Steeves: surprising plants and wildlife not always helpful

Rain kissing my face gave me a shock this week as I left the house for my morning walk, because I just expect winter weather in winter.

We’ve had a real roller-coaster ride of weather so far this winter, from a balmy December to extreme cold for a week or so in January, and now rain when you’d expect to feel snow coming down.

I’m not complaining, but it certainly feels odd to feel rain when I think we’re actually deep in winter, not spring.

Such weather makes life much easier for birds and deer to overwinter, but it’s confusing for the spring plants, some of which were beginning to sprout in early January when that cold snap hit.

Mother Nature can cause just as much confusion in the lives of wild animals and plants as man can. First we fill in wetlands, then we attempt to do a repair of some of the damage we’ve done to what is a very complex natural process.

Unfortunately, what I’ve always said about it not being quite so easy to repair our damage as it sounds, turns out to be true, scientists have discovered.

Rick Simpson, Okanagan Region fisheries co-chair for the B.C. Wildlife Federation, forwarded a link to a new report that research now questions whether man-made versions of wetlands can ever compensate for those buried under parking lots and subdivisions.

It may look simple, but the processes occurring in wetlands that purify water and keep a whole, intricate chain of living things functioning, is much more complex that it appears.

Instead of trying to fix what we wreck, we really must try and prevent such damage in the first place. And, that means we must first acknowledge that what we do when we fill in a wetland or pave over a grassland, is damage.

Once we’ve got the hang of that attitude, we’re halfway to protecting and preserving such important natural places.

In fact, even if you’re snowshoeing, snowmobiling or skiing through such natural areas, you should be alert to the possible presence of wetlands, because with the weird weather we’ve been having, you may find yourself knee-deep in water instead of skimming over the top on the snow.

Ice fishermen and pond hockey enthusiasts should also be aware of the possibility of softer and thinner ice than they would have found a couple of weeks ago, when they venture out onto local ponds, particularly in the valley bottom where temperatures have been warmest.

The romantics among us may enjoy the Kelowna Nordic moonlight ski and snowshoe Sat, Feb. 4 at the Kelowna Nordic Cross-Country Ski trails at McCulloch. Meet at the main cabin at 7 p.m. Call the snow phone first at 778-478-3595.

You could also choose to snowshoe with a naturalist Sat., Feb. 11 at the Nordic facilities, courtesy of the Central Okanagan Naturalists’ Club. Meet at the main cabin for a 10 a.m. start and bring water and lunch if you’re staying for the afternoon as well and bring a loonie for insurance. It’s not intended for children under 10.

The club’s annual banquet is Tues., Feb. 14 in the form of a potluck supper at the regular meeting place, the Evangel Church on Gordon Drive at 6 p.m. Tickets are $5 each and are available at Second Time Around until Feb. 8. There’ll be a showing of the photo contest winners as well.

Then, on Sun., Feb. 19 snowmobile enthusiasts are meeting up for the B.C. Snowmobile Federation’s annual fundraiser to support the B.C. Lions Society for Children with Disabilities and Easter Seal Camps, including Camp Winfield.

Snowarama begins at 9 a.m. in the Graystokes Snowmobile Area, east on Highway 33 to Three Forks Rd., then left six kilometres. It’s a family event being organized by Clayton Prince of the Kelowna Snowmobile Club and will include games for the kids, trophy presentations, a hot lunch and lots of prizes. For more info, call him at 491-2773.

Judie Steeves writes about outdoors issues for the Capital News.


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