Our Story

The Smeeton's initiated the Swift fox reintroduction program in Canada in 1972, six years before the species was declared extirpated in Canada. All animals held at the CEI are destined for reintroduction. They are not maintained for public exhibit, trade, or sale. Over the 26 years of its existence the CEI has also been an integral part of the Canadian Wildlife Service's Trumpeter swan (Cygnus bucinnator) and Wood Bison (B.b.athabascae) reintroduction programs, as well as playing a key role in the Canadian Swift fox reintroduction program. The CEI is unique in that it holds the world's longest established (1972), largest (20 pairs) and only captive breeding colony of Swift fox. These animals are bred solely for reintroduction as part of the CEI's ecosystem restoration program.

Internationally, as species and habitats vanish, the concept of ecosystem restoration through the reintroduction of Indigenous flora and fauna is gaining greater and greater prominence. The preservation of habitat without those species, which made that habitat a viable whole, is a sterile exercise. 
The CEI also serves as a referee for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

Our Legacy

  • 1971 - Present Day

    CEI established and implemented a wildlife rehabilitation and release program. This program has resulted in the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of over 8,000 injured and/or orphaned wildlife.

  • 1972 - 1986 (IN B.C.*)

    CEI initiated a school program (initially funded by the Federal Government of Canada) to teach environmental studies matched to the requirements of the curricula. *2009 program presently being re-established in B.C.

  • 1972 - 1986

    The CEI initiated the concept of ecosystem restoration through reintroduction of an extirpated (COSEWIC 1978) indigenous species (Swift fox, Vulpes velox) in Canada.

  • 1972

    CEI imported first founder Swift foxes into Canada from the USA to establish the Swift fox breeding colony. The Swift foxes came from the USA as there were no swift foxes left in Canada.

  • 1977

    The CEI laid the groundwork for the establishment of the Swift Fox Recovery team by signing a Co-operative Agreement with the University of Calgary.

  •  1983 - 1997

    The first reintroduction program of an extirpated (extinct in Canada) indigenous canid (Swift fox) was undertaken in partnership with the provinces and the federal government of Canada. Of the 1000 Swift fox reintroduced to the Canadian plains during that period, 847 were bred and provided to the Canadian Swift fox reintroduction program by the CEI.

  • 1986 - Present Day

    The CEI Initiated and implemented WHALEFORCE - an International Cetacean Survey using racing & cruising yachtsman.

  • 1993 - 1997

    CEI provides DNA samples of swift fox to UCLA. CEI developed and implemented a new reintroduction method for releasing Swift fox which resulted in substantial documented survival post-release of the reintroduced animals.

  • 1986 - 2006

    CEI undertook orphaned bear cub rescue, rearing release and post release monitoring programs in B.C. and Alberta. These are the first post release monitoring studies of released black bear cubs in western Canada.

  • 1986 - 1999

    CEI undertook otter releases in B. C.

  • 1991 - Present Day

    In Alberta, CEI initiated a Schools Program to teach environmental studies matched to the requirements of the curricula.

  • 1993 - Present Day

    All CEI Swift foxes have their DNA registered at the natural resources DNA & Forensic Profiling Centre in Ontario - this is a first for Swift fox.

  • 1993 - Present Day

    CEI provides Field Station facilities for under graduate, graduate, and post- graduate research. CEI provides experiential- learning environmental programmes for communities and community groups.

  • 1994

    CEI, under permit from South Dakota Fish & Game, collects hair samples of wild Swift fox from the Pine Ridge reservation & South Dakota badlands to send to Dr. Robert Wayne, UCLA, at his request for DNA analysis, and to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for a comparative analysis of selenium levels in South Dakota Swift fox and CEI Canadian bred Swift fox.

  • 1995

    CEI came up with the concept and laid the groundwork for the non-intrusive identification of the sex and individuality of wild Swift fox through the analysis of their mating call (lubricious bay). This method was applied in the field and demonstrated its validity as a non-intrusive survey method. This successful survey methodology proved to be a first for small canids. This has resulted in M.Sc and Ph.d. research which confirmed the theory.

  • 1996 - Present Day

    CEI has been working with sustainable building and ecologically sound life style, to achieve these aims:
    The CEI has built a demonstration straw-bale construction Interpretive Centre
    The CEI is in the process of completing a unique straw-bale construction 400m. long by 2.5 m high Landmark Wall illustrating ancient rock art, illustrating the geological history of the area, types of rocks and fossils, and enabling visitors to view free undisturbed wildlife through windows of tempered glass incorporated within the wall
    - The CEI is also building, with the help of the Federation of Alberta Naturalists, illustrative gardens of useful (edible, medicinal, plant technology, and beautiful) indigenous plants.

  • 1997 - 2002

    In partnership with the Blackfeet Nation, the CEI and the Blackfeet Nation undertook the first reintroduction of an extirpated indigenous species (swift fox) in the USA.

  • 1998

    Swift fox reintroduction Program in Canada was an acknowledged success as the species was reclassified from extirpated in Canada (COSEWIC 1978) to ENDANGERED in Canada (COSEWIC 1998). This was the first successful small canid reintroduction in Canada

  • 1999 - 2000

    CEI develops a non-intrusive method of collecting hair for DNA analysis from wild Swift foxes. This method was a proven success and is a first for non-intrusive DNA sample collection in wild canids. DNA samples collected from wild animals have the ability to provide information on individuality, sex, stress levels and parentage.

  • 2000 - 2006

    At the instigation of the Elders of the Kainai (Blood) Tribe of Alberta the CEI, in partnership with Blood tribe Administration implemented the first Canadian endangered species reintroduction by an Aboriginal people on Aboriginal lands This was the first such program in Canada to incorporate Traditional Aboriginal Environmental Knowledge and botanical knowledge transfer.

  • 2003

    Dawn Locke of the CEI, sponsored by the M.D. of Rocky View, produced a centennial CD (From Wilderness to the Alberta Advantage) on evolution of the Municipal District over the past 100 years

  • 2004 - 2007

    CEI undertook technological exchange & capacity building programmes for Blood Tribe Land Management ( GIS, endangered species, radio telemetry, water management)

  • 2006

    Ken Weagle of the CEI was a requested delegate for the initial set up of the Water for Life programme.

  • 2007

    CEI undertook and evaluation of the status of Horse Creek as a part of the Water for Life programme.

    CEI published a cetacean I.D. book (WhaleForce Quick Cards) specifically designed to enable cetacean identification from the deck of a boat ( you only have a maximum of 5 minutes while the animal is on the surface and you only see a minimum of the cetacean).

    CEI invited to provide WhaleForce seminars to Class Afloat (Cartagena Spain) 2007 Blue Water Circumnavigation Rally (Lanzarote, Spain) 2007 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, AEC, (Las Palmas Spain.)

  • 2007 - Present Day

    CEI implementing the construction of the Landmark Wall, an educational construction which is 400m long by 2.5 m. high, and, when completed, will incorporate experiential learning on the environment, wildlife, and art and culture. Once completed this structure will be the longest artwork in western Canada.

  • 2008

    Campbell River, B.C. branch of the CEI established by Dawn Locke. Dawn will now be implementing school programmes in B.C. and managing WHALEFORCE. Dawn managed and implemented the CEI Educational programmes in Alberta before moving to Campbell river. 

    work of the CEI acknowledged by the International SPCA.

  • 2008 - Present Day

    CEI has designed, developed, and implemented unique and innovative French and English language program L’ECOLOGIE, C’EST POUR TOUS (The Environment is Yours). An integral part of L’ECOLOGIE, C’EST POUR TOUS will be the employment of Experiential Learning methodology. Experiential Learning methodology, as applied by the CEI, will celebrate the merging of intellectual, interpersonal and community engagement in the ecology and Cultural Heritage of western Canada.