RESOURCE CONSERVATION Banff Field Unit Report from the Field - 2011

RESOURCE CONSERVATION  Banff Field Unit Report from the Field - 2011
parkscanada.gc.ca parcscanada.gc.ca
RESOURCE CONSERVATION
Banff Field Unit
Photo: Dan Rafla/Parks Canada
Report from the Field - 2011
Cover Photo – Bear 122 a large male Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos)
feeding on a moose carcass near Healy Pits in the spring of 2012. This
bear was later captured and radio-collared as part of a monitoring
program for the CP Rail research projects (see description in this
document). Photo by Dan Rafla, Parks Canada.
Back Cover – Wolf (Canis lupus). Photo by Dave Mitchell.
INTRODUCTION
Like all protected areas, Banff National Park (BNP) is a special place. In addition to breathtaking
glaciers, peaks and turquoise lakes, it contains wolverines, grizzly bears, lynx, mountain goats,
bighorn sheep, elk, native trout, endangered whitebark pine, some of the oldest Douglas fir
trees in the world, and much more. Remarkably, it all exists within an hour’s drive of the City of
Calgary, one of the largest and fastest growing urban areas in the country.
BNP’s accessibility, coupled with its position along a major transportation corridor and as
an international tourism destination, results in some heavy pressures. Up to 30,000 vehicles a
day travel through the park on the Trans Canada Highway. Kilometre-long trains trickle grain
and other bear attractants along the railway tracks as they wind their way westward. Over 3.2
million tourists flock through the gates annually, affecting the water, air and wildlife as they
paddle, drive, ski, hike, horseback ride and/or snowshoe their way through the Park.
Additionally, managers are forced to grapple with the impacts of past decisions or lack thereof
(e.g. persecution of predators in the 40s and 50s, the stocking of non-native fish in the 60s and
70s, the suppression of forest fires over the last century, and the inadvertent spread of nonnative plants along roads and trails) as they juggle the problems of today.
These many challenges present us with the unique opportunity to develop, implement,
and showcase ecological restoration efforts with the active involvement of Canadians. But
without knowledge and understanding of the ecosystem itself – the lakes, rivers, trees and
animals – how will we know where to focus our efforts and measure our successes or failures?
Such ecological knowledge and understanding is what this document – Banff’s first
Report from the Field – is all about. It is by no means comprehensive (there are a few projects
that weren’t included due to limited resources) and it isn’t exhaustive. Nor will it ever be, for as
the renowned ecologist Frank Eglar once said, “ecosystems are not only more complex than we
think, they are more complex than we can think.”
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to understand these complex ecosystems.
Indeed, under the National Parks Act and the State-of-the Park reporting process, every
national park is obligated to do so, and to report on our efforts. So here are a number of short
summaries from various projects that represent our collective effort to better understand and
manage this special place on behalf of all Canadians.
-
Karsten Heuer, editor and Resource
Conservation Officer, BNP.
i
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The research summarized in this report is the result of a large collaboration with the following
writers from the Resource Conservation section in Banff National Park: Chris Carli, Anne
Forshner, Blair Fyten, Simon Ham, Karsten Heuer, Tom Hurd, Brian Low, Saundi Norris, Charlie
Pacas, Jane Park, Kathy Rettie, Kimo Rogala, Cyndi Smith, Mark Taylor, Julie Timmins, Percy
Woods, and Jesse Whittington. Significant contributions were also made by the following
university and contracting partners: Dr. Michelle Bowman, Dr. Tony Clevenger, Scott Eggeman,
Dr. David Hamer, Dr. Mark Hebblewhite, Dr. Dwayne Liptzki and Cam McTavish. Thanks to Dan
Rafla and Amar Athwal for the use of their photographs. Karsten Heuer took on the challenging
task of editing and laying out this document. Bill Hunt provided much needed initiative and
editorial support.
Releasing two male harlequin ducks, after capture and banding, on the Bow River, Banff National Park.
ii
TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION....................................................................................................... i
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ........................................................................................... ii
AQUATIC RESOURCES ............................................................................................ 1
AQUATIC BIOMONITORING ...................................................................................................................... 3
UPPER CASCADE RIVER FISHERIES RESTORATION .................................................................................... 5
CASCADE CREEK RESTORATION ................................................................................................................ 7
BANFF SPRINGS SNAIL............................................................................................................................... 9
WATER QUALITY...................................................................................................................................... 11
CULTURAL RESOURCES ........................................................................................ 13
BANFF ARCHAEOLOGICAL INVENTORY ................................................................................................... 15
CULTURAL RESOURCES – SPRAY RIVER ................................................................................................... 17
FIRE AND VEGETATION ........................................................................................ 19
FIRE EFFECTS - Red Deer Prescribed Burn .............................................................................................. 21
FOREST INSECTS AND DISEASE ............................................................................................................... 23
NON-NATIVE VEGETATION ..................................................................................................................... 25
FIRE SEVERITY - Red Deer Burn ............................................................................................................... 27
WHITEBARK PINE .................................................................................................................................... 29
GRIZZLY BEAR FOODS - Grouseberries.................................................................................................... 31
DOUGLAS FIR TREE RESTORATION.......................................................................................................... 33
SOCIAL SCIENCE ................................................................................................... 35
HUMAN USE - FRONTCOUNTRY TRAILS .................................................................................................. 37
WILDLIFE RESOURCES .......................................................................................... 41
WILDLIFE OCCUPANCY - Remote Cameras ............................................................................................. 43
WOLF DENSITY & DISTRIBUTION ............................................................................................................ 45
WOLVES AND VEHICLES .......................................................................................................................... 47
WOLVERINE HIGHWAY INTERACTIONS................................................................................................... 49
HIGHWAY WILDLIFE CROSSING STRUCTURES......................................................................................... 51
iii
WILDLIFE CORRIDORS ............................................................................................................................. 53
BREEDING BIRD SURVEYS.........................................................................................................................57
AVIAN PRODUCTIVITY & SURVIVORSHIP .................................................................................................59
BOW VALLEY ELK MANAGEMENT ............................................................................................................61
YA HA TINDA ELK ..................................................................................................................................... 65
PIKA POPULATION TRENDS ..................................................................................................................... 67
CARIBOU REINTRODUCTION ....................................................................................................................69
BISON REINTRODUCTION........................................................................................................................ 71
GRIZZLY BEAR CUB-OF-THE-YEAR INDEX ................................................................................................ 73
GRIZZLY BEAR – RAILWAY INTERACTIONS ...............................................................................................77
GRAIN ON RAILWAY TRACKS....................................................................................................................81
iv
AQUATIC RESOURCES
1
2
Monitoring
AQUATIC BIOMONITORING
RATIONALE
Streams and rivers are good indicators of the health of an ecosystem. If properly monitored,
they can inform us of pollution, contaminants and other problems upstream. Biomonitoring
(measuring changes in fish, benthic invertebrates and/or algae communities) provides one of
the best means of capturing this information and can often pick up effects from chemical
interactions, contaminant pulses or unknown contaminants that might otherwise go unnoticed in
routine chemical sampling. Biomonitoring also captures the presence of exotic species and is
more likely to reflect impacts from habitat degradation, climate change and fluctuations in water
volume.
The Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring
Network (CABIN) is a national program to
assess aquatic ecosystem health.
Developed by Environment Canada, it has
been adopted by hundreds of groups and
agencies at over 500 sites across the
country (including many national parks) and
feeds into a national database. It is
primarily run by citizen scientists and
volunteers who receive rigorous training
on-line and in the field before beginning
field work. It was piloted in the Banff Field
Unit in 2011 for the first time.
OBJECTIVES
•
•
Provide Citizen Scientists with the skills to sample and assess river and stream health in
Banff Field Unit (BFU) as per the national CABIN protocols.
Conduct CABIN aquatic sampling for a minimum of three years.
METHODS
Interested volunteers were recruited from BFU’s existing volunteer program and trained (via
Environment Canada’s online modules and a 2-day CABIN field certification course conducted
by Parks staff). Using their new skills, field teams consisting of 2 Citizen Scientists and a Parks
Canada staff member visited and sampled 12 sites throughout the Park, as per the CABIN
protocols.
3
RESULTS
Teams sampled twelve sites throughout Banff National Park, 6 of which occurred along the
Spray River to monitor the effects of TransAlta’s emergency discharge from Spray Lake earlier
in the summer (see table below).
Date (September)
16
17
18
19
24
25
27
Location Sampled
Spray River ( two sites)
Cascade River (Flints)
Carrot Creek and Spray River
Forty Mile Creek
Cascade River (Stewart Canyon)
Brewster Creek and Healy Creek
Spray River (three sites )
Access
Helicopter
Helicopter
Hike
Hike
Hike
Hike
Helicopter
Benthic invertebrates collected at each site were classified and counted as per the CABIN
Laboratory Manual and taxonomic key and the resulting information was entered into the
national database.
Because it was the first year, no trends are yet available. All of Parks Canada data, including
site information, photos, and benthic taxonomy, are housed on the CABIN website
http://cabin.cciw.ca/intro.asp.
Nine citizen scientists received CABIN field technician accreditation in 2011 and will continue to
participate in the field next season. Each Citizen Scientist contributed in excess of 155 hours of
training, on-line module completion, and field sampling from April-September 2011 for a total of
more than 1,400 volunteer hours. Program design, training, and fieldwork consumed more than
500 hours of Parks staff time.
YEARS OF DATA COLLECTION
2011
PARTNER
Environment Canada
FUNDING
Parks Canada
CONTACT
Charlie Pacas, Aquatic Specialist, Banff National Park
P: (403) 762-1418; E: [email protected]
Carol Gilchrist, CABIN Citizen Scientist Coordinator
P: (403) 247-9731; E: [email protected]
4
Restoration
UPPER CASCADE RIVER FISHERIES
RESTORATION
RATIONALE
Native west slope cutthroat trout (Onchorynchus
clarki lewisi) populations have been reduced by
almost 80% of their range due to over- exploitation,
habitat degradation, and hybridization/competition
with introduced, non-native trout. The Alberta
population has been assessed as ‘threatened’
provincially and nationally (COSEWIC 2006) and is
being considered for federal listing under the
Species at Risk Act. Approximately 12 genetically
pure populations are believed to remain in BNP,
mostly as severely fragmented, remnant headwater
populations1. Among these are pure (or near-pure)
populations in Sawback Lake, Cuthead Creek and
the Upper Cascade River drainage. However, these
pure populations are threatened by a non-native
Rainbow Lake (foreground) with Sawback
Lake in the distance.
population of rainbow trout (Onchorhynchus mykiss)
originating upstream in Rainbow Lake. Based on genetic analysis these rainbow trout have
compromised cutthroat genetics in Sawback Creek and the Upper Cascade River by way of
downstream movement and interbreeding.
OBJECTIVES
•
Remove non-native rainbow trout from Rainbow Lake.
•
Significantly reduce the abundance of non-native trout
from Cascade River headwater streams (Rainbow
Creek, Sawback Creek and Upper Cascade River).
•
Re-introduce a population of west slope cutthroat trout
into Rainbow Lake from pure source populations.
Rainbow trout from Rainbow Lake
1
Locations include: upper Bow River, Cuthead Creek, Deer Lake, Elk Lake, Fish Lakes (2- Big and Little), Helen
Creek, Moose Lake, Outlet Creek, Sawback Lake, and the upper Spray River
5
METHODS
Rainbow trout are being removed from Rainbow Lake primarily through trapping of fish at
spawning grounds, gill netting and by shoreline electro-fishing. Non-native fish in the streams of
the Upper Cascade watershed are being selectively removed by electro-fishing. Photographic
records of all captured fish are being used to cross reference with genetic analyses to test if we
can identify native-non-native hybrids in the field. Native west slope cutthroat trout will be
captured from a source lake (e.g. Sawback Lake), transported via helicopter, and released in
Rainbow Lake.
RESULTS
By the fall of 2011, we had removed 315 rainbow trout from Rainbow Lake using 27 gill nets
(total coverage of over 1.76 km). These nets remained in Rainbow Lake over winter and will be
checked following ice-melt in spring 2012. Parks Canada staff electro-fished the entire length
(2,400 m) of Rainbow Creek and caught/removed a total of 96 rainbow trout. A total of 370 trout
were captured in twenty-three reaches (4,600 m of a total 8,400 m of creek) of Sawback Creek
(222 west slope cutthroat, 50 bull (Salvelinus confluentus), and 98 brook (Salvelinus fontinalis)
trout. West slope cutthroat trout were tagged with a unique identification number and had a
piece of their adipose fin removed for genetic analysis. Fifty-four of these fish were suspected
to be hybrids, although genetic analysis to confirm hybridization will not be completed until
spring 2012.
YEARS OF DATA COLLECTION
2011
PARTNERS
University of British Columbia
FUNDING
Parks Canada
CONTACT
Charlie Pacas, Aquatic
Specialist, Banff Field Unit
P: 403-762-1418;
E: [email protected]
Enumerating fish, Sawback Creek
6
Restoration
CASCADE CREEK RESTORATION
RATIONALE
Westslope cutthroat trout (Onchorynchus clarki lewisi) are listed as “Threatened” under
Alberta’s Wildlife Act and are being considered for federal listing under the Species at Risk Act
(COSEWIC 2006). Historically, they were extremely abundant throughout North America and
the Canadian Rockies, but populations are now absent from 80% of their historic range. Part of
this historic range was the lower Cascade River in Banff National Park (BNP), a watercourse
that has since been reduced to a creek (from 8 m3/s to 0.3 m3/s) by the Lake Minnewanka Dam.
In addition to this habitat alteration, brook trout were stocked historically in Banff National Park
for sport fishing opportunities. Brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) are stronger competitors for
food and habitat and, as a result, westslope cutthroat trout have been extirpated from Cascade
Creek.
OBJECTIVES
This project is part of a larger Minnewanka Loop Restoration Project. The objectives for this
portion of the project are to:
•
•
Remove brook trout by block netting and electro-fishing sections of Cascade Creek.
Re-introduce native west slope cutthroat trout into Cascade Creek.
