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Hey, I found some work!

I finished my bachaelor degree in 2005Ö Since that time Iíve been seeking work making use of my education (and interests). Iíve worked several projects, contracts and terms in the meantime, and attained a masterís degree as well, but an actual permanent job has been something of a will-o-the-wisp, always out of reach. My last contract had ended in September, and since then Iíve been unemployed and did a stint working holiday retail. My choice of path, that of an biologist/ecologist, certainly hasnít helped in recent years neither. In the years since I completed my degree a Conservative government has been in power, one focused heavily upon natural resource extraction (oil specifically, though also timber, minerals, fish, etc.), which has been doing what it can to gut the nationís role in sciences, especially those that might advise against wholesale exploitation of the planet for economic gain.

That said, Iíd gotten some news late last month that Iíd been the successful candidate to attain a permanent (though 6mo. seasonal) position as a Resource Conservation Technician for Parks Canada. Iíve been working contracts in this position for about six years now, but, due to a retirement and some staff shuffling, the position finally opened up for me to fill. This position doesnít start until about May, but, in the meantime, Iíve been offered an 8 (hopefully 12) week contract participating in a coyote research project that has been happening in the Park over the past 4.5 years; I started Thursday last week.

Right now, there are a small number of coyotes that had been collared earlier in the year with GPS collars that weíre trying to track. Three of the collars must be manually downloaded with a remote, directional UHF device. The collars also have a VHF beacon on board with which they are located for retrieval or download; we locate the animal via the VHF beacon, then get close enough to initiate UHF data transfer. Weíve managed to locate and download two of the three that have to be done this way so far; the third hasnít been located and downloaded since the summer, as such, itís a priority. Part of the difficulty is the terrain; this is a Highland park, and while the mountains are old and relatively flat (for mountains), there are many valleys to obstruct the signal path. Things are fine if the animal is on the plateau, but if itís in a valley, it could be close by but invisible.
The weatherís been interesting. We are at the tail end of the cold system thatís been plaguing North America over the past couple weeks, so the first couple days were pretty cold. Today was only about -5įC. That said, up on the plateau, the wind is intense. Today the wind was blowing at about 60kmh fairly steadily. Out in the open the gusts were enough to blow me off track a bitÖ and Iím not exactly a small/light guy. It adds a certain challenge to the task and snowshoeing Razz

Iím enjoying the work so far, and itís nice to be outside and using some of my knowledge and experience. Iíve never really worked with carnivores before, and weíll likely be trapping/collaring another individual, so Iím learning some new skills on top of my existing technical skills. It should be an interesting couple months helping wrap up this research.

7 blog comments below

Well this all sounds very interesting. I don't envy you, walking about in cold weather. I think I'd had enough of the cold and it can start to warm up a little (0 degrees is just fine). How far away can you be from the coyote? It almost seems like you'd have to be pretty close and now I'm picturing you trying to sneak up on one, in snowshoes, like an assassin Smile
TheGremlyn on Tue Jan 14, 2014 2:10 pm
Wow that's awesome news Ankhanu. Just shows your integrity paid off in the end. I wonder how many people decided to go for different "careers" when there was no permanent work available, in admin or whatever for which they're not qualified, and instead you stayed the course regardless of the odds. Well done! The project with the coyotes sounds VERY interesting. Definitely something that would make a great presentation as well. Cool
deanhills on Tue Jan 14, 2014 2:25 pm
TheGremlyn - I think we can be up to about 2km away to download the collars, if conditions are right. We were only about 100m from the one yesterday, and the one Friday was about 800m away, I think. We did stop at the same spot to check the one from yesterday, and saw him when we were leaving; he was on the move and was on the road by the time we left and turned a corner.
How close we get is going to become much closer when we begin flight distance trials; essentially testing their normal run away distance when approached, then beginning aversion trials (adding a negative stimulus to human presence) and measuring how that flight distance changes.

Dean - It's been a tough go with many, many months without a job at all... I'm still looking, of course, as seasonal work is kinda rough too, but, it's a step forward, at least!
Ankhanu on Tue Jan 14, 2014 6:37 pm
Well done man, excellent news! Very Happy
Hope you enjoy it and meet a few useful people to open a few more doors and give good references after the season finishes. Sounds like the start of exciting times, really pleased for you.

...any wild coyote or landscape photo's from your day at work would be cool to post here, and definitely more interesting than my day - pretty sure a freshly plastered wall pic from today wouldn't create much interest Razz
watersoul on Tue Jan 14, 2014 8:17 pm
Great news, Ankhanu! About time they found you a more permanent position. Any pictures to share?
standready on Wed Jan 15, 2014 12:18 am
So good to hear that, Ankhanu! The relief of getting a more steady position is really something (and I can say I understand you!). This might look like a noob question, but is it dangerous to work with the coyotes? When you talk about carnivores I think about the jaguars we have here (and how I was almost killed by one when I was a kid). You get to stand pretty close to them. Aren't they aggressive? How far they can smell you? Sorry about all the questions, but I'm really curious! I imagine something Ice Age-y like (the movie, not the time period). Very Happy
Vanilla on Wed Jan 15, 2014 3:47 am
I didn't bring my camera up yet; I'll try and remember it next week. I'm working in the same park I have been over the past few years, just based on the opposite coast, so slightly different stomping grounds than before (I have worked various sites over here, but most of the monitoring sites are on the east side).

Vanilla - Coyotes aren't as dangerous as your jaguars, but they still need to be respected. Coyotes in their native range are a bit bigger than foxes, and are somewhat wary and solitary creatures. In their voyage towards the East since we've opened up the forests with agriculture and urbanization, though, the appear to have interbred with dogs and wolves; the eastern coyote is significantly larger than the original western race... they've also become more social along with that, living in groups and possibly hunting in disorganized pack-like units. They're still generally wary of people, but they can be fairly bold, especially if they've learned to associate people with food sources (handouts, garbage, etc). This research project was spurred on by an attack in the fall of 2009 that resulted in the first recorded human death attributed to coyotes, right here in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

Long and the short of that: Yes, it's dangerous to work with them, but it's not TOO dangerous. Of course, we have to take precautions to protect ourselves and work in as safe an environment as we can both in a wilderness setting and around wild animals. Basically, they deserve respect and we have to keep that in mind.

Their sense of smell is quite acute, better than most domestic dogs'. If the wind is right, they'll smell you from quite a distance off; at least a couple hundred metres, likely further if you wear scented deodorants, perfumes, etc. (or don't wear any at all Razz ). Their vision is pretty good too, as is their hearing. They're well equipped to hunt their prey.
Ankhanu on Wed Jan 15, 2014 4:08 am

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