A Quilly Affair

Being the new guy I never had the chance to meet some of the students. I had heard many stories but nothing like meeting face to face. The conversations were carried during the daily activities. This provided me with a good chance to know a little bit more about each student.

Three came from the US and one was of the Cree nation. They were young, intelligent, and fun loving guys who really seemed to enjoy their time at the school. But of all the qualities and characteristics they had that made them unique they shared two in particular – a love for the environment and a love for animals. This is what brought all of us together in that one location. We all spoke about our interest in working in the environmental field even though some were not sure where to specialize.

While at the school I also got a chance to experience some of the unexpected that occurs there. This time three dogs got away. Keeping the kennels up to par takes quite a bit of work and the dogs being as creative as they are somehow found their way out. We called and called for them. Went on a hike and found their trails. We knew where they were going and it was far. Eventually they returned with some 24 porcupine quills on their faces.

I always heard about dogs and porcupines and always wanted to see how to treat the animals with quills. It really was not as nasty as I thought it would be. The quills were right on their chin with a few on their noses. In this case the dogs did not return right away, they ventured a bit after it happened. I say this because the quills were quite deep into their faces. Quills are half white and half black. I guess porcupines are not racist and wanted to let us know. The tip is white and we could not even see the white part anymore. They were deep. Only one solution, pull them out.

Derek was my instructor this time. He attached the dog’s collar to a chain on the ground. I was told to put a bit of my weight on the back of the dog, while Derek kind of put a head lock on the dog’s head and with the other hand, yep you guessed it, pulled the quills one at a time with pliers. It was clear that pulling them out hurt the dog, and in a way it hurt us both too. We both felt really sorry for the animal but at the same time, they asked for it. Who told them to sniff a porcupine?

One by one they had to come out. Leaving them in would mean they would go deeper and deeper into the dog’s jaw and I do not want to even think about what would be of the dogs then. The final dog was more difficult but by this time we had the students to come and help us. The dog was really suffering but they had to come out. Now we were seeing a little more blood as the quills had made their way into the gums of the dog, and we all were a little disturbed with the pains of the husky. By now we were just as much interest in ending the dog’s suffering as we were with our own. We ultimately got all the quills out fully aware the porcupine pocked us all too.

Relieved that the dogs would be fine we headed back for the night. While pondering the incident it occurred to me that the dogs returned when they were hurt. They knew they needed help and new where to get it. In the end, each of those dogs knows where their home is. The bond between us and them is very profound and beyond what my words can describe. So I leave this for your consideration.


I thought I would take the time to present myself to the ISES community. My name is Augusto Vieira and as the Eco-Marketing Intern I would like to thank Molly for giving me the chance to be involved with such an amazing project. There is much that I can say about the environment, the school, and various other topics; but for today I would like to tell my story as it relates to the school.

We start when I first headed to university. Back then my goal was to climb the corporate ladder. I was an ambitious and aspiring young but never the less a business-man. May I emphasize the man? Cough. The environment wasn’t something considered by anyone, anywhere at that time. And to me the idea of there being a kink with the environment was unheard of; the notion of a severe problem was out of the question. It wasn’t until Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” that something changed in my life. I followed up on the movie and my life changed for ever.

It is this change that I am here to talk about. Now days many know about the environment but few do anything about it. Here in Ottawa we had the green bin project where the government was collecting food waste and composting it. Some participated while others did not. Out of the ones that did not, most refused due to the smell inside the bin.

I too grew up in a world that revolved around everything except the environment. Making the necessary changes may not be easy, but they are vital and doable. Making the transition from an ambitious business-MAN to someone who contributed time and effort to creating a better world has not been easy, but I have done it. It was not done by making a drastic change but by choosing little things that I could do consistently. Over time, this resulted in a change in my entire life and an improvement to the world around me, as my family saw what I was doing and followed along. Mind you they do not do as much as I do, but they still do something, even recycling around the house improved.

When considering changes to our lives, we often get bogged down by the people who don’t follow the example, or by how one cannot accomplish much. This attitude has to change. Instead, know that the one bears full responsibility for our world. Know that one day we will look back at what we did and will be proud that we did what could be done, within our sphere of influence, to set things right. Overtime, if the one fulfills its duty to this planet, the seed of peace will grow and bear fruits that future generations will use to nourish the fulfillment of their obligations.


It's been 2 months and those trees are still bent, a permanent reminder.

Bear Kennel

In camaraderie with the Climate Reality Project, 24 presentations about climate change realities and disasters in each of the 24 time zones for 24 hours, we would like to publish our own struggle with climate change. This was broadcasted in a previous post but we would like to remind our audience.

This past July, a vicious storm ripped through our campus. Thankfully, no animals or people would injured but some came very close. Shoshone, our youngest orphaned black bear cub, was the luckiest. A large Poplar and White Pine tree landed inches from her kennel. The sled dog kennel was also severely impacted by a Balsam Fir tree. Sequoia, our oldest orphaned black bear, had her entire outdoor enclosure fence pummeled after being completed a week before. This storm event will not likely be forgotten and more will come with increasing intensity.

Tune in to the Climate Reality Project at http://climaterealityproject.org/ 

Flit the American Kestrel was released last spring

Raptors, or Birds of Prey are one of the most intrinsic, and majestic of animals that nature has produced. Though, like other wildlife they have been greatly impacted by modern society, and the continued shrinking of natural spaces.

Because of my experience as a rehabilitator of raptors in western Quebec, I have seen firsthand some of the difficulties faced by those wanting to help them.