METHODS
Eliminate all brook trout in all reaches of the lower
Cascade system (from Minnewanka dam to area
downstream of Cascade Ponds where creek bed dries
up) by coordinating with TransAlta to reduce the flow of
Cascade Creek out of Lake Minnewanka and then
electro fishing and minnow trapping. All captured brook
trout will be euthanized, weighed, measured and have
otoliths removed to develop an age structure for the
population. Monitoring will take place following fish
removal and throughout the 2nd year to determine if all
brook trout have been removed. When all brook trout
have been eliminated, a genetically pure population of
westslope cutthroat trout will be caught by live-netting
and be transported to Cascade Creek. The cutthroat
trout population will be monitored to determine the
success of the transplant.
Backpack electro-fishing in Cascade Creek,
fall 2011.
7
RESULTS
We initiated fish capture in November 2011and have removed 420 brook trout from the upper
700 m of Cascade Creek (total creek length = 7 km). Removal efforts will continue throughout
the winter and intensify in the spring of 2012. Parks Canada is aiming to have all brook trout
removed from Cascade Creek by May 2012.
Brook Trout removed from Cascade Creek in Banff National Park, fall 2011.
YEARS OF DATA
2011 - Although research on this system is extensive.
PARTNERS
TransAlta Power Corporation
FUNDING
Parks Canada
CONTACT
Charlie Pacas, Aquatic Specialist, Banff Field Unit
P: 403-762-1418; E: [email protected]
8
Monitoring
BANFF SPRINGS SNAIL
RATIONALE
The Banff Springs Snail (Physella johnsoni) was originally discovered in 1926 in the thermal hot
springs of Banff National Parks (BNP’s) Sulphur Mountain but it wasn’t until 1995 that focused
research on the snail began. It was soon discovered that the snail had disappeared from four of
the nine thermal springs where it historically occurred in BNP. These consist of 3 main areas:
the Cave & Basin, Middle Springs, and the Upper Hot/Kidney Spring; all of which depend on
thermal waters from the same source. Because of the snail’s confined distribution, it’s 10-fold
fluctuations in population sizes each year, and threats from human disturbance, it was assessed
as Threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (1997). It was
up-listed to Endangered in 2000. When the Species at Risk Act (SARA) came into force in 2003
the snail was listed as
Endangered.
Snail habitat at the Middle Springs, where Parks Canada
successfully reintroduced snails in 2002.
Parks Canada developed a
Recovery Strategy and Action
Plan (RSAP) for the Banff Springs
snail (the first for any species
under SARA), which delineates
monitoring and reporting
requirements for critical habitat.
Monitoring is especially pertinent
now, during the Cave and Basin
National Historic Site
redevelopment, which aims to
increase human visitation to the
area three-fold to 300,000
people/year.
Parks Canada has successfully reintroduced snails into former habitats at the Kidney Spring
and the upper Middle Spring, and snails have also colonized two additional springs at the
Middle Springs site. This results in four new micro-sites, although they are all dependent on the
same water source. Genetic analysis is underway to assess the relatedness of these various
sites in an effort to improve and inform our emergency response plan in the event of another
drying event.
OBJECTIVES
To restore and maintain self-sustaining populations of Physella johnsoni within the species’
historic range. This includes:
9
•
•
•
Protecting populations and habitats by mitigating human and natural threats.
Restoring self-sustaining snail populations and habitat within historic range.
Increasing knowledge and understanding of snail ecology, thermal spring ecosystems
and their threats.
METHODS
We monitor:
• Snail populations and micro-distributions by counting individuals visible on the surface
and recording thermal spring water chemistry and habitat integrity every four weeks.
• Thermal spring temperatures via hourly data loggers.
• Thermal water discharge, turbidity, and air quality year-round.
RESULTS
Highlights for 2011:
•
•
•
While the combined number of snails in the 7 monitored populations is relatively stable,
individual populations continue to fluctuate 10-fold between summer and winter; often
reaching very low counts (30 individuals) in the summer months.
The redevelopment project at the Cave and Basin does not appear to have any effects
on the snails or Critical Habitat components.
An 8-12 week drying event (Feb. through May 2011) at Kidney Spring did not result in
the extirpation of the re-established population of snails, as originally thought. However,
such drying events continue to be the highest ranking threat to the species’ survival.
YEARS OF DATA
1995-2011
PARTNERS
Dr. Dwayne Lepitzki, Wildlife Systems Research; University of Calgary; Geological Survey of
Canada; University of Manitoba
FUNDING
Parks Canada funds this monitoring but broader research is supported by the partners.
CONTACT
Charlie Pacas, Aquatic Specialist,
Banff Field Unit
P: 403-762-1418
E: [email protected]
10
Monitoring
WATER QUALITY
RATIONALE
Mountain streams are naturally low in nutrients, so even very small inputs of manmade nutrients
(in the order of parts per billion) can significantly increase algal growth and adversely affect
invertebrate and fish communities. Phosphorus pollution from the treated wastewater of towns
and outlying commercial operations is a particular concern in Banff National Park.
OBJECTIVES
•
Monitor nutrient impacts
on rivers and streams in
Banff Park.
•
Use the results to
establish nutrient
guidelines, management
plans and effluent targets
for wastewater treatment
throughout the Park.
METHODS
Frontcountry water quality is
monitored up and downstream of
the communities of Lake Louise
and Banff (Bow River), at Healy Creek near the Sunshine Ski Area, and Johnston Creek below
the Canyon Resort. Backcountry sites include Brewster Creek below Sundance and Halfway
lodges, Redearth Creek below Shadow Lake Lodge, and the Pipestone River below Skoki
Lodge.
Annual samples for nutrient chemistry, benthic algae and invertebrate communities are taken in
mid-October. Samples are collected in fast-flowing (~0.5 m/s), shallow (~0.3m) and cobblebottomed (~20cm) riffles. Water samples are taken mid-depth. Benthic algal samples are
removed from 3 randomly selected rocks with a scalpel. Benthic macroinvertebrates are
collected by U-nets placed in three randomly selected locations.
Water chemistry and algal community indicators are calculated annually using benchmark
reference points. These include phosphorus and nitrogen content of water and algal tissue,
algal abundance (e.g., chlorophyll a, biovolume), and abundance and composition (i.e., %
mayflies, % chironomids, diversity) of benthic invertebrates (BMI).
11
RESULTS
The Banff wastewater treatment plant phosphorus-removal upgrades completed in 2002-03
quickly resulted in significant declines of phosphorus concentrations in the Bow River
downstream of Banff. Both algal and BMI abundance remained elevated between the Townsite
and park boundary until 2009-10, when they also declined to background levels.
In the Bow River near Lake Louise phosphorus removal from wastewater was already efficient
before the 2002-03 upgrades (note the different scale on the Y axis from Banff) so downstream
phosphorus concentrations continued to fluctuate near background levels. However, even
these low, sometimes undetectable, phosphorus levels continue to have downstream effects.
Both algal and BMI abundances remain significantly elevated downstream but declined to
background levels further downstream (i.e., near the confluence of Taylor Creek) in 2006-10.
