A Walk in the woods with Frank Ritcey and Hugh Marshall

A Walk in the woods with Frank Ritcey and Hugh Marshall
by Barbara Sherriff, 16 September 2016.

Sixteen members of the Malaspina Naturalists joined Frank Ritcey (Wildsafe BC coordinator) and Hugh Marshall (forester) for an interesting and educational walk along the Millennium Trails at the rear of the Recreation Complex.

Things we learnt included:

  • Bear bells attract bears rather than repel them (a.k.a. dinner bells)
  • Whistles can sound like distressed small animals and attract bears
  • Bear spray deters bears, cougars and wolves even if you don’t hit the animal. Do not walk in the woods without a can
  • Bears dig up rotting stumps or mud wasp nests to look for larvae leaving holes in the ground
  • Bears drag garbage bags into a “staging area” in the woods to enjoy it in peace
  • Conifer species vary in their light requirements, which influence the structure of the forest. Hemlock and cedar, for example, tolerate shade and commonly come in under the more light-demanding Douglas fir and broadleaved species.
  • If a bear is huffing and puffing, it is being defensive
  • If a bear is coming towards you quietly (stalking like a cat), it could be considering eating you
  • Cougars only attack weak prey so always fight back if attacked
  • spit bugs should be called fart bugs as the air inside the bubbles does not come from their mouths
  • Slugs have just one asymmetric breathing hole on the right side of their head
  • Trees can control the local water table aggressively pulling up water from a wide area.
  • Cutting down trees will change the water table considerably
  • Sapsuckers feed on both the sap and the bugs that come to feed on the sap oozing out of holes that they have drilled in a tree

Frank Ritcey – “Staying safe on both sides of the glass”

Frank Ritcey – “Staying safe on both sides of the glass”
by Andrew Bryant, 15
 September 2016.

Frank Ritcey  was raised in the wilds of Wells Gray Provincial Park, and like his parents became a lifelong naturalist and conservationist. He works for WildSafe BC, is heavily involved with the Kamloops Naturalists Club, and spends much of his time filming, teaching and guiding.

Frank began with a beautiful film of grassland wildlife to introduce his topic: how can we minimize impacts on the wildlife we observe, and keep ourselves safe at the same time?    He discussed things like how to avoid being bitten by a rattlesnake (“for starters, don’t poke it with a stick”) or eaten by a cougar (“stand tall and fight back”).

He also highlighted the Wildlife Alert Reporting Program (WARP) , which logs wildlife-human encounters in BC.   Data reveal that Powell River is home to black bears and, as Pogo said, “we have met the enemy and he is us“.  Poor garbage management, unpicked fruit, and attractants such as bird feeders are at the root of most bear problems – and all too often it is the bear that pays.

And what if you’re out in the woods?  Bear-bells and bear-bangers are now considered passé, it seems.  Pepper spray is recommended.  But experts also recommend that you ensure that your can of pepper-spray is not past its expiry date, that you know how to use it – and that it’s not buried in the bottom of your pack when you need it!

We’ve have some good speakers over the years, and some talented photographers.  But in what must be a first for our club, we ended the evening with a rousing chorus of moose-calling…seriously.

Not to be missed.

But if you did, Frank has posted an appropriate YouTube video.