although coastal otters spend much of their time in the marine environment, they need access to fresh water every day. Natal dens, where the young are born, are often located far from shore. One to six young (but usually only two to three) are born in late spring after a three month gestation, they are born blind and helpless and remain in the den for a month or more. They stay with the mother for half a year and sometimes until the next litter is born, as she teaches them hunting skills. The natal dens are separate from the regular den sites, which might hold a group of unrelated otters.

Outside the den, which can be found by following your nose, is a latrine. It is estimated there are latrine sites every 200-300 metres from Pedder Bay to Cadboro Bay. Otters use many communal latrine sites, which seem to function as an information exchange, where many aspects of an otter’s life is on olfactory display: from profiles on sex, age, kinship and status to territorial signals and foraging success as well as warnings to stay away or welcoming invitations. With continual status updates, the latrines serve as an otter’s version of Facebook.

Coastal river otters are the top predator in their environment and as such they maintain the ecological stability of that system. When a top predator is removed from a system, a drastic imbalance can occur. When cougars and wolves are gone, deer populations can increase to unsustainable levels and excessive amounts of vegetation can be destroyed, which can lead to further system instability (erosion for example). When sea otters were exterminated, sea urchin populations increased dramatically and they decimated kelp forests, which had been critical nurseries for juvenal fishes.

River otters along the Pacific Northwest coast are the only stable and healthy populations left on earth. Habitat degradation has been the major cause of decline, especially from pollution. Cait Nelson a masters student at UBC, has been studying the coastal river otters in this area, determining the impacts of the PCB polluted waters of the Victoria Harbour on their health. Her work focuses on the effects of PCB contamination on the otters, through study of the level of toxins in their systems, their genetics and stress levels. The research is done in a non-invasive manner by studying their feces, from which they can extract DNA. Already she has found that their home range is much smaller than was previously thought. Some otters stay within the harbour all the time and other otters along the coast might have territories of three to six km. This is markedly different from inland otters who must travel much farther, as food resources are less abundant.

Although otters can be a joy to watch, they are a smelly nuisance if they discover the perfect denning site under your house. The best way to protect yourself from sharing your home with otters is to wildlife proof your house before they arrive. At Albert Head, where there is an abundance of natural habitat, they still seem to prefer the comfort of urban living and den under some of the buildings.

Coastal river otters have been successful because they are a generalist species. As well as having the awww factor, they are adaptive, resourceful and flexible. Sometimes this leads them into conflict with people as they discover free fish at marinas, as they harvest crabs from traps and as they set up latrines on decks, and dens under buildings.

These charismatic and playful predators just want to have a good time and we can help to protect these important sentinels of ecosystem health by respecting the fact they are wild animals and by protecting the environments which sustain them.