Like so many other Montreal companies, large and small, Jack Kowalski and his employees have kept Saute-Moutons afloat using innovation to make money when the pandemic left much of his fleet of jet boats high and dry in 2020.
"We almost didn’t make it," stated Kowalski. "Last year, we offered a smaller trip called Jet St-Laurent. It allowed us to respect the health guidelines while ensuring revenue."
But today, by the Clocktower Pier of the Old Port, the Saute-Moutons jet boats were put back in the water and "captains, guides and mechanics are working hard to prepare for the upcoming season," according to a news release, though a specific opening date was not named.
If you’ve never experienced Saute-Mouton, hold onto your socks, or bring a fresh pair because they are about to get soaked. Since 1983, Saute-Moutons has allowed Montrealers to see and feel the majesty and power of the Lachine Rapids from the safety of specially-built jet boats.
"After a summer that never started, the crew is excited about what promises to be a busy summer," stated the company, which is consistently rated the city’s favourite nautical attraction by Trip Advisor.
To hop on one of these bad boys, simply go to the waterfront of the Lachine Canal, near the Atwater Market, at least 15 minutes before the time of your reservation, which can be made online beforehand.
You'll have the option of reserving your swan-shaped pedal boat for a 30-minute, one-hour or two-hour ride on the Lachine Canal.
And if you're looking to get a head start on your summer planning, the site says that "reservations will open seven days before the session," so start looking at the time slots available as of May 14!
Swan Pedal Boats At The Lachine Canal Nautical Center
Cost: $25 for half an hour, $30 for one hour and $60 for two hours
When: Starting May 21
Address: 2727B, rue St-Patrick, Montreal, QC
Why you should go: What better way to float along the Lachine Canal than on a swan-shaped boat?
Butters the wild turkey, iconic resident of Montreal's west end, has become the city’s newest animal influencer these last few months. He even has his own Facebook page. But Butters the turkey and his brethren are new in town, says Canadian Wild Turkey Federation biologist Tadeusz Splawinski.
In fact, after being hunted to near-extinction by the beginning of the 20th century, turkeys are experiencing a population explosion in Quebec thanks in part to climate change, he said.
Decades of rising temperatures have caused this species that previously lived in the northern United States to move farther north, he said.
That means there could be more turkeys roaming the streets of Montreal in the future and, though Butters seems extremely chill, Splawinski suggested we implement human-turkey conflict resolution strategies, just to be on the safe side.
“We can expect to see more such observations and interactions as the species expands and population density increases,” he said.
“Historically, wild turkeys have been more common south of the border, so people there have been exposed to these conflicts for longer than we have here in Quebec.”
What's the history of wild turkeys in Quebec?
In the olden days, there were plenty of wild turkeys in the province but hunting and habitat loss caused their extirpation from southern Quebec and Ontario, said Splawinski.
The species was saved thanks in part to a huge conservation effort, including 40 relocation programs between 2003 and 2013 involving more than 600 captured wild turkeys.
As their numbers rebounded, they’ve adjusted remarkably well to urban and suburban environments thanks to ample food and few natural predators, he said.
A mature male wild turkey can weigh over 25 pounds and has long sharp spurs on the back of its legs for weapons.
“They can therefore actually cause significant injury to a human,” he said.
And though they’re usually docile, the males become ornery during breeding season when they’ll “challenge any perceived competitor, including humans,” he said.
Hopped up on hormones with snoods erect and tail feathers on display, the birds strut around to establish dominance and court females, he said.
And if a sex-crazed turkey becomes habituated to humans, he might challenge you for top spot on the pecking order — as turkey society is not unlike high school, where the biggest most popular birds rule the roost and get all the chicks.
“Lots of videos on YouTube show wild turkeys chasing property owners, mail carriers, and even pets,” said Splawinski.
“Although these animals can seem cute and harmless, they have the potential to cause significant damage.”
Thankfully, Splawinski said you can scare them off by putting on your own dominance display using shouts, threats, and hand gestures, just like in high school.
“The goal is to prevent the turkey from intimidating you, therefore you must establish dominance so that they do not perceive you as lower on the pecking order,” he said.
“Do not run, back away, or turn your back. Step toward the turkey and act confidently.”
More than one Butters in Montreal?
As it seems nobody’s been able to catch Butters and pull up its skirts there’s been some debate regarding its sex.
The Montreal Gazette has reported that Butters is female but Splawinski insists he’s an immature male.
“There have been quite a lot of other wild turkey sightings throughout Montreal, including Verdun, the West Island, and north Montreal. It is possible that they are reporting on another bird and have them mixed up.”
That means Montreal’s turkey population could be on the rise. And while they’re fascinating, they’re still wild animals, and getting habituated to people could ultimately lead to their demise.
Splawinski said feeding Butters is therefore a bad idea.
“Try to limit potential food sources. Clean up bird feeders and spilled seed, as well as unsecured garbage, do not scatter seeds, and don’t offer handouts,” he said.
“It may also be a good idea to talk with neighbours to ensure that they are not feeding the birds (my friend is currently feeding Butters, other residents probably as well).”
Hit and runs are also a threat to Butters and his kind as they often respond to shiny things and their own reflections, causing them to sometimes go after car mirrors and windows, he said.
As the pandemic drags on, Montrealers have found a friend in fowl times. That much was revealed by NDG resident Angel Ng, who woke up on Sunday morning to an unexpected visitor in her driveway: Butters the NDG turkey.
“I called my daughter to check out the window,” she said. “I knew who he was when I approached the driveway. I told my family members: ‘That’s Butters the NDG turkey people have been looking for!'”
“If you're social like me, being cooped up will get to you at times,” she quipped. “I think he just gives us something fun and different to talk about during these times and that's why he's become so popular.”
NDG resident Bryan Weiss also spotted Butters last week and was impressed by the bird’s large size and impressive strut.
“When I saw the bird, I was shocked,” he said. “I just came off the bus and was walking down the street and in the distance I saw him… a wild turkey roaming the streets of Montreal!”
From his bright plumage and lack of a beard, Canadian Wild Turkey Federation biologist Tadeusz Splawinski explained Butters appears to be a young male and was probably born this past spring.
While turkeys are relatively docile and typically scared of humans, he strongly discouraged residents from approaching the bird to avoid public safety issues for both humans and Butters.
“Your readers, and those feeding Butters in particular, likely won't want to hear this, but in order to minimize potential conflict, I highly suggest not feeding the bird or trying to tame it,” he said.
“It may seem like a kind thing to do, particularly in the winter, but this will lead to problematic issues down the line.”