If you have ever hunted ptarmigan, Dave Mossop’s recent remarks should have made your breath catch in your throat.
The plump birds aren’t rebounding like they should.
Mossop has been beguiled by the birds since he was 12. Today, he’s one of the world’s leading experts on them.
And he’s chronicled their 10-year cycle, watching as the population waxed and waned.
We should see them flapping back to record strength. But they’re not.
Their regular population pulse has steadily been weakening. This latest peak is more like a flatline.
This is a problem for more than ptarmigan.
In the boreal forest, gyrfalcon populations mirror the ptarmigan cycle. The raptors eat ptarmigan. When there aren’t any, the gyrfalcons don’t breed.
Also, lynx and rabbit numbers are lower than expected.
So what’s causing the problem?
Mossop believes snowmobiles are playing a role, disrupting all manner of wildlife.
But that doesn’t explain it all. He suspects climate change is altering the landscape in ways we haven’t yet begun to fathom.
Other bird populations are also disappearing, he added.
And government spends almost nothing studying these trends.
Compare the money allocated to the Environment Department to that given to Energy, Mines and Resources – industry receives twice the cash.
And, with mining exploration going bonkers, helicopter time is at a premium. And Mossop needs helicopters to study gyrfalcons. These days, it’s more expensive to rent them and he hasn’t got much money to do it in the first place.
Again, research takes a hit.
Is there any mention of global warming in this federal election campaign? It’s off the radar.
Yet there’s still tons of jibber-jabber amongst hunting folk about the long-gun registry. It’s staggering how much anger simple paperwork can elicit.
Of course, it would be helpful if this lobby put one-tenth of the energy they squander yammering about the registry lobbying for resources for wildlife and ecosystem research – into trying to figure out ways to save coveted prey.
Because, in the end, their unregistered guns are going to look mighty fine in their racks, covered in dust and unused because there’s nothing left to track in the now barren boreal forest.