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  5. Stamp of approval! Museum collaborates with Canada Post on snow mammal series

Stamp of approval! Museum collaborates with Canada Post on snow mammal series

© Canada Post

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Canada Post’s Snow Mammals souvenir sheet. In the lower left-hand corner of each stamp, visible only under ultraviolet (black) light, is a set of the animal’s tracks as they would appear in fresh snow.

By Kristy Jones, March 16, 2021

When Canada Post gears up to release a new collection of nature-themed stamps, they want every detail to be perfect, especially since the process can take months to years. That’s why they work with the Canadian Museum of Nature to ensure accuracy.

The two institutions have a relationship spanning decades, and it was renewed in February with the release of a collection of snow mammal stamps.

“The Canadian Museum of Nature is one of the leading experts,” said Elia Anoia, Senior Manager of Stamp Services with Canada Post. “If we decide to do an animal-themed stamp, we always go first to the museum to see if they have people on staff that can help us.”

The stamps were vetted for accuracy by Dr. Dominique Fauteux, the museum’s mammal expert, who brings a decade of experience working in the Arctic. This was the first project he has done with Canada Post.

The five featured animals are the ermine, the Peary caribou, the northern collared lemming, the Arctic fox, and the snowshoe hare. All turn white in winter.

“They basically asked me to review their fun facts. They wanted me to certify that what they said about each species is true and scientifically valid,” Fauteux said. He was also asked to check pictures to make sure Canada Post had properly identified the animals.

Noel Alfonso © Canadian Museum of Nature

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Dominique Fauteux using an all-terrain vehicle for fieldwork around Cambridge Bay, Nunavut.

“Our process is to make sure that anything on our stamps related to the animals, whether it’s the image or the text, is accurate,” Anoia said.

That is why the set reviewed by Fauteux is a “snow mammals” collection rather than an “Arctic” collection. He explains that while the five animals are found in the Arctic, the snowshow hare and ermine also live in boreal forests and therefore are not considered solely Arctic animals.

The need for accuracy extends beyond the animal world. Museum botanists Dr. Lynn Gillespie and Paul Sokoloff, for example, have helped identity flowers for a Canada Post horticultural stamp series. And when Canada Post worked with the museum in 2015 for a dinosaur-themed collection, the stamps were all, by necessity, illustrations. “They worked to make sure every line, every drawing, every aspect of the animal is correct,” Anoia said.

“As scientists, our job is also to communicate our science by participating in activities that try to popularize the work we do. Simply showcasing biodiversity is a very important thing, so it was fulfilling to be part of this project,” said Fauteux.

In November 2019, when Fauteux was first asked to vet the stamp collection, he was working with a graduate student, Mathilde Poirier. They were at the Canadian High Arctic Research Station in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, testing the effect of gradual light reduction on the colour transformation of a collard lemming’s fur. Poirier’s photo of the northern-collard lemming ended up in the stamp series.

Michelle Valberg © Canada Post

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Michelle Valberg, a director for the museum’s Nature Foundation, provided the image of the snowshoe hare on this stamp.

The museum has another connection to this wintry collection. Award-winning wildlife photographer Michelle Valberg, who is a director for the museum’s Nature Foundation, provided the image of the snowshoe hare, as well as the snow scenes.

Learn more about the Snow Mammals stamp series.  

Fun facts

  • The five animals on the stamps are among only 19 species of mammals worldwide – and 12 in Canada – that undergo a change in coat colour.
  • The change is the result of a complex physiological process influenced by changes in daylight hours.
  • Moulting is a gradual, twice-yearly process that starts around the time of the first snowfall and reverses in the warmer months, beginning around the time of the spring melt.
  • You can learn more about these animals by visiting the museum’s Canada Goose Arctic Gallery and Mammal Gallery.