Monitoring plans for other sites are evaluated annually. For example, favourable backcountry
monitoring results (2005-07) resulted in decreased frequency of sampling, whereas small
impairment to the ecological integrity of Healy Creek near the Sunshine Ski area was detected
so monitoring has continued. We recently started collecting baseline data in Johnston Creek in
anticipation of changes to facilities there.
A full report summarising the first ten years of the program is available. In addition to informing
management decisions, water quality data from this program have been included in numerous
scientific presentations and four peer-reviewed research papers.
YEARS OF DATA
1998-2011 (Bow River sites)
2005-2011 (backcountry sites)
2006-2011 (Healy Creek)
2010-2011 (Johnston Creek)
PARTNERS
Michelle Bowman (Forensecology),
University of Alberta, Canadian
Centre for Inland Waters, Dave
Findlay and Craig Logan
(taxonomists).
FUNDING
Parks Canada, Science Horizons,
Canadian Circumpolar Institute,
University of Alberta, NSERC
Discovery Grants.
CONTACT
Charlie Pacas, Aquatic Specialist,
Banff Field Unit
P: 403-762-1418;
E: [email protected]
12
CULTURAL RESOURCES
13
14
Monitoring
BANFF ARCHAEOLOGICAL INVENTORY
RATIONALE
Archaeological resources offer a window into history, giving us a glimpse of where, how and
why people and animals used Banff National Park (BNP) and how they might differ from, or
parallel, patterns today. In so doing, they inform us of how best to manage the landscape. For
example, pre-contact pit houses and associated artifacts uncovered in the Red Deer River
drainage confirm aboriginal peoples hunted bison deep within the mountains of Banff National
Park hundreds of years ago. Such information is informing plans to reintroduce bison into BNP
today.
Such information, and more, is contained within the Banff Archaeological Research Description
Analysis. This living document contains an inventory of 679 archaeological pre-contact and
historic sites in Banff National Park spanning the last 11,000 years and is being added to, with
new finds and investigations each year.
OBJECTIVES
•
Continue to build on over 40
years of archaeological
investigation and place findings
in the context of the cultural
history of the surrounding
plains and neighboring British
Columbia Plateau.
•
Identify areas within the Park,
or time periods from the past,
that are not well understood in
order to focus future research.
•
Identify threatened sites and
sites that should be protected because of their high scientific significance.
•
Provide a comprehensive, current, and easily accessible inventory of archaeological
resources for Park Managers and those entrusted with their interpretation.
•
Investigate and mitigate potential impacts on cultural resources that may, or may not, be
affected by proposed developments and actions (via environmental assessments).
•
Update site registers, collections, photo databases, and park-wide GIS maps of
archaeology resources annually.
15
METHODS
Archaeological surveys and investigations typically take place during snow-free months.
Depending on logistics, areas of interest are visited by car, foot, horse or helicopter. Standard
field techniques are used to excavate, screen and map resources, in some cases employing the
use of ground-penetrating radar. Finds are dated, stored and catalogued. This often requires the
expertise of academic institutions and specialized equipment (e.g. radio-carbon dating and
chemical and structural analysis).
RESULTS
For 2011 - 2012
•
•
•
•
•
•
Participated in the Environmental Assessment for Vermilion Lakes Drive upgrading. The
proposed development impacts a number of deeply stratified, pre-contact campsites.
Monitored site 1210R, a unique pre-contact elk kill site on the Golf Course, to ensure hazard
tree removal doesn’t disturb archaeological deposits below the ground.
Monitored the ruins of Lower Bankhead and tried unsuccessfully to relocate site 167R, a
cabin foundation for which the location had been incorrectly recorded in the early 1980s.
We observed that the Bankhead ruins need some maintenance to remove encroaching
vegetation and removed signs of illegal campfires. Such simple actions will greatly prolong
the life of the ruins.
Monitored pre-contact campsite 1194R, on the north side of the walk-in camping area at
Tunnel Mountain, after a hardened trail had been built through the site in 2010.
Provided information on historic site 1412R at the base of the Sunshine Tee Pee Town
chairlift to the consultant doing the cultural resource impact assessment, as part of an EA.
Monitored Anthracite, after contaminated site tests were excavated throughout the area last
winter. We were not able to monitor these sites as they were excavated, which would have
been much preferred, but saw no historic artefacts exposed in the back dirt or spoil piles.
There are a number of features relating to the mine and town site that have never been
properly recorded, and we recommend spending time in 2012 to properly record them.
YEARS OF DATA
1969 to present.
FUNDING
Parks Canada
CONTACT
Dennis Herman, Cultural Resource Advisor,
Kootenay, Yoho and Banff National Parks
P: 250-347-6169;
E: [email protected]
Gwyn Langemann, Cultural Resource
Services,
Western and Northern Service Centre
P: 403-292-4692
E: [email protected]
16
Monitoring
CULTURAL RESOURCES – SPRAY RIVER
RATIONALE
Parks Canada is responsible for the protection and presentation of cultural resources under its
jurisdiction, many of which were identified during ‘first pass’ archaeological surveys in the
1960’s thru to the 90’s. In many cases there has been very little follow-up since.
A pre-contact camp site, first recorded by Parks archaeologists in the upper Spray River in 1999
(site # 1988), falls within this category. Consisting of a wide scatter of flakes and stone tools, it
was observed eroding from the horse trail south of Trail Centre as it passed through a large
open meadow. The site stood out because of the number of artefacts and the variety of stone
tool types observed, but we were unable to test the site until this past year (2011).
OBJECTIVES
•
•
•
Survey and monitor test
sites in the Spray/Fortune
prescribed burn area.
Excavate test site 1988R,
recorded in 1999 in the
meadow where Currie
Creek joins the Spray River.
If possible, include and
involve volunteers and / or
First Nations’ participants.
METHODS
Standard archaeological survey
and excavation techniques.
RESULTS
In September 2011, we returned to the site and conducted a series of shovel tests. One of
these was particularly productive so we expanded the test into a larger excavation. The site
proved to spread over an area about 200 m by 200m and to have a single occupation
component. We did not find any time diagnostic tools, but we did find a cultural living floor with
burnt bone, fire-broken rock from hearths, a large number of flakes made from a variety of stone
materials, and a biface tool. The site is of moderate significance because of the quantity and
variety of lithic materials present, and because it is an example of a camp site in a part of the
park where most sites are much smaller (and indicate more fleeting occupations). The site is
17
being impacted by the deeply incised trails that pass through the soft soils, and should be
monitored every ten years.
While in the area, we also monitored three pre-contact sites that no one had looked at since
they were first recorded in 1987. Two sites are west of Trail Centre cabin, where Big Springs
Creek joins Bryant Creek; in an area currently designated as camping area Br9 (sites 1297R
and 1298R). Modern hiking and use of the campground has trampled the ground surface, but
we did not observe any archaeological artefacts or features that were being damaged. The
third site was between Trail Centre and site 1988R, where the main trail drops down to a low
terrace beside the Spray River. On this visit the site was stable, and not affected by riverbank
erosion.
YEARS OF DATA
1999, 2012
FUNDING
Parks Canada
CONTACT
Dennis Herman, Cultural Resource
Advisor, Kootenay, Yoho and Banff
National Parks.