So here is some basic advice and techniques, so that anyone can make the difference for a raptor in need.

To start with, one must understand some basic raptor physiology, or in essence what defines a Bird of Prey.

All raptors have three defining characteristics:

–       A hooked or curved beak

–       Sharp talons

–       And lastly, all raptors are carnivorous (will discuss this again at a later time)

Note: If a bird does not share these traits, then it is NOT a Bird of Prey.

Now that we know what a raptor is we can move along to how we can help them, when we find them in need.

A typical encounter usually happens when we find one injured by a highway, or other busy center.

The first thing to do is to assess:

1. Is the bird and myself safe (are you on a busy highway!)?

2. Is it injured?

3. Can I safely move it, and lastly

4. What do I do with it?

These are good questions to ask of one’s self, and of the four highlighted points of assessment I will offer advise for the third stage at this time.

Firstly, never try to pick up a raptor with your bare hands! Their talons are needle sharp and really hurt, so try to use something like work-gloves, or even a shirt wrapped around your hand when handling raptors. The best thing to do is control their talons (the beak can hurt, but not as much as the talons), and even using a light blanket, towel, large shirt or any such thing to cover the head before-hand can make one’s task much easier (this quiets them down). Although, do not put too much direct pressure on the breast because they don’t have a diaphragm.

Next, cradle it like a baby in your arms (no joke!), with the head held at your shoulder, the wings gently but firmly tucked in place, and the talons secured between thumb and trigger finger in the opposite hand (Note: covering the animals head also prevents biting).

Lastly, move the bird to an appropriate carrying device (preferably a dog kennel, but never a wired one, because this damages their feathers). All steps preceding this moment should be done in the least amount of time, for the benefit of the bird.

Well, sorry to say that’s all for now. But please check back soon to hear the play by play of stage four, and other fun raptor facts.

Cheers for now!


I’m currently reading a book called  Thriving Beyond Sustainability by Andrés R. Edwards. I’ve described it to others like a newspaper report of everything happening in the world of environmental and social organizations. In the chapter titled “A Thriveable Future”, he summarizes,

“The environmental, social and economic predicaments we find ourselves in call for a movement from       sustainability to thriveability, shifting from a model of scarcity to one of abundance that taps into the spirit of possibility. Instead of a net-zero energy home, the thriveable goal is a home that generates more electricity than it uses; instead of restoring an ecosystem in decline, the thriveable goal is to regenerate it so that it teems with diverse wildlife and is integrated with flourishing human settlements. The thriveable perspective asks, “How can we satisfy basic human needs such as food, water, shelter, education, healthcare and love for all people on the planet while creating a meaningful life? (p.164-165)”

After reading this book, I’m trying to cross off a new word from my vocabulary list- sustainability. But like the green-washed word “green”, it will never completely be gone. Edwards alludes to the word “sustainability” as being used in the wrong context. He prefers the word “thriveability”, as do I. “Sustainability” seems to mean that we wish to maintain the status quo and have things run as usual rather than improving, adapting and changing.

Therefore, we must create, invent and tinker. I’m excited to see many examples of thriving technologies. A 13 year old improved the efficiency of solar cells by arranging them like a tree, an inventive use of biomimcry (Inhabitat.com). Three inventors in England are developing a project to convert a small fishing trawler into a chair factory using plastic waste residing in the oceans (Inhabitat.com). I heard rumor of tractor tires been turned into rubber housing shingles. This is truly creative and innovative stuff!

What ideas do you have?


Petrogylphs at White Mountain in Wyoming

Kirk and Tonto

Douglas Pass

Bear Creek in Telluride

How do ISES staff spend their time off?

The answer is: playing outside, visiting the Rocky Mountains and scouting for ISES study tour stops.

Kirk and I just hit 3,700 miles on the dashboard. We went from Ladysmith, Québec to Chicago, IL to Denver, CO to Telluride, CO and up through the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. We went to Milk River to visit family and are now in Waterton Lakes National Park in southern Alberta.

In Telluride, we visited my parents, who were also on vacation. We hiked, rode horses, scouted rental houses for my dad’s 60 Birthday party and dined very well.

We quickly drove through the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone while making a bee-line for Milk River, AB. We’ll be back in Yellowstone in a few weeks to explore. Hopefully we’ll meet with Jim Halfpenny to show us the wildlife hotspots. Jim wrote the book on bears, wolves and much more in Yellowstone.

Waterton is fantastic! I’ve never seen mountains like these. The mountains in Alberta are newer than the ones in Colorado, therefore they are more spiky and rocky. Just in our first day, we’ve seen two black bears (apparently the norm for this area). We went to Red Rock Canyon to climb and get our feet wet. We’ll do Bear’s Hump this afternoon as a warm up before our big summit hike on Wednesday.

Check in later!!

Kirk with Salamander

Hastings Mesa

Well today promised, and delivered to us another hot summer day of
28oC/82oF here at the International School For Earth studies.
On such summer days like this one, we here at ISES become greatly
concerned with the proper hydration of our resident domestic and
rehabbing animals. Having a thick coat of fur makes your day a little
toastier then usual. Would you not agree?
So to this end, we utilize in excess of 300 ft of gardening hose, a 30
gallon barrel (plus RTV vehicle), and one small private lake to supply
the good old H2O.
Summer days like this require the staff and students that are on-sight
expecting to spend upwards of two hours hauling, cleaning, and
watering our thirsty critters.
Because water can stagnate quickly in hot weather, and therefore hold
more bacteria, this is by far one of our most important by-daily
activities during a hot summer.