Victoria ranked most romantic city in Canada, according to Amazon purchases

Couples in Victoria, B.C. are ready for Valentine’s day.

For the seventh year in a row, Amazon named the city the most romantic place in Canada, as residents have purchased the most romance-related products from the online retailer.

LaSalle, Que. was second on the list and Fort McMurray, Alta. rounded out the top three.

  1. Victoria, British Columbia
  2. LaSalle, Quebec
  3. Fort McMurray, Alberta
  4. North Vancouver, British Columbia 
  5. Spruce Grove, Alberta
  6. Whitehorse, Yukon
  7. Kelowna, British Columbia  
  8. Sherwood Park, Alberta
  9. Courtenay, British Columbia
  10. Bowmanville, Ontario 
  11. Grande Prairie, Alberta
  12. Airdrie, Alberta
  13. Waterloo, Ontario
  14. Oakville, Ontario  
  15. Vancouver, British Columbia
  16. Langley, British Columbia
  17. Burlington, Ontario
  18. North Bay, Ontario
  19. Aurora, Ontario 
  20. Port Coquitlam, British Columbia 

B.C. cat hoarder surrenders 194 cats

B.C. authorities are asking a cat hoarder to put her unhealthy collection on “paws”.

A South Okanagan cat hoarder recently gave up 30 cats to the local SPCA. Authorities have forced the hoarder to surrender a total of almost 200 cats since 2016, according to the Abbotsford News.

Most of the 30 cats recently surrendered were younger than six months old and many were suffering from various medical afflictions.

The same cat hoarder surrendered 111 cats in October 2018 and 53 more in 2016 and 2017.

“It’s extremely challenging dealing with hoarders because unless they get the help they need, the same issues arise again and again, and the animals suffer as a result,” Lorie Chortyk, a spokesperson for the B.C. SPCA, told the Abbotsford News.

The cats are now being cared for by the Penticton and Kelowna Branches of the SPCA.

Tropical parasite bringing ‘sudden death’ to Canadian farmers’ sheep

The barber’s poll worm has been wreaking havoc on sheep farmers’ livestock in recent years. Photo/Andrew Peregrine

When B.C. farmer Susan Russell suddenly lost a sheep to a deadly parasite, she knew she had a problem.

But it wasn’t until she heard from other sheep farmers who were experiencing similar problems that she realized the extent of the predicament.

Sheep farmers across the country have been losing lambs and ewes to a tropical parasite, known as the barber’s pole worm, or haemonchus contortus. Researchers say the worm has existed in Canada for decades, but the parasite’s population has flourished in recent years partly because of warmer weather.

“This has definitely become a major problem for producers,” said Russell, who has farmed a small flock of sheep for decades. “We’re all finding that it’s impacting how we can raise sheep.”

These worms usually measure around two centimetres and grow to adulthood in the digestive tract of sheep. Their larvae die off in the winter when the temperature goes below freezing, but thrive in the summer when it’s hot and wet and can live for months before being ingested by sheep.

When the worm’s reach adulthood, the worms drain the blood and protein out of the host sheep, which then die.

The worm’s population can grow very quickly, depending on how warm and wet the summer is, said Dr. Paul Menzies, a professor at the veterinary college at the University of Guelph. A farm can very quickly go from having no parasites on it to having animals dying from an infestation, she said.  

“The warmer and wetter our summers are, the more issues we’re going to have with haemonchus,” said Menzies.

Warmer summers and longer grazing seasons in recent years have given the worms more opportunity to build up massive populations, she said.

While researchers and farmers blame climate change for creating conditions in which the worms have thrived, a resistance some worms have to drugs that farmers use deworm sheep is compounding the problem. If a farmer deworms all of his or her sheep during the winter in the barn, they will be exposing all of the barber’s pole worms on the farm to the drug, as the parasite can’t live out on pasture during the winter.

The worms who survive the deworming will only be the ones who are resistant to the drug and there will not be others left to compete with them, Menzies said.

The parasite can be very deadly quickly after infection. Farmers can deworm their sheep and then see them die less than two weeks later because so many have been surviving the deworming drugs, Menzies said.

The parasites can also be hard to detect. While most worms cause animals to have diarrhea, barber’s pole worm does not. The only known way to check for the parasite is by looking at the inside of the lower eyelid to see how pale it is. 

“We call it sudden death because these are often not sheep that look sick, but they can go from being fine to almost completely dropping dead,” said Menzies.

