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Youngsters track winter wildlife

Tim Edwards
Northern News Services
Published Friday, November 20, 2009

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - The snowshoe hares bouncing around Yellowknife in their fresh winter fur have another predator to add to their already long list of adversaries - kindergartners.

NNSL photo/graphic

Alain St-Cyr student Eve Boss, 5, reaches out to pet the stuffed snowshoe hare while her classmate Sarah Ganley, 5, right, waits for her turn on Wednesday at the Yellowknife Ski Club. - Tim Edwards/NNSL photo

After learning how to recognize rabbit and hare tracks in the snow, as well as other animal tracks, Yellowknife Catholic Schools' kindergarten classes have been going out to the Yellowknife Ski Club with the district's Dene Kede coordinator, David Radcliffe, to put their knowledge to use.

"In kindergarten they learn all about rabbits, what they eat, their habitat, all that sort of stuff, and then the culminating activity is to come here," said Radcliffe at the ski club on Wednesday.

First, the students are shown furs and taught about the snowshoe hare from the perspective of Dean Cluff, a biologist with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Cluff is "really good with the kids - believe it or not this can be a tough crowd," said Radcliffe.

The biologist usually discusses the lifespan of the animals, as well as predators and environmental factors that may reduce that lifespan. He also teaches them about the hare's anatomy. Radcliffe then takes over and teaches them about a more cultural perspective.

"We do the traditional perspective of learning about the rabbits and how aboriginal people used them, and teach them how to set snares," said Radcliffe.

After making the snares inside the ski club building, the students divide into groups of four, each with an adult, and go out onto the ski trails to find rabbit tracks, which, after a fresh snowfall on Tuesday night, was no problem for Wednesday morning's students.

The hares follow the same trail over and over again, according to Radcliffe, as travelling a beaten trail is easier than plowing through fresh snow. Consequently, placing snares where there are already rabbit tracks is the way to go.

Though Radcliffe collected the snares after they were placed on the trails by the students, one five-year-old girl had some altruistic reasons to catch one.

"We could give the (hare) to people who can't afford food," urged Joelle Gerwing.

On Wednesday, the class included Weledeh Catholic School kindergartners, as well as some from Ecole Allain St. Cyr. Despite the young age of the kids, Radcliffe is convinced they are really getting something out of this workshop.

"I had a group yesterday ... and there was one kid who went home and insisted on phoning his grandparents in Ontario to tell them how to set snares for rabbits," said Radcliffe.

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