Right in the centre - Watching the world around us


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

Driving by a field on Hwy. 5 on Sunday north of Neepawa reminded me of a line of thinking I have been working through for a few years now. Sunday was very windy and so it wasn’t surprising that a bunch of ravens and several bald eagles were grounded. I am sure they could have been flying but they chose not to do so. One raven was flying into the wind and looked like it was actually going backwards.

Both Christine and I spent our first 18 years wandering the fields and bush of rural southern Manitoba. She at Scarth and I, at Holland. We saw a lot of plants, animals and birds in our day. It should be noted that, although perhaps we weren’t as observant as we should have been, the things of nature we see today are somewhat different.

Today we see dozens, if not hundreds of white tail deer. We saw whitetails in the 50s and 60s but usually one or few. I lived in deer country at Holland but only once do I remember seeing about a dozen deer in one bunch. We saw Canada geese but rarely snow geese. Their range has changed and there are many more it seems. One theory I have tested with far north residents is that they used to harvest eggs much more than they do now. The Inuit moved off the land in droves in the 50s and that slowed the egg harvest, hence more geese, especially snows.

We didn’t used to see ravens. We didn’t see ravens until the 1980s in this part of Manitoba, same with bald eagles. They are now commonly sighted and in groups like we saw last weekend. I will readily admit that our observations are just that. They are our experience and not scientific research. Other observations, combined with some studies, seem to show we have more beaver than we used to have.

With all these musings and findings, one would have to ask why the changes. The common media and government mandated answer would be global warming. Could, be I guess, but it’s still up for question if we do have global warming compared to a few thousand years ago. If the world is warmer, why do we find evidence of tropical plants and animals frozen into the ancient tundra. It’s not as warm as it was back then. That statement should get the media and government types all annoyed with me.

There are however things we do know that have changed and rather than blaming farmers for real or imagined climate changes, let’s give them some credit. In the 1950s, one third of the cropland was “in summer fallow” which means it was cultivated or disced all summer to control weeds and conserve moisture. That has mostly changed so there is one-third more land in actual production of hay, pasture and crop residue for wildlife to eat, to hide and thrive in. Thank a farmer that there are more of everything including deer. Also thank a farmer that the land isn’t as warm as it used to be when one-third of the land was kept black all summer.

We can thank people that there are fewer deer hunted than 50-70 years ago. Most are now harvested in season. I know from my family’s experience in the 1930s, a deer was shot when meat was needed, in season or not.

Now this column isn’t, and doesn’t pretend to be scientifically defined.That said, I think it’s important to sift through the mountains of words that are pushed at us about how the world is going to hell in a hand basket due to farming and fossil fuels and a whole bunch of other government sponsored narrations. Just for laughs, how about this latest one I read? The shipping industry was told they had to clean up how much dirty fuel they burned. They have, and now, there is less haze over the shipping lanes. Guess what, without this oil-induced haze to block out some sun rays, the oceans are a bit warmer.

My message is consistent, look around, make your own observations and rest assured that what the government tells you is often questionable and sometimes blatantly wrong.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the Banner & Press staff.