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005 Oops, Out of Bear Spray, Park Improvements, Another Dead Wolf, and Ground Squirrels in the Rockies

In this episode we’ll look at some breaking news in Banff, Jasper and Kananaskis Country. We’ll also talk about the beleaguered Bow Valley Wolf Pack and the unfortunate loss of another member of this local pack. Finally we’ll listen in on a talk presented at the Kananaskis Visitor Centre by ground squirrel researchers working in the Ptarmigan Cirque are of Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.

Story 1 – Breaking News

There have been several news stories since our last episode. The first one deals with an unexpected challenge related to bears and buffaloberries…Calgary outdoor shops have been having a hard time keeping bear spray in stock. You may have to look around a bit to find a canister if you don’t already have one. Well, at least people are beginning to stock up on bear spray.

In other news, there is a proposal for a gondola to the gondola in Banff Townsite. The road to the Sulphur Mountain Gondola has been getting busier and busier and routinely gets backed up for an hour or more during peak times. This 66 million dollar proposal would see a gondola built from the townsite to the Upper Hot Springs/Sulphur Mountain Gondola base with stops at Tunnel Mountain Trailhead, The Banff Centre, and the Fairmont Banff Springs along the way.

It will be a tough sell to parks as it would need expansion beyond the townsite boundaries in order to build the large parking lots designed to catch vehicles at both entrances to town in order to funnel them to an expanded public transit system as well as to the townsite gondola stations.

New funding is coming to Kananaskis Country and surrounding parks. The Alberta government has announced 25.6 million dollars will be spent improving and expanding camping facilities in the Kananaskis and nearby areas. The money will add more sites with power, additional trails and improvement to camping facilities. This is welcome news.

Jasper National Park is also seeing two major developments. First, there will be a major development at the Mount Edith Cavell Day-Use Area. In 2012 and 2014, large blocks of ice broke off of the Ghost Glacier high above the tiny lake at the base of Angel Glacier. The first one sent a huge tsunami-like wave that caused major destruction to the day-use and parking areas. The 2014 incident was smaller but still caused significant damage. This fall’s development will require the area to close Sept 19 so they can move (and enlarge) the parking lot out of the danger zone and improve the trail systems.

South of Jasper townsite, the Valley of Five Lakes Trailhead parking area is also seeing a major upgrade. This will result in it closing as of Sept 6 for the season to allow workers access. Over the past few years, the popularity of this low elevation trail system has resulted in cars spilling out to the highway for miles as hikers jockey for a place to park. This will expand the parking lot as well as improving the washroom facilities and adding additional picnic tables to the site.

Story 2 – Another Wolf Put Down by Parks

A second female wolf from the Bow Valley Pack has had to be destroyed after getting into human food and garbage. This is yet another terrible hit for the beleaguered Bow Valley pack and leaves it with only 3 adult wolves and 2 remaining pups from an original 6 at the start of the season.

This wolf pack has had a very difficult year. Hopefully the remaining wolves can stay clear of human food and continue to wander the landscape around the town of Banff.

Story 3 – Ground Squirrel Research

I was lucky to be able to take in a presentation by 5 biologists studying ground squirrels in Kananaskis Country. Led by lead researcher Danielle Rivet provided some really good information on general ecology as well as some of the impacts of climate change on two different populations of ground squirrels. Surprisingly, climate change does not simply mean less winter snow and an earlier rise for ground squirrels, especially in high elevations like Ptarmigan Cirque. In fact research has shown an increase in late season storms which may have a very different effect on the little guys. They were kind enough to let me record the program and so I’ve edited it down a bit for time but I hope you enjoy it. I certainly did. Many thanks to Danielle and the rest of her team: Sophie Tuppen, Jorden Gladden, Elena Plana and Elly Hedt.