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Region 3 - Shuswap

 

Don Trethewey - Kamloops and Disctrict Fish & Game Association

“We are a Fish & Game club but first and foremost we are a conservation club. This means we support wise use.”

 Don Trethewey, Kamloops and Disctrict Fish & Game Association.

 

Raised on a small farm on the Sunshine Coast, Don Trethewey was always surrounded by nature. His grandfather and uncle were active hunters and anglers and often took advantage of the abundance of fish and game access in the area. They were Don’s mentors and it should be of no surprise then that he grew up hunting, fishing, and eventually found himself in a career as a wildlife biologist. After retiring from the Canadian Wildlife Service in 1991, Don moved to Kamloops and immediately became involved in the Kamloops and District Fish & Game Association (KDF&GA).  Currently a director, he has been club president on three separate occasions. We sat down with Don to hear about some of the projects he and his club have been involved with over the years.

For decades, unmanaged public access to crown-land resulted in the spread of make-shift campgrounds on the shores of a number of lakes surrounding Kamloops.  These sites lacked proper sanitary facilities, boat launches, and fire pits and meant that campers were having a detrimental impact on the surrounding ecosystem.  To counteract this, the KDF&GA partnered with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to create formal campsites complete with fire pits, picnic tables, sanitary facilities, and a proper boat launch. While the Ministry provided permits and some materials and equipment, the KDF&GA provided hundreds of hours of volunteer time to build and construct the sites. All of this labour is ably coordinated by KDF&GA Project Committee Chair Bob Goldie. The campsites are now receiving heavy use from recreationalists, while helping limit their impact on the environment. “If you provide a decent place to camp they will respect that”.

The KDF&GA also has regular dealings with the Ministry’s Fish and Wildlife branch. Nearby lakes like Bleeker, Rose, Tulip, Horseshoe, Wolloper, Lodgepole and Logan are all fairly shallow, causing them to be highly productive. Unfortunately, shallow lakes often have massive fish kills for the same reason. Each fall, the Ministry operates aerators on these lakes to “supercharge” the lake water with oxygen and allow the fish to survive the winter.  Due to the aeration process, the water immediately surrounding the aerators does not freeze, leaving a large hole in the ice.

A couple decades ago, someone snowmobiling at night almost drove into an aerator hole and the Ministry planned to remove the aerators to prevent a repeat event. Obviously this meant that the fish kills would return and significantly impact the local fisheries.  The KDF&GA stepped in with a proposal for the Ministry: If the Ministry provided the fencing, their club would put it up in fall and take it down in spring. The Ministry agreed and the fence installation and removal are now biannual social event for volunteers. “Sometimes it’s snowing hard but it’s a pleasant time”, Don laughed.

Many Fish and Game clubs naturally focus conservation efforts on projects related to those species they use, such as Coho Salmon, or White Tailed Deer but the Kamloops and District Fish and Game Association has expanded to encompass other species as well. For several years they have been involved in Burrowing Owl restoration with the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of BC. This endangered species is especially rare in the Kamloops region as it is the northern end of its western range. Several years ago, when KDF&GA member and retired provincial biologist Dave Low approached the KDF&GA with the potential partnership, and they jumped at the chance to help.

“If we can provide a service to a species that is part of the ecosystem, then we are happy to do it.”

Originally the owls would have inhabited abandoned badger and marmot burrows, but a decline in those species has reduced available habitat. Though pairs will share burrows during mating, the male soon leaves and requires a second burrow, as do offspring when they leave.   So, several burrows are required for each owl family. Each spring, Dave and other KDF&GA volunteers dig burrows in suitable habitats, resulting in almost 100 new burrows to date. It is difficult work, requiring holes to depths of 3-4 feet in the glacial till. The burrows are lined with plastic buckets and plastic pipe is used to line the access tunnels. The tops of the burrows are covered with rocks to dissuade predators and discourage cattle from walking on them. The nearby BC Wildlife Park’s captive breeding program then releases breeding pairs of owls, which are banded so their distribution can be traced. One or two KDF&GA members monitor their progress locally. Though their natural mortality is higher than the KDF&GA would like, some individuals are surviving overwinter in the area or return to their natal areas in the spring.

The Kamloops and District Fish & Game Association’s varied conservation work has undoubtedly made the Kamloops environment a better place for all.

-Written by Jason Jobin