Returning wildlife signals spring
Wildlife biologist Mike Fournier helps celebrate Wildlife Week

Maria Canton
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 23/99) - It's that time of year again when the ice breakup starts, the ferry service is almost ready to begin and the birds start flying home.

And for wildlife biologist Mike Fournier, spring and birds signal the end of a long winter of data analysis in the office and the beginning of field work.

"I expect to see the ducks back here in early May, depending on the ice breakup," says Fournier.

"The mallards and pintails are usually the first to come back."

Busy giving wildlife presentations all week for Earth Week, Fournier came to Yellowknife 14 years ago as a university student with a summer job in the field.

His intentions were to only stay for the summer, but he didn't know that he would meet Bonnie, his future wife, that summer, too.

"I went back and forth to finish school, but I've been here since the summer of '85," says Fournier, who has a degree in zoology from the University of Guelph.

Working as a biologist for Canadian Wildlife Services, Fournier's field work used to take him as far away as Tuktoyaktuk and the Mackenzie Delta, but now it is mostly concentrated around Great Slave Lake and along the highway between Yellowknife and Rae.

"I like to stay closer to home now, because of my family, that way I can enjoy the summer with them," says Fournier, who has three young kids.

"Sometimes field work can take you away for long stretches at a time."

For Earth Week, Fournier has been giving slide shows on birds and amphibians and the lone reptile of the NWT, the red-sided garter snake.

Tourists, school groups and the public have been coming out all week happy to learn about the wildlife and ecology.

Wrapping up this weekend, Earth Week still has an evening coffeehouse and auction set to go tonight and an afternoon of family fun on Sunday.

And with what appears to be an early spring, everyone can get ready to welcome home the returning birds and enjoy the outdoors.

"The weather and the bugs don't bother me," says Fournier.

"They're small in comparison to everything else up here that I love."