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Wildlife Conservation

An ardent conservationist and agriculturalist, Grant MacEwan preferred spending his time outdoors. From a young age he would observe nature and the wildlife that inhabited it. In Entrusted To My Care, MacEwan reports on wildlife concerns, particularly the disappearance of several species. MacEwan repeats his message throughout the section: human behaviour is largely responsible for the destruction of several wildlife species and it is society's responsibility to prevent this from happening in the future.

There was a time when the West was teeming with prairie buffaloes. In the late 1850s, Captain John Palliser commented on the amount of buffaloes living in the area, "As far as the eye can see, the region is covered with buffalo, in bands varying from hundreds to thousands." For centuries, local aboriginals relied on buffalo for food, clothing, and shelter. However, by 1884, the herd once so prominent had practically disappeared. Mass hunting and disease helped exterminate the roaming beasts. What surprised MacEwan when learning about this part of western Canadian history was how little people cared about the disappearance of the prairie buffalo. Not until the government purchased a few heads of buffalo from farmers in Montana and relocated them to Elk Island Park east of Edmonton did the buffalo reestablish a presence in western Canada decades later.

The example of the buffalo demonstrates how wildlife conservation has been part of the Canadian West for well over a century. However, the buffalo is certainly not the only species that has been affected by the settlement of the West. In his book, MacEwan describes other species, like the passenger pigeon and whooping crane, which have become extinct or nearly extinct because of human activity. Excessive commercial hunting eradicated the passenger pigeon. By 1914, the bird was officially extinct. A bird that could withstand harsh winters, summer heat, droughts, and famine could not escape their greatest enemy, humans.  MacEwan describes the results of mindless and excessive hunting as reckless slaughter. It is a similar sad story for the whooping crane.

Birds are not the only species in danger. MacEwan provides a long list of other animals facing extinction in the 1960s.  Included were caribou, muskox, bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, and prairie dogs. MacEwan urged all Canadians to take part in saving endangered species before they became extinct. Canadians, according to MacEwan, are interested in wildlife for different reasons. For some, their primary interest is hunting; others claim the economic benefits associated with hunting. The last group only wishes to observe animals in their natural habitat. Animals are constantly threatened by expanding industries. It is society's responsibility to ensure that protective measures are in place. Wildlife's relationship with humans is often centered on a give-and-take scenario and, tragically, the losses frequently outnumber the gains.


MacEwan, Grant. Entrusted To My Care. Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books, 1986.

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