Researchers check a lamb for barber’s poll worm. Photo/Chanel Schwartzentruber

Gwyneth Jones, a sheep farmer who also teaches at St. May’s University in Halifax, N.S., stumbled across the problem in 2012, when she invited some of her students to conduct research on her own sheep at her farm on the Bay of Fundy.

By examining sheep faeces, the students found that the number of the parasite’s eggs on her pasture had sky rocketed since the last time Jones had conducted such research in 1997.

Jones said she was lucky to catch the problem early enough that she was able to closely monitoring her sheep for the parasite, but it has been devastating for others, who have lost many animals to the worm.

It was particularly devastating for many sheep farmers in 2012, 2013 and 2014, Jones said.

“I know a number of particularly new entrants were discouraged and gave up fairly quickly. I know a number of people gave up raising sheep in those years,” she said.

Researchers have been developing techniques for farmers to lower the risk of the parasite developing on their farm. Some of these include only deworming sheep when necessary and to closely monitor them for the parasite.

Researchers have also been working to develop new drugs that the parasites are not resistant to.

“In general, it certainly was and continues to be a serious issue, but now people are much better informed about what’s going on and understand the importance of weather conditions,” said Jones.

Some B.C. residents still struggling after 2017 wildfires

Wildfires burn in the central interior of British Columbia in 2017. Photo/Raymond Ford

Burned out homes and ashes still remain on some main roads in the central interior of British Columbia, reminding residents of when wildfires ripped through their communities in 2017.

Local community leaders say several houses that burned down have not been rebuilt. And some of the homes that have been repaired are surrounded by blackened forest.

While many residents are working to get back to normal life, they know things will never be the same again.

“We’ve lost our sense of home and safety. Our reality is different,” said Joan Sorley, a director on the board of Cariboo Regional District, who represents five different communities in the area.

A recent study, conducted by the federal government and the University of Victoria, concluded that human-induced climate change is largely to blame for the severity of the wildfires that ravaged the province that year.

The fires burned a record setting 1.2-million hectare area. Researchers found that the area was seven to 11 times larger than it would have been without human influences on climate.

The fires displaced 65,000 people and exposed millions to smoke-filled air.

In the Cariboo Regional District, Sorley said many people panicked when the fires first started.

Some rural residents who were evacuated did not have cell phones and had no way of getting information about whether it was safe to return, she said. Some even camped out in parking lots for weeks.

Sorley left almost as soon as nine fires broke out around her home in Big Lake, B.C.

She didn’t wait for an evacuation order and stayed with family in Prince George for three weeks.

“It’s changed me,” Sorley said of the wildfires. “My home doesn’t feel the same any more. It kind of lost its safety it always had.”

Raymond Ford, a resident of 100 Mile House, said he didn’t return to his home for 72 days. During that time, he said he suffered a nervous breakdown.

“When the wildfires hit, all mayhem hit,” he said.

Planes fly by wildfires in the central interior of British Columbia in 2017. Photo/Raymond Ford

Varying levels of government have been working to educate residents how to “fire-smart” their properties in order to decrease the chances of their homes igniting if wildfires return. This can include removing flammable vegetation near houses, and replacing certain types of sidings and finishes that are particularly combustible.

Ford said he has taken a number of steps to protect his property from wildfires.

Walt Cobb, the mayor of Williams Lake, B.C., said his municipality has been working with different levels of government to fire-smart the community. The small city of 12,000 abuts the rural area Sorley represents.

“We’re doing everything we can to not only be ready if it happens again, but trying to do what we can do to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he said.

The city’s residents were evacuated July 15, 2017 and were barred from returning for two weeks.

As others ran from the flames, Cobb stayed put in Williams Lake. He camped out at the fire hall with his mobile home, and vowed to stay until the last firefighter left.

The flames spared the buildings within the city limits of Williams Lake, but the events still left emotional scars on many residents, Cobb said.

Last year, Cobb said some residents would pack up their cars and get ready to leave at any sign of smoke.

He said some children were scared to go back to school as they feared they would be separated from their parents again.

“That we’ll be dealing with for years,” he said.  

But while many people are still on edge, Sorley said a comforting aspect of the whole ordeal was that it caused many in the affected communities to come together to help each other.

There were also groups from other places that arrived to help in any way they could. Volunteers with the Mennonite Disaster Services camped out in the area to help rebuild homes for free.

Residents of Fort McMurray, who suffered through that city’s wildfires in 2016, loaded up trucks with supplies for evacuees and drove them down.

“The flip side is communities are coming together,” she said.