Bronze Sculpture Capital of Canada
Public Art in Princeton
In this tour we'll take a look at the bronze sculptures recently installed around downtown Princeton as part of the town's beautification plan. We'll learn about some of the animals you can find in the Princeton District.
This project is a partnership with the Town of Princeton and the Princeton & District Museum and Archives.
British Columbia is home to two subspecies of elk: the Roosevelt elk, which populate Vancouver Island and small areas of coastal BC, and the rocky mountain elk, whose range spans the southern interior of BC and the Kootenays. These are the elk commonly spotted around Princeton.
During mating season in early autumn, males seek out groups of females and become quite aggressive towards other males. To intimidate rival bulls, male elk will often use a loud dramatic vocal display known as a bugle. This starts as a low roar deep in the chest, then transitions into a high bugling sound, before ending in a series of grunts. Sometimes during this time of year, it is possible to hear a bellowing chorus of elk bugles echoing through a mountain valley. Males will also fight during this season, and these physical displays sometimes end with one male goring the other with his antlers.
Elk are intelligent and highly adaptable animals, subsisting in different ecological zones, sometimes becoming nocturnal in response to human activities, and even occasionally raiding alfalfa farms and hay bales for food. Thanks in part to conservation efforts, elk populations in BC are doing well, with several transplanted elk producing new herds. Efforts to consider the needs of elk populations in agriculture and forestry practices help to support healthy populations. While elk aren't as numerous in the Similkameen as they are in the Rockies, they still make their presence known. At certain times of the year, it is not uncommon to see elk feeding in fields on the edge of town.
Historically, in many parts of BC, moose were a vital resource for First Nations peoples. Their meat was an important food resource, their hide was used for clothing, footwear, and shelter, and their bones and antlers were made into tools. Today, moose are still important to First Nations communities, and are also one of the provinces leading game animals. Around 8000 to 14,000 moose are harvested yearly, and the revenue generated by the sale of hunting licences is frequently routed into management of moose populations, habitat enhancement, and enforcement programs.
3. The Mountain Man
Several locals reared horses for various purposes. Bill Garrison raised them for freighting and transportation, Luke Gibson raised racehorses, and Jack Budd raised horses for both the outlaw Bill Miner and the RCMP desperate to catch him. Horses also played a significant role in logging, as they transported loggers into the backcountry and helped drag logs out of the forest. Horses were used in this area for logging until 1960, when more modern methods were adopted.
5. The Professor
6. Coyote (Canis latrans)
While cougars will eat anything from beavers to rodents to fish, and even occasionally animals that are several times their own body weight, such as moose, their primary prey is deer. Cougars are a keystone species, which means they are a species which has a disproportionately large impact on its environment relative to its abundance. Cougars help manage the numbers of prey species, especially deer, and therefore have a huge impact on the plant species that can be decimated by the grazing of uncontrolled deer populations.
In BC and western Canada, cougars are not a species-at-risk. While cougars in eastern Canada and the United States are virtually gone due to loss of habitat, their population in the west remains stable. Human activity is the biggest threat to cougars, along with many other species, as population growth increasingly infringes on cougar habitats.
In British Columbia, these same fears led to mass poisoning and culling of wolves in the early 20th Century. Many settlers in the area established farms and ranches, gathering livestock into small areas where they were easy prey for wolves. Despite the impact these actions had on wolf populations, today wolves have bounced back and are now no longer an "at risk" species. However, BC's relationship with wolves is still complicated. While wolf populations are stable, several herds of BC's mountain caribou, the emblematic animal of the north that graces the Canadian quarter, are on the brink of extinction. To help save the caribou, the BC government funds wolf culls every year to ease the predation of already stressed caribou populations. In the winter of 2019-2020, 463 wolves were killed, costing the province $2 million.
These culls are highly controversial, and many animal rights groups call for an end to the culls. But the solution isn't that simple. The main threat to caribou isn't wolves, but logging and industrial development, which is destroying old-growth habitat. Wolf culls temporarily alleviate some of the stress on caribou populations, but biologists predict that in order for wolf culls to be truly effective, 70-90% of the wolves in endangered caribou habitats would need to be killed every year over a period of decades.1
Even if these measures were taken, many caribou herds are on the brink of extinction and could die out anyways. The issue is complicated, and while the province is undertaking several other measures to save the caribou, including habitat restoration, wolf culls are the quickest band-aid for a problem that cannot be solved overnight: the loss of old growth forests.
Wolf culls may be having another interesting effect for residents of the Okanagan. In the last decade, hunters and residents of the Okanagan have reported more wolf sightings than in previous decades. Some scientists and members of the BC Wildlife Federation believe that as wolf packs are being fractured by culls in northern BC and the Kootenays, wolves are wandering farther to establish new packs. This could be leading to an increase in the numbers of wolves in the Okanagan.2
Despite their reliance on rodents, red foxes have also developed a taste for white meat. Farmers often come into conflict with foxes when they catch the small predators invading their hen houses. Chubby domesticated chickens kept in enclosures make an attractive meal for foxes devious enough to break into coops. Many articles tackle the topic of how farmers can keep their chickens secure from these thieves. Measures include making sure chickens are locked securely in a coop at night, erecting six-foot-high fences that stretch a ways underground to prevent digging underneath, and frequent checks of fencing for holes or weak points. Foxes are clever enough to study a coop for days before a raid, looking for any weak points that will allow them to capture a juicy chicken.
10. Black Bears
Bears have to eat large quantities of food to sustain their body weight during the winter months, and their search for food often brings them into conflict with humans. When encounters with bears go badly, it is often in areas where the animals have become accustomed to humans and have learned to associate people with food. On hiking trails and in the backcountry, people are strongly advised to be responsible with garbage, to store food in bear bins or high up in trees away from campsites, and to not feed bears. Bears who learn to associate humans and human settlements with food often become unafraid of humans, and sometimes even aggressive or territorial. Once bears adopt this behaviour, it can't be unlearned, and garbage-addicted bears are often euthanized by conservation officers for public safety.
In Penticton, bear sightings aren't unusual near town. In the spring of 2020, residents were stunned by a rare sighting: a black bear followed closely by her five cubs. A black bear litter can reach up to six, but it is unusual for a bear to have more than two or three cubs.
12. Nesting Eagle
1. Sarah Cox, "The complicated tale of why BC paid $2 million to shoot wolves in endangered caribou habitat this winter," The Narhwal, April 25, 2020. Online
2. Carli Berry, "Wolf cull could have repercussions in the Okanagan" Keremos Review, December 28, 2018. Online.
Berry, Carli. "Wolf cull could have repercussions in the Okanagan" Keremos Review. December 28, 2018. https://www.keremeosreview.com/news/wolf-cull-could-have-repercussions-in-the-okanagan/
Cox, Sarah. "The complicated tale of why BC paid $2 million to shoot wolves in endangered caribou habitat this winter," The Narhwal, April 25, 2020. https://thenarwhal.ca/the-complicated-tale-of-why-b-c-paid-2-million-to-shoot-wolves-in-endangered-caribou-habitat-this-winter/