Crews on site for the Southern Lakes Wire Recovery Project in Yukon Territory.

B.C. veterinarian wants 2,900-km wildlife death trap removed

Collapsed, 100-year-old Yukon Telegraph line believed to be killing moose across north

A B.C. veterinarian hopes public anger over an illegal spate of wildlife snaring in the northwest will invigorate her mission to eradicate a much larger, potentially deadlier threat to wildlife.

“This is an underdog problem. It’s not a popular cause like animal abuse and neglect, but it’s a clear case of animal cruelty without anyone being deliberate or intentional. It’s just a consequence of what humans have left out in the wilderness.”

Dr. Veronica Gventsadze is speaking about the 100-year old Dominion Government Telegraph Service line, a network of five-millimetre iron cables snaking through 2,900 kilometres of wilderness from Ashcroft, B.C. to its termination point in Dawson City, Yukon. Known as the Yukon Telegraph, this logistical marvel of its time connected the gold fields of the north to southern Canada.

The line was abandoned in the 1940s and 50s as wireless technology advanced.

But the galvanized cable was of such high quality it still shows no sign of corrosion or breakage today. As the original poles collapse, and trees topple, the cable either sags to the forest floor or lies in tangles beneath moss and foliage, creating a perfect trap for moose and, further north, caribou.

“A bull moose crashes through the forest with his antlers, and that’s it. That’s how he gets around,” Gventsadze says. “There must be a tremendous amount of anguish not being able to free himself [from the wire], possibly lying there exhausted, hungry—he’s live prey for a bear. The wire is like nothing found in nature, so the moose not having a chance to escape or protect itself is a completely unnatural situation.”

The Squamish-based veterinarian began a grassroots campaign to see the line removed in June, 2016, during an otherwise-regular visit to her Rosswood cabin in the Nass Valley, near Terrace. Her husband was picking lobster mushrooms when he stumbled across a one-kilometre stretch of the fallen line. He counted the corpses of three moose in varying stages of decomposition, she says.

“This is grizzly bear country, so the moose will be dragged off pretty quickly. We don’t know how many have been there before.” Since her husband’s discovery Gventsadze has found other sites along the Stewart branch of the telegraph service.

After being told last year there was very little Conservation Officers Service could do in the matter, Gventsadze contacted the Terrace office again last month upon reading news reports of a prolific and intentional snaring operation in the Kitimat River Valley, which the COS is still investigating.

Speaking to Black Press at the time, CO Sgt. Tracy Walbauer said evidence of dead moose, grizzly bears, wolves and coyotes had been found in the illegal snaring.

“Those animals observed in the snares endured a great deal of suffering before death,” Walbauer said.

READ MORE: Public’s help sought in cruel and prolific animal snaring

READ MORE: $1,000 offered for conviction of snaring culprit

Based on photographs, Gventsadze is certain the snare wire was cut from the telegraph line. She says she also once found a snare intentionally fashioned directly within a tangle of telegraph cable on the ground. Though of minor concern compared to the thousands of kilometres of unintended hazard to wildlife, the snaring connection she says only deepens the telegraph’s deadly post-use legacy.

While a remediation project of this magnitude does not fit within the budget and mandate of the COS, CO Zane Testawich told the Terrace Standard he hopes to offer some community-level support in the spring, possibly by organizing a cleanup of the Rosswood site identified by Gventsadze’s husband.

In the meantime, neither provincial or federal departments have returned Gventsadze’s calls of who is responsible for remediation.

Andrew Gage, staff counsel with West Coast Environmental Law, says finding a legal avenue to force remediation will be difficult on a project initiated by the fledgling Dominion Government in 1899. Political pressure may be the only way forward, he says.

“These sites do get cleaned up where there’s particular health concerns and public outcry over them, but there’s a lot that don’t get cleared up without that pressure.”

Gventsadze admits the costs of a remediation project on this scale would be large, but hopes elected officials will see it as an employment and skills-training investment for northern communities.

This was the case in Northwest Territories, where in 2015 a program partially sponsored by the federal government led to the removal of 116 kilometres of telephone wire from a Second World War pipeline project in the Mackenzie Mountains, along what’s now the Canol Trail. The program was renewed the next year, and a further 126 km of wire was removed, along with 27 racks of caribou antlers tangled within it, according to Northern News Services. The project was completed in January this year, seeing 80 tonnes of wire remediated from more than 350 kilometres of terrain. Indigenous and Northern Affairs said a key element of the program was to provide local workers with training in project management, field operations and occupational health and safety.

In Yukon Territory, the Carcross Tagish First Nation spearheaded the Southern Lakes Wire Recovery Project in 2015. In this case, the wire belonged to the same Yukon Telegraph line at the centre of Gventsadze’s concern.

“It is still a very unrecognized problem,” she says. “But once people start talking about it, others will probably come out of the woodwork who have been making local efforts to remove these lines themselves.

“Just because we can’t witness these moose suffering and dying, it doesn’t make their deaths any less acceptable.”

Dr. Gventsadze has set up a petition for the cleanup of the Yukon Telegraph line at change.org.


 


quinn@terracestandard.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Langley Lotto Max winner didn’t believe ticket scanner winning message

A local man plans to take an exotic vacation after winning $500,000.

Langley woman’s graduation marks expansion of PTSD service dog program

Delta-based B.C. and Alberta Guide Dogs Society and Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs merging to service to more veterans

For a 20th year, golfers memorialize Surrey business owner killed by cancer

Annual tourney pays tribute to Howie Blessin, who wasn’t an avid golfer but employed people who are

National PTSD awareness ride rolling into Langley

The Rolling Barrage 2018 ride will arrive next Tuesday and overnight in Langley.

Spartans squeak out pre-season soccer victory in Oregon

Trinity Western’s women’s soccer team plays in Washington today, then at home on Saturday night.

VIDEO: Langley Rotary clubs team up to tempt tastebuds at Ribfest

The aroma of barbecue greets the public as they arrive at McLeod Athletic Park.

VIDEO: Ground crews keep a close eye on largest B.C. wildfire

Originally estimated to be 79,192 hectares, officials said more accurate mapping shows smaller size

Vancouver Island woman to attempt historic swim across Juan de Fuca Strait today

Ultra-marathon swimmer Susan Simmons to attempt to swim from Victoria to Port Angeles and back

Canadians believe in immigration but concerned about asylum seekers: study

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada paid for study to understand Canadian attitudes

These are the highest-paid actresses of 2018

In its list released this week Forbes said all 10 earned a total of $186 million before tax

VIDEO: World of Magic coming to Vancouver

Seven magic shows will appear at the Vancouver Playhouse from September 7 to 9

Safeway union urges rejection of mediator recommendations

Says mediator asks for too many concessions

Fire chases B.C. crews out of their own camp

Crews in Burns Lake had to leave after a wildfire reportedly overtook their sleeping quarters

To address peacock problem, B.C. city moves ahead on trapping plan

Surrey’s new bylaw focuses on ensuring people no longer feed the birds, ahead of relocation

Most Read