P: 250-347-6169;
E: [email protected]
18
FIRE AND VEGETATION
19
20
Monitoring
FIRE EFFECTS - Red Deer Prescribed Burn
RATIONALE
The Banff Field Unit fire
management program is mandated
to emulate, as closely as possible,
historic fire regimes through the use
of prescribed fire and management
of wildfire. Natural fire behavior and
frequency differs across forest types,
slope aspects and elevations and so,
too, must prescribed burns if they
are to mimic wildfire’s influence on
biodiversity. All prescribed fires,
including the one in the Red Deer
River this past summer, are
evaluated within this context.
OBJECTIVES
•
Retain 50% of upper sub alpine old growth stands
•
Reduce canopy cover by 30% on south facing sub alpine slopes
•
Achieve 60% mortality of regenerating lodgepole pine in previously burned areas
•
Improve grizzly bear habitat
METHODS
Four forest plots (10m in radius) were set up prior to the burn. Within each of these plots the
following characteristics were measured: slope, aspect, canopy closure, coarse woody debris,
litter layer, ground cover, and for each tree (live or dead) height, HTLC, CBH, and diameter-atbreast-height. All four plots will be revisited one year post-burn (September 2012).
Five 100m-long transects were set up to measure regeneration in previously burned areas prior
to the 2011 burn. Trees within 1m of the transect were identified to species and counted to
determine density (seedlings per hectare). All transects will be revisited one year post-burn
(September 2012).
Four grizzly bear habitat plots (30mX30m) were set up prior to the burn and the following
measurements were taken in each: canopy closure, average height of dominant shrub, wildlife
sign, bear activity, ant mounds/insect nests, soil texture and duff depth, and presence of bear
foods. These plots were overlapped with the forest plots for efficiency. Bear plots will be
revisited the first, third and fifth years post-burn. (2012, 2014, 2016).
21
RESULTS
Pre-burn data was collected before the prescribed fire in summer 2011 (total of 1,100 hectares
burned). Results and analysis will be forthcoming once post-burn data begins to be collected in
summer/fall 2012.
YEARS OF DATA
2011
FUNDING
Parks Canada
CONTACT
Jane Park, Acting Fire
and Vegetation
Specialist, Banff Field
Unit
E: [email protected]
22
Monitoring
FOREST INSECTS AND DISEASE
RATIONALE
A lack of fire in the Banff ecosystem, combined with even-aged forests and warmer winters,
have created ideal conditions for many forest insect species like the mountain pine beetle
(MPB). Although the occurrence of such insects is natural, current and recent
epidemics necessitate monitoring and management on behalf of Parks to
minimize impacts on forestry outside of Banff National Park.
OBJECTIVES
•
•
•
Map new red and fading MPB colonized trees within the Bow Valley and other valleys in
the southern end of the Banff Field Unit
Provide an annual R value for reproductive success
Ground truth for other insect or disease species
METHODS
Aerial surveys are done in early August to count and map new red and other discoloured trees.
Ground surveys are done in June, August and October to truth aerial surveys as well as look at
development of the year’s brood and density of attack. The number of live MPB under a 15 cm
square area counted at breast height (1.37 m) on both north and south aspects of each tree and
divided by the number of gallery starts over the same area to determine ‘R’.
Aerial survey of discoloured, MPB-affected trees.
Mountain pine beetle
galleries inside lodgepole
pine bark.
23
RESULTS
•
•
Approximately 11,000 newly infested mountain pine beetle trees were mapped in the
southern section of the Banff Field Unit.
R value (i.e. overwinter survival) of the MPB was 0.9 (90%).
YEARS OF DATA
1983-2011
PARTNERS
Gary Roke, Pacific
Forestry Center, Canadian
Forest Service
FUNDING
Parks Canada
Canadian Forest Service
CONTACT
Jane Park, Acting Fire and
Vegetation Specialist,
Banff Field Unit
E: [email protected]
24
Monitoring and Restoration
NON-NATIVE VEGETATION
RATIONALE
The World Conservation Union has identified invasive species as the second most significant
threat to biodiversity after habitat loss. The Banff Park Management Plan recognizes this threat
and identifies the spread of non-native species as a management priority.
Seventy-one invasive plant species have been identified in the park and, given worldwide
trends, the list is expected to grow. Banff’s non-native vegetation (NNV) program is currently
focussed on 17 of the most invasive of these 71 species.
OBJECTIVES
•
•
•
•
Identify new non-native plant infestations
Control as many infestations of the 17 key
invasive species as possible.
Work with the BNP volunteer program to
help monitor and control infestations.
Map infestations throughout the Park,
monitor spread and track the effectiveness
of control measures.
METHODS
The management of non-native species in Banff
Volunteers and staff pull weeds on the Legacy
National Park has been ad hock over the past few
Trail.
decades: some infestations have been mapped,
others not; control efforts were inconsistently
documented and/or monitored; and while some paper records exist many have been lost.
Thankfully all this has recently changed. As of 2010 a new, full-time position has been dedicated
to non-native plant management in BNP along with a five month term position and one or two
students each growing season. We are also consistently working with volunteer groups.
Existing maps and records are in the process of being entered into a central database (same
NNV database being used by Jasper and Waterton national parks) and, from that, a systematic
monitoring and control plan will be put into place. Gaps in the NNV inventory will be identified
and filled and a system to track infestations will be adopted, along with measures of
effectiveness wherever control actions take place.
25
RESULTS
Much of the above work has
already started. Over the past
year we have identified and
started to control one
previously unreported nonnative plant species (black
henbane (Hyoscyamus niger))
that established itself both in
the Cascade landfill and along
the Banff Legacy Trail. We
Tall Buttercup (Ranunculus acris) infestation at Stoney Cabin,
have mapped most of the
Cascade Valley.
north backcountry of the Banff
Field Unit for NNV and plan to
chemically control these infestations in 2012. We are also in the process of amalgamating
existing NNV maps and inventories (like the one for the Minnewanka Loop below) into one
centralized spatial database. Finally, we are working with contractors and the Environmental
Assessment shop to establish best practices for soil disturbance remediation to minimize further
NNV infestations in the Park.
YEARS OF DATA
1985-2011
PARTNERS
Volunteers
Rockyview County
FUNDING
Parks Canada
CONTACT
Jane Park, Acting Fire and
Vegetation Specialist, Banff
Field Unit
E: [email protected]
Invasive NNV infestations, Minnewanka Loop, BNP.
26
Monitoring and Restoration
FIRE SEVERITY - Red Deer Burn
RATIONALE
The Banff Field Unit fire management program is mandated to emulate, as closely as possible,
historic fire regimes through the use of prescribed fire and management of wildfire. Burn
severity is one of four main characteristics of a fire regime, the others being fire size, fire cycle
and season of burn. While all four characteristics are important, burn severity has the most
direct link to observable changes in vegetation structure, soil chemistry, and ecosystem
function.
