A video about woodland caribou found in the mountain national parks of Banff, Jasper, Glacier and Mount Revelstoke. The video outlines the five key threats faced by this species at risk, and highlights current research in Jasper National Park. The video also shows biologists at work in the field.
(Parks Canada beaver logo) parkscanada.pc.gc.ca
A film by Cam Koerselman
Deep in the Tonquin Valley of Jasper National Park, Parks Canada biologists are on a mission. They are out to investigate a potential caribou kill site as part of an ongoing program to monitor wolf kill rates in the park. But it’s not an easy task, not only is it a 50km hike through difficult back-country terrain, searching for the licked-clean cast-offs of last winter’s hungry wolf pack feels like finding a needle in a haystack. But the biologists have come prepared…. using GPS data from collars on the wolf pack, the biologists use their own GPS unit to guide them to within meters of where the wolves might have made their kill.
Narrator introduces work of Jasper National Park biologists with video from the Tonquin Valley in Jasper National Park: clouds moving over Amethyst Lake, alpine flowers, the Ramparts, a marmot on a rock, people with backpacks hiking through forest, meadow and crossing a creek, a wolf, image of a wolf with a kill, mountain scenery, people hiking, woman with backpack using GPS and looking around on the ground.
Should be right around here.
Biologist Layla Neufeld speaking in video while holding GPS and looking around.
The biologists search the site, but no carcass can be found; meaning that the wolves most likely used the area last winter as a bedding site, and not for a feast.
Narrator continues with video of two biologists looking for a kill site in bushes.
It’s good that were liberal with the definition of what a kill site is because we’ve had situations where we’ve been to a site and there have only been 2 or 3 hours that the animal was at the site, and we’ll get there and there will be a kill, and what has happened is that the GPS can’t quite reach the satellite due to either cover or a big cliff or rocks somewhere around so it helps us find where the cut-off is between a bed and a kill.
Layla Neufeld, Caribou Biologist
Layla Neufel, Caribou Biologist, discusses wolf kill sites. Video images are of her and another biologist looking for a kill site, and a mountain lake scene.
But finding no kill is certainly not disappointing… because woodland caribou herds in the Rocky Mountains don’t have many more members to lose.
Narrator continues with close up video of a caribou and a view of the Ramparts in the Tonquin Valley.
Our last census was 87 and there could be as many as 96, so just under a hundred here in Jasper, we figure back in ’88 there was about 175 so we’ve had a decline since then. Banff National Park of course, there was only about 5 and all of them were killed in an avalanche, so odds are they have been extirpated in Banff National Park.
Mark Bradley, Caribou Biologist
Mark Bradley, Caribou Biologist, explains current status of caribou in Jasper and Banff National Parks with video of Tonquin Valley scenery and a herd of about 10 caribou.
So within Canada there’s a lot of different types of caribou and the one on the quarter is the one that people probably grow up learning about and seeing but most of the time when people think about caribou they think about barren-ground caribou - large herds, migratory animals, moving to the coast to calve, and then back, but woodland caribou generally live below treeline in Canada, don’t have large migrations, don’t move to the coast and don’t live in large groups. A lot of people are surprised to learn that we have woodland caribou as far south as jasper and into southern B.C and even down into the United States.
Layla Neufeld talks about caribou in Canada with video of caribou in the Tonquin Valley.
For the woodland caribou that spend time within the mountain national parks, Parks Canada is actively doing research to learn the best way to maintain stable populations. They have come up with five key threats to caribou.
Narrator continues with video images of Layla using a telemetry antennae and receiver while another Parks Canada employee looks on, close up of the antennae, and Layla looking over a data sheet.
The first of the threats, and the one that is being managed most, is altered predator prey dynamics. This threat starts with having a stable, over-inflated population of elk in the park. And having increased numbers of elk sustains more wolves – more wolves that can kill more caribou.
Narrator explains the first threat while screen shows a large number one and five video images on the left hand side: 2 videos of wolves, one of a 70 km/hr caribou crossing speed sign, one of a cut block, and one of caribou. The video images represent the five threat categories. The screen zooms into the first video of a wolf followed by footage of a bull elk feeding in the grass, a wolf, and a caribou.
The second threat is increased predator access.
Narrator introduces the second threat. Screen shows a large number two with the five threat video images, zooms into the second wolf video.
So caribou live up in these high reaches of the mountains, especially in winter time they use this space to separate themselves from wolves. When we create tracks that go into caribou habitat, we create a perfect trail, a wolf can access caribou habitat easily and this increases risk to caribou.
Layla Neufeld describes the threat of predator access with video images of caribou in the Tonquin Valley, a cross-country skier, and a wolf.
The third threat is human disturbance.
Narrator speaking. Screen shows a large number three and the five threat videos; zooms into the third video of the caribou crossing speed zone.
In Jasper National Park we’ve lost about 13 caribou since 1988 on the Icefields parkway; this is a fairly preventable loss and ends up being a fairly large factor to the population decline, so we’ve worked on speed zones in those areas. When we're hiking and accessing areas that are caribou habitat, sometimes caribou react and run great distance from us.
Layla Neufeld describes the threat with video of Angel Glacier, a caribou scene where one caribou fades out of the picture, a 70 km/hr caribou crossing speed zone with a car driving the Icefields Parkway in winter, two women hiking, and caribou running.
The fourth threat is habitat loss.
Narrator introduces fourth threat while screen shows a large number four and the five small videos. It zooms into the fourth video of a cut block.
We don’t see a lot of that within the national parks, but one example of that is potentially fire - which changes habitat for caribou. Outside of the national park were talking about things like cut blocks, pipelines, and seismic lines.
Layla Neufeld speaking with images of forest fires and a cut block.
The fifth threat is small population size, and as proven by the loss of the entire Banff herd in just one avalanche, normal impacts on small populations are magnified making each animal precious.
Narrator describes fifth threat. Screen shows large number five with the five small videos. It zooms into the last video with scenes of caribou in the Tonquin Valley.
Caribou are a really cool species that are highly adapted to a unique environment. They have really unique features and they live in places where really only they can survive. They are connected to us in so many ways, culturally connected, economically connected, they’re one on the first deer species that we grow up learning about just because of the fact that they are on our money. They are good indicators for an ecosystem and for when an ecosystem is in trouble. And for all these reasons I think we should all be involved in learning about caribou, and participating in caribou recovery, giving our opinions about caribou when we are asked, and just staying informed about caribou, caribou ecology.
Layla Neufeld describes the importance of woodland caribou with video of the Ramparts in the Tonquin Valley, a yellow alpine flower with a bee on it, and of caribou.
To learn more, visit pc.gc.ca
Music by Aiden Knight and Kevin MacLeod
Special thanks to: Marcia deWandel, Shelley Bird, The Nature Conservancy of Canada for photos of cutblocks, Mark Bradley for wolf photo, Steve Malcom for fire photos, Colin Koerselman, Lindsay Gergel