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Summer Student Janaya Paul shares her experience of working with Watch for Wildlife in Cape Breton – so far

Written by Janaya Paul, Road Safety and Wildlife Educator

My summer with Watch for Wildlife began when I was already working at the gas station in my community when I got an email from a past teacher in June. The email was about a job posting she thought I might be interested in; a summer job with the Sierra Club’s Watch for Wildlife program as a Road Safety and Wildlife Educator for the Cape Breton region.

I was thrilled and decided to apply since it involved working outdoors and animals, two things I absolutely love! I was attending the Natural Resources Environmental Technology program at NSCC last fall and am returning this fall coming up, so it seemed perfect for me.

So far I’ve had many great opportunities working with the program; getting to explore more of Cape Breton, educating people on the importance of driving safely with wildlife in the area and what to do if anything should happen, meeting new people and making connections, working among researchers and scientists out of the Fish & Wildlife Building in Eskasoni, and learning what do in case of wildlife-vehicle collision, which I never knew about before starting this job.

Some of the events and outreach I’ve done include:

  • Visiting some of Cape Breton’s visitor information centers and distributing materials
  • Attending events such as the Citizen Science Bioblitz and Community Fairs
  • Attending Meetings to share information about Watch for Wildlife with community leaders including the CBRM meeting with the Mayor of Sydney, Cecil Clarke, and the District Councillors
  • Dropping off brochures and talking with people at local stores, ferries, businesses, environmental organizations, the Department of Natural Resources, etc.
  • And I have many things planned for the rest of August and September including attending Farmer's Markets, events around Cape Breton and the Watch for Wildlife Awareness Event at the Lush Store in Mic Mac Mall in Dartmouth on August 19th.
I have definitely learned a lot from working for the Watch for Wildlife program so far such as: developing better social and interaction skills, being more educated about the issue I’m currently working to raise awareness about, having a better understanding of how drivers can try to prevent a collision with wildlife, and species at risk in Nova Scotia that I didn’t know about before and how they are affected by collisions and roads.

I have also learned (and learned to share with others) what steps to take in case of a collision, having to report a collision or dead carcass on or near the road because if no one reports it there will be no data to support where wildlife are killed - which mean no improvements can be made to mitigate the problem. I’ve also learned about a list of numbers to call in case something happens related to wildlife being injured, killed, or is a hazard – and which one to call depending on the situation. I learned about the Sierra Club Canada Foundation (SCCF) and that it has a range of community-based environmental programs, and that Watch for Wildlife is one of them.

Before starting this job program I didn’t even know about The Blue Whale Project happening right here in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, I also didn’t know they had a program called Wild Child in Nova Scotia and PEI where kids get off the electronics and go outdoors to play and experience nature which is something I definitely would want to take my children to in the future.
 

Another interesting thing I found out is that the Sierra Club was a key player behind the cleanup of the Sydney Tar Ponds which has since been developed into Open Hearth Park. If SCCF hadn’t worked to have the Tar Sands cleaned up, my dad wouldn’t have had a job at the time, and we would’ve been struggling back then.
 

I feel like the Watch for Wildlife program should get more recognition from everyone. It truly is a great program and is very informative; and I feel that more people need to be educated about this and there are still a lot of Nova Scotians that aren’t.

Since I started working for Watch for Wildlife, I’ve had people come up to me and ask me what they should do if they are in a collision with wildlife or if they see a seriously injured animal that has been hit by someone else; or what to do with the babies when the parent(s) aren’t around anymore. It is so important to get the word out about preventing wildlife vehicle collisions so more and more people will be better educated as to what to do in these types of situations, and so our roads are safer not just for humans but for wildlife too.

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