Burn severity is directly linked to “area of disturbance,” a measure of ecological integrity in
national parks. According to the 2008 Banff State of the Park Report, more fire restoration work
is needed in the Main Ranges of BNP to better align with the historic fire cycle (Management
goal of achieving 50% of the long-term fire cycle or approximately 1400 hectares (ha) burned
annually). As of 2012, the calculated “area of disturbance” deficit is 18,800 hectares. All
prescribed fires, including the one in the Red Deer River this past summer, are evaluated within
this context.
OBJECTIVES
Objectives in the 2011 Red Deer River prescribed burn were as follows:
•
•
•
•
Retain approximately 50% of upper subalpine old growth stands (>150 years old)
Reduce crown canopy by approximately 30% on south facing sub alpine slopes
Achieve 60% mortality of regenerating lodgepole pine stands that have grown since
previous prescribed fires in the area (1991, 94 and 2005).
Reduce downed and dead biomass from previous prescribed fires by 50%.
METHODS
Burn severity can be measured at a landscape
level using the Normalized Burning
Ratio/Composite Burn Index (NBR). It involves
use of Landsat infrared imagery (Bands 4 and
7) to determine the extent and degree of
change from burning. The resulting image
provides a quantitative representation of postfire heterogeneity. Image calibration and
verification of NBR values is ground-truthed to
generate a composite burn index (CBI) or field
Good burning conditions in the 2011 Red
Deer prescribed fire led to extensive
mortality of regenerating pine trees.
27
rating of fire severity. Burn severity mapping is then overlaid on existing stand age maps to
determine the extent of change from the fire. These changes are also measured by comparing
pre-burn plots to species composition and canopy cover with post-burn conditions as well as
through plot photographs. Mortality of seedlings in areas of lodgepole pine regeneration are also
measured using standard seedling density transects and compared to pre-burn seedling
densities at fixed plots.
RESULTS
Given that the 2011 Red Deer fire only stopped burning in September, much of the above work
is in progress, however direct observations suggest that all objectives were met (see photos).
NBR work is underway (see images below) and the associated field work and ground-truthing is
scheduled for summer 2012.
NBR imagery showing burned areas in the
lower Red Deer River Valley (bright red). The
2011 burn is in the lower part of the picture
(courtesy Darrel Zell, Parks Canada).
Gradient of fire severity within the total
burned area perimeters (difficult to see at
this scale). Yellow boundary is YHT Ranch.
YEARS OF DATA
The NBR/CBI methodology of analysing burn
severity was incorporated as a standard fire
effects assessment tool in BNP in 2001.
PARTNERS
Alberta Sustainable Resource Development
Darrel Zell, Geomatics Specialist, Parks Canada
FUNDING
Parks Canada, Action on the Ground.
CONTACT
Carl Cibart, A/Fire Operations Specialist, Banff
Field Unit
P: 403 762-1493
E: [email protected]
The 2011 Red Deer fire consumed
large amounts of large diameter fuels
left behind by previous prescribed
fires. (Photos courtesy of Dan Rafla, Parks
Canada)
28
Monitoring and Restoration
WHITEBARK PINE
RATIONALE
Whitebark pine is a keystone species of high elevation
ecosystems but is in steep decline over much of its
range due to white pine blister rust, mountain pine
beetle, and reduced wildfire. Stands in Banff National
Park seem healthier than those in Yellowstone,
Waterton Lakes, and parts of the Lake Louise-YohoKootenay Field Unit but are being monitored for
declines. A seed repository is being developed in case
augmentation is required to save this species (and their
important ecological role to bears, birds and other
species) in the future.
Whitebark pine cone and seeds
Research during 1986-1988 established that Banff
black bears eat whitebark pine seeds cached by
squirrels, but their importance to Banff grizzly bears is
unknown.
OBJECTIVES
•
•
•
•
Monitor annual whitebark pine cone abundance
on permanently marked trees at 4 locations in
the Banff Field Unit.
Determine red squirrel midden density (as a
Black bear scat near squirrel midden in BNP,
measure of attractiveness to bears) and
composed almost entirely of whitebark pine
midden use by bears in whitebark pine habitat
seed coats and seeds.
in Banff National Park.
Collect DNA from bear scats to determine whether Banff grizzly bears use whitebark
pine seeds.
Collect seeds from trees potentially resistant to white pine blister rust to add to a
regional effort to obtain rust-resistant genetic material.
METHODS
Whitebark pine stands were identified from aerial surveys done in 2010, from knowledge of
whitebark pine distribution in the park, and from observation from roads and trails. Belt transects
conducted in whitebark pine habitat measured the density of red squirrel middens. The
abundance of cones, midden size, site characteristics, and excavation by bears were noted at
each midden. Cones on healthy trees in stands subject to blister rust dieback were caged to
29
prevent predation by squirrels or birds and were collected later in the season. The assumption is
that healthy trees in diseased stands may have genotypes with resistance to blister rust.
Caging was done at 2 locations in Kootenay and Yoho national parks; cones were not collected
in the Banff field unit because whitebark pines in Banff currently show little dieback. This may
suggest that Banff trees are resistant to blister rust but a more conservative assumption is that
the Banff genotypes have not yet been tested by this pathogen. Seeds collected will be used in
future restoration projects within Banff and LLYK field units. Seeds are to be sent and stored at
a genetic seed bank in New Brunswick.
RESULTS
Cone-Counting
Ten trees were permanently marked in 2011 at the following locations: Sunshine, Boom Lake,
Sulphur Mountain (west face) and Sulphur Mountain (northeast face).
A total of 27 hectares were surveyed in 10
Whitebark Pine stands throughout the
study area. Mean midden density was
1.14 middens per hectare. Eighty percent
of the locations had evidence of use of
Whitebark Pine by bears (seeds in scats
and/or squirrel middens dug). Mean
midden size was 106 m2. Whitebark Pine
comprised 37% of the total Conifer Basal
Area in these stands.
Genetic Material
Midden Density (middens/ha)
Midden Survey
Midden Density versus Whitebark Pine
Basal Area for
10 Locations in Banff National Park
4
y = 0.0888x + 0.08
R² = 0.2751
2
0
0
15
30
Whitebark Pine Basal Area (m2/ha)
Two trees were sampled at Paget Peak in Yoho National Park (11 cones collected) and three
trees on Mitchel Ridge in Kootenay national Park (33 cones collected).
YEARS OF DATA
2010 – 2011
PARTNERS
David Hamer, Whitebark Pine researcher, Parks Canada Research Permit BAN 2011-8155
Ian Pengelly, former Fire-Vegetation Specialist, Banff National Park (retired)
FUNDING
Parks Canada (Action on the Ground and Capital Projects)
CONTACT
Jane Park, Acting Fire and Vegetation Specialist, Banff Field Unit
E: [email protected]
30
Research
GRIZZLY BEAR FOODS - Grouseberries
RATIONALE
Grouseberry (Vaccinium scoparium) is a dwarf shrub that produces abundant small fruits that
are eaten by many birds and mammals including grizzly bears. These fruits are important to
bears, particularly when the larger buffaloberry crop fails or is only available for a limited time
during the critical fall feeding period. However, little is known about the factors that influence
grouseberry production.
