This week I delve into the mystery of why wolves choose to hunt in packs. This episode is also the bears are awake so be careful episode followed by an in-depth look at a new bike path proposed to run from Jasper to the Columbia Icefields. Finally, the Olympics may be coming back to Alberta and Lake Louise may be in the running.
Story 1 – Why do wolves hunt in packs?
Have you ever wondered why wolves hunt in packs? After all, a single wolf is capable of taking down a 300 kg (1000 lb) moose all on its own. Theoretically, if a wolf hunted alone or in a group of one or two, they would just get more of the meat to themselves. New research from Isle Royale National Park in Michigan has focussed on another reason – ravens.
Biologists John Vucetich and Rolf Peterson of Michigan Tech and Thomas Waite of Ohio State University led the study which delved into the mechanisms prompted wolves to hunt in large coordinated packs.
When wolves take down a moose, there is far more meat than they are capable of eating in a single sitting. Unfortunately for them, leftovers are not simply ignored. Within minutes of a kill, ravens begin to arrive. These aggressive scavengers can down up to 2 kg or 4 lbs of meat per bird per day. In many cases, the wolves can lose up to half a carcass to ravens.
By hunting in a larger group, the wolves are able to reduce the percentage of a kill lost to ravens, making it more efficient to hunt in larger groups. The ravens hunt in groups, and they may be forcing the wolves to follow suit.
Story 2 – The bears wake up
It’s official, the bears are beginning to emerge from their winter dens. At this time of year, it will invariably be the big male bears that wake up earlier, with females emerging several weeks later and new moms waiting until May to show themselves. There are a lot of challenges to these early risers. Food is scarce and the first shoots of spring are some weeks away. The Boss, also known as bear 122,
The Boss, also known as bear 122, is usually the first grizzly spotted every spring. He spends the early part of the season patrolling the CPR mainline in search of carcasses and grain spills. Other bears may look to avalanche slopes for bighorn sheep and mountain goat carcasses. This year is experiencing record avalanches so hopefully, most of the bears are going to wait a while before venturing into steep terrain.
Other spring foods include bearberries, which are the only berry that remains on the plant throughout the winter in the central Rockies. Other bears will search for squirrel caches of whitebark pine nuts. These highly nutritious foods will prompt grizzlies to excavate several metres into the snowpack in search of a squirrel’s cache.
It’s also a time of year where they may be attracted to human food and garbage. It’s time to take down your bird feeders and make sure there aren’t any attractants around your property that might draw a hungry bear in. It’s also time to make sure you’re carrying your bear spray as well.
Story 3 – Icefields Parkway bike path
Last summer, Parks Canada announced plans for a new bike path that would run from Jasper to the Columbia Icefields. I first introduced this plan way back in episode 3 and over the past few weeks, parks has held public comment sessions on the proposed trail and is in the process of compiling the results.
The trail will run 109 km or 65 miles from the town of Jasper to the Wilcox Campground. At a Public Consultation held in Jasper on March 14, Siivola indicated that the route was chosen specifically to “ensure users feel comfortable while enjoying nature, to maximize the use of existing infrastructure, to minimize the effects on natural and cultural resources, to connect day-use areas, viewpoints and campgrounds, and to minimize the number of crossings”.
That’s a tall order for any trail – especially given Jasper National Parks poor record in recent years for maintaining even its most iconic trail systems. On February 8, Jasper National Park finally reaffirmed its commitment to increased maintenance of its backcountry trail system. In a story published in the Fitzhugh, Jasper’s Superintendent, Alan Fehr was quoted as saying: “We have a lot of assets in Parks Canada and a lot of them were built 40, 50, 60 years ago, maybe longer, and they are in need of repair or maintenance, and in some cases replacement.
This trail seems to be just another push to increase the number of people in the front country of the parks. Over the past decade, we’ve seen the backcountry neglected while the front country got bike races, via ferratas, summer ski hill operations and vast increases in vehicle traffic.
If you missed the recent open houses, you can still make your voice heard. Public comments are open until April 24th 2017. To learn more about the trail, visit: http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/jasper/plan/sentierdesglaciers-icefieldstrail.aspx
To add your feedback check out: http://pc.sondages-surveys.ca/surveys/sondage-survey/icefields-trail-north-consultation-feedback-form/?l=en-ca
The more people that weigh in on this trail the better. If you believe that corridors like the Icefield Parkway should remain wild, then please add your voice to the opposition towards this proposal. There are so many great ways that Parks could use these dollars. This is not one of them.
Story 4 – Winter Olympics take two
Calgary is considering a bid for the 2026 winter Olympics. After the success of its first Olympics in 1988, the city was able to boast the first winter Olympics in history to actually turn a profit. It’s also unique in that almost 30 years after the games ended, all of the venues are still in use.
As the exploration committee looks at possible venues, Lake Louise Ski Hil, as it did during the 88 bid process, is up for consideration for the alpine events. Currently, it hosts the season openers for both the men’s and women’s downhill events every year so it clearly has the terrain necessary for an Olympic event. It is controversial more for the fact that it lies in a sensitive location and there are fears that any Olympic bid will be used as leverage to increase development at the ski hill.
My support would be to use the original Olympic venue, Nakiska at Mount Allan which was built specifically for the 88 games. It would need a retrofit, but it has everything needed to host the events, and it’s closer to Calgary.