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014 Canada’s National Bird, Lake Louise World Cup Cancelled, and Desperate Measures for Whirling Disease

In this weeks episode, we’ll look at the Royal Canadian Geographic Societies choice of the Gray or Canada Jay as Canada’s National Bird. We’ll also look at the cancellation of the first Men’s World Cup scheduled to be held at Lake Louise Ski Hill. Finally I’ll examine some of the desperate measures Parks Canada may try to rid Johnson Lake of whirling disease.

Story 1 – Canada Jay selected to be our national bird

For the past year, the Royal Canadian Geographic Society has been listening to Canadians suggestions for a national bird. While the Americans have the bald eagle, Canada has never adopted a national bird. The Royal Canadian Geographic Society listened to some 50,000 submissions from Canadians to whittle down the many suggestions into 5 finalists. After long deliberations, the Canada jay beat out the finalists which included the common loon, Canada Goose, black-capped chickadee and snowy owl.

Story 2 – World Cup Cancelled

The first men’s World Cup Downhill of the season, scheduled to be at Lake Louise Ski Hill on November 26-27th has been cancelled. After a great start to the winter in October, suddenly the weather warmed to more than 10 degrees above average for this time of year. The warm temperatures made it impossible to make enough snow to safely run the event and organizers had to make the hard choice to cancel the event. The women’s downhill season kicks off, also at Lake Louise on Dec 2-4th but the conditions seem to have cooled down significantly so hopefully they will be able to go ahead with these races.

Story 3 – Desperate Measures for Johnson Lake

Recently, Parks Canada has been looking at some drastic measures to see if Johnson Lake can be rehabilitated. The challenge with whirling disease is that once it infects a lake, the parasites produce spores that can last for decades in the lake sediments. Johnson Lake is an ideal home because it is shallow and warm during the summers with a nice muddy bottom.

The goal at the moment is to keep it from spreading upstream towards Two Jack Lake, Lake Minnewanka and the upper Cascade River system. In particular, the Cascade holds some critical populations of westslope cutthroat trout.

How can they clean the lake? Well it would take several steps. The first would be to remove all of the fish. That would interrupt the life cycle, but not do anything about the spores. New fish populations arriving in the lake would still be susceptible to the long lasting spores and be reinfected.

To deal with the spores in the muddy bottom, on idea is to largely drain the lake and allow the mud to freeze during the winter. This has been shown to kill the spores. Freezing, when combined with removing the fish, may allow parks to clean up this particular body of water.

Johnson Lake would then not only provide a buffer between downstream infected waters and the upper Cascade River, but it would also make it possible for Parks Canada to reopen Johnson Lake for summer recreation. It is one of the only lakes in Banff that gets warm enough to swim and so on hot summer days, it is one of the busiest places in the area. The challenge now for officials is to balance the ecological and financial consequences of the various mitigations against the option of leaving things as is.