OBJECTIVES
Monitor annual grouseberry fruit abundance and investigate the influence of past fires and other
site conditions on fruit production. Attempt to answer the following questions:
● Has the near elimination of wildfire from the park for much of the 20th century reduced
grouseberry fruit production through forest in-growth?
● Does fruit production increase following prescribed fire?
METHODS
Fifty-seven 20m-long transects were established at 8 sites in Banff NP during 2004–2009. Six
sites were in the Front Ranges and 2 in the Main Ranges. Two of the Front Range sites
(Wigmore Lake (WL) and Palliser Ridge (PR)) were in 2001 prescribed burns. Transects at
these burn sites were established in pairs, one inside and one adjacent to the burn. Fruit
production was assessed annually by counting all grouseberries in 20 cm X 20 cm quadrats
placed at 2 m intervals along the transect. Incoming solar radiation was calculated in 2006 using
calendar date plus the transects’ latitude, slope steepness, slope aspect, elevation, and extent
of overshadowing by terrain and
coniferous foliage.
RESULTS
Grouseberries were abundant in
2006, 2007 and 2010 but in
2011 were abundant only in
prescribed burn sites (see all
graphs). Fruit production was
generally higher in prescribed
burns than in adjacent forested
areas. This can be explained by
the positive relationship
Grouseberry production across five study sites in Banff National Park
2
(vertical axis is mean number of grouseberries/m of Vaccinium cover.
31
between grouseberry fruit production and direct, incoming photosynthetically active radiation
(dPAR – see bottom graph).
Grouseberry production in forested and burned
sites on the east-facing crest of Palliser Ridge
(Cascade Valley). Vertical axis is mean number of
2
grouseberries/m of Vaccinium cover.
Grouseberry production in forested and burned sites on
the west-facing slopes above Wigmore Lake (Cascade
Valley). Vertical axis is mean number of
2
grouseberries/m of Vaccinium cover.
High variability between years
necessitates long term monitoring of
fruit production, specifically as it
relates to prescribed burns. We
suggest monitoring continue at the
Palliser Range (PR) and Wigmore
Lake (WL) sites.
Grouseberry production and incoming direct photosynthetically active
radiation (dPAR).
YEARS OF DATA
2004-2011
PARTNERS
David Hamer, Grouseberry researcher
Ian Pengelly, retired Fire-Vegetation Specialist, BNP
FUNDING
Parks Canada
CONTACT
Jane Park, Acting Fire and Vegetation Specialist, Banff Field Unit
E: [email protected]
32
Research and Restoration
DOUGLAS FIR TREE RESTORATION
RATIONALE
Douglas fir trees (Pseudotsuga menziesii glauca) are considered special resources in Banff
National Park; some of the oldest specimens in the province are found around and east of the
town of Banff, especially on the Fairholme Bench. These trees are dependent on frequent lowintensity fires to reduce competition and fuel loads on the forest floor. However, such fires have
been rare over the last century due to fire suppression. As a result, today’s Douglas fir stands
are at risk from competition and devastating, high-intensity fires.
In light of these threats, low-intensity prescribed fires are Parks Canada’s best tool for
preserving the remaining Douglas fir grasslands in Banff National Park.
OBJECTIVES
•
Develop various fuel
treatment and ignition
methods to reduce
Douglas-fir mortality
during prescribed
fires.
•
Restore open,
Douglas-fir grasslands
to the montane
ecoregion.
•
Restore fire to the
montane ecoregion
Measuring plots on the Fairholme Bench.
33
METHODS
The project is located in the Fairholme Environmentally Sensitive Site, the largest tract of secure
montane habitat in the park. Vegetation largely consists of lodgepole pine forests interspersed
with open Douglas-fir grasslands.
In 2003, prior to the commencement of the prescribed fire, significant Douglas fir stands were
mapped across the Fairholme site, resulting in 164 study plots. Plots were located in areas with
mature, large-diameter Douglas fir trees, and consisted of a fixed plot radius of 15m centred on
the largest tree in the plot. Plots were visited in 2004 and again this past summer (2011) to
determine levels and causes of mortality. During each visit the following data were collected:
photos from the 4 cardinal directions, tree species, status (live or dead), diameter at breast
height, crown scorch and bark char code. In instances where trees had died, mortality factors
were recorded and cores were taken to determine time of death.
RESULTS
Core samples are
currently being
analysed. A final
report with
recommendations is
forthcoming in fall,
2012.
YEARS OF DATA
2003, 2004 and 2011
PARTNERS
Jenny Coleshill,
Contract Technician
FUNDING
Parks Canada
CONTACT
Sampling a tree core.
Jane Park, Acting
Fire and Vegetation Specialist, Banff Field Unit
E: [email protected]
34
SOCIAL SCIENCE
35
36
Monitoring
HUMAN USE - FRONTCOUNTRY TRAILS
RATIONALE
According to recent Ipsos Reid surveys, more than 70% of park visitors hike on a trail during
their stay in the Mountain National Parks (2009). However, as of 2007, significant gaps existed
in trail data, making park management planning difficult, especially with respect to grizzly bears.
Under the current Park Management Plan (2010), BNP is required to maintain or improve grizzly
bear habitat security levels in every landscape unit. To do this we need to know the types, levels
and trends in trail use. This is even more important given recent visitation targets for national
parks and recent research on the direct correlation between wildlife disturbance and hiking (see
Rogala et al, 2011).
OBJECTIVES
•
•
•
Monitor trail use to better manage human-wildlife conflicts, visitor experience and meet
requirements for assessing grizzly bear habitat security levels.
Inform management decisions linked to infrastructure reinvestments.
Collect baseline data on levels of use and visitor experience.
METHODS
Trails were monitored from June to Sept using RECONYX brand infrared cameras and TRAFx
brand infrared (IR) trail counters, magnetic vehicle counters, and magnetic mountain bike
37
counters. Data was analysed using RECONYX photo classification program and TRAFx
reporter.
Baseline demographic and visitor experience data was collected from 1125 surveys completed
in Banff and 4701 surveys across the mountain parks during the summer months (June to
September) from 2007 to 2010. Data were analysed using IBM SPSS and inductive analysis of
emergent themes. Results are not displayed below but are available by request.
RESULTS
Trail Cameras and Counters:
Summer use ranged from an average of 355 to 106,000 events per trail during the four-month
summer season (Table 1). Use around Lake Louise and Moraine Lake was highest, followed by
trails in the vicinity of the Town of Banff. All values were above the grizzly bear habitat security
threshold of 100 humans/month, and are recognized as such in the current habitat security
model. In fact, for many trails (e.g. Healy Creek, Goat Creek, Bourgeau Lake, Spray River Loop
and all the trails around and near Lake Louise) the level of use exceeds the threshold by one or
two orders of magnitude.
Table 1: Summer human use on 40 trails throughout Banff National Park. Numbers represent total use from
June-Sept, averaged across 3 years (2007-2010). Note: 1 event = 1 trigger of the counter regardless of
direction of travel.
Trail
Mystic Lake
Alexandra River
Aylmer Pass
Aylmer Lookout
Lower Stoney Squaw MB
Red Earth Trail MB
Glacier Lake Beyond Bridge
Nigel Pass
Sunset Pass
Inkpots
Glacier Lake
Past LM8
LM8 Trail past LM8 MB
Mosquito Creek
Redearth
Cascade Fire Rd. MB
Healy Creek near Sundance
Goat Creek Trail MB
Waterfowl Lakes Campground
Boom Lake
Baseline Level of Use
355
658
763
1000
1170
1183
3326
1838
1863
2271
3689
2714
1537
3632
3680
831
4817
4489
4633
4229
Trail
Paradise Valley
Bourgeau Lake
Skoki Road IR
Temple Lodge
Helen Lake
C-Level Cirque
Sundance Canyon
Spray River East
Spray River West
Consolation Lakes
Sundance Trailhead
Parker Ridge
Bow Glacier Falls
Larch Valley
Plain of Six Glaciers
Lake Agnes Trailhead
Mistaya Canyon
Lake Louise Chateau Trail
Mirror Lake
Back of the Lake (Louise)
Baseline Level of Use
5000
6250
5086
5876
9182
12495
13172
14065
20388
23451
28213
20518
21633
34366
69843
97328
93738
101185
105979
134643
38
Visitor Surveys:
51% of surveyed trail users were first-time visitors to the mountain national parks. 18% were
from the United States, 31% from outside North America, and 51% from Canada (N=4272).
Motivations for trail use varied according to the following figure:
YEARS OF DATA
2007-2010 (Power analysis suggests an 8 year monitoring plan (2 four-year data sets separated by a few years of non-monitoring) would achieve an 80% certainty of measuring a
10% change in use).
FUNDING
Parks Canada
CONTACT
Kathy Rettie, Social Scientist,
Parks Canada
P: 403-762-1492
E: [email protected]
Researcher installing an IR counter
39
40
WILDLIFE RESOURCES
41
42
Research and Monitoring
WILDLIFE OCCUPANCY - Remote Cameras
RATIONALE
Remote, motion-triggered cameras are powerful
and non-invasive tools for monitoring changes in
the distribution and relative abundance of grizzly
bears, lynx, wolverine, wolf, and invasive white-tail
deer populations, and for monitoring human use.
Occupancy modelling is a new and powerful
approach for analysing remote camera data with
imperfect species detection rates. Banff National
Park is collaborating with a number of partners (see
below) to test and refine this low-cost and noninvasive method of monitoring wildlife populations
over the long term.
One of several grizzly bears captured on a remote
camera in the Red Deer River drainage in the northeast
corner of BNP.
OBJECTIVES
• Assess the power of remote cameras to
detect changes in the relative abundance of
different species.
• Develop common sampling protocols and
data collection techniques across jurisdictions.
• Identify factors affecting changes in species
distribution and apparent competition effects at
a large landscape scale (study area > 40,000
km2).
METHODS
Remote camera locations
Approximately 200 motion-triggered cameras
were attached to trees or metal frames
encased in rock cairns along hiking and game
trails in high passes, canyons, and other
potential squeeze points throughout the study
area (see map). Data cards and batteries were
changed in each camera approximately every 3
months. Events captured by the cameras were
classified and results stored in a central
database shared by all jurisdictions.
43
RESULTS
Data from this project feeds into a number of
other monitoring and research projects found
elsewhere in this report, including wolf
monitoring, grizzly bear family group index,
wolverine research and grizzly bear habitat
security trends. In terms of occupancy
modelling, only preliminary results are available
(see map to right). A PhD student is currently
conducting power analyses of 2010 and 2011
data and will recommend a modified sampling
design in 2012.
Dramatic images captured for this project are
regularly broadcasted on the internet and via
Twitter. The project’s Wild Images Gallery is
the most popular website for Banff National
Park. We will continue to expand public
outreach and education in the coming year.
Grizzly bear presence at camera sites in BNP
YEARS OF DATA
2010-2011
PARTNERS
Kananaskis Country; University of Montana;
Yoho, Kootenay, Waterton and Jasper
national parks.
FUNDING
A family of wolverines captured on camera at a pass
in Brewster Creek, BNP
Parks Canada, University of Montana,
Kananaskis Country, Panterra Cameras.
CONTACT
Jesse Whittington, EI Monitoring Specialist, Banff National Park
E: [email protected]; P: 403-763-8865
44
Monitoring
WOLF DENSITY & DISTRIBUTION
RATIONALE
Wolves exert large top-down effects on Banff National Park’s ecosystem. Past research has
shown that wolf density (number of wolves per 1000 km2) affects the survival, fecundity, and
population growth rates of most ungulates, including elk, deer, moose, and caribou. Wolves’
effects on primary prey populations (e.g. elk) have cascading effects on herbivory rates, aspen
regeneration, shrub growth, and bird and mammal communities. Large elk populations support
large wolf populations. Less abundant prey species such as moose and caribou are negatively
affected by higher predation rates associated with large, wide ranging wolf packs. High levels of
human activity negatively affect wolf persistence but human-made trails increase wolves’ ability
to travel throughout their home. Maintaining viable populations of wolves is important for the
ecological integrity of Banff National Park.
OBJECTIVES
Determine the number and distribution of wolves in Banff National Park.
.
METHODS
Wolf density and distribution are simple
measures that capture broad changes in wolf
pack numbers and distribution over time. Each
year we record the number of wolves, their
distribution, and the presence of pups using
data collected from remote cameras, snow
tracking, wildlife crossing-structure monitoring,
and direct observation. We do not conduct den
site observations. We estimate wolf density
trends by calculating the total number of wolves
observed during late winter (February and
March) within the Spray, Bow, Cascade,
Panther, and Red Deer valleys and divide that
total by the study area (4642 km2 estimated
from 95% MCP of radio-collared wolves). Our
database builds on the 1986-2006 data
compiled by Dr. Mark Hebblewhite (2006).
Traditional wolf pack distributions in Banff National
Park based on data collected from radio-collared
wolves.
45
RESULTS
Individual pack summaries for 2011 are as follows:
•
•
•
•
•
•
Bow Valley: In April, the Bow Valley wolf pack consisted of 4 wolves including 2 radiocollared individuals. They denned in the Bow Valley where they produced at least 5
pups. Two pups died from collisions with vehicles and trains and two yearlings
dispersed, one of which was killed on the highway near Deadman’s Flats. As of January
2012, the pack consisted of 6 wolves (4 black and 2 gray).
Spray: We were unaware of wolves denning in the Spray, but 5 wolves were detected by
remote camera during the summer and tracks of 3 wolves travelled from Banff south
over Palliser Pass. As of January 2012, tracks of single wolves have been observed.
Fairholme: 3 adult wolves produced 6 pups. All members of this pack were gray.
Cascade – Panther: At least 5 wolves from this pack likely denned in the Panther Valley.
During late summer, 5 wolves (blacks and grays) were observed near Windy cabin.
These wolves travelled into the Cascade but less frequently than summer 2010.
Red Deer: In February, a pack of 7 wolves occupied the Red Deer Valley west of the Ya
Ha Tinda Ranch. They denned in the Red Deer Valley. During summer, remote
cameras recorded a large pack of 13 to 14 wolves consisting of approximately 1 white, 4
black and 9 gray wolves.
Clearwater: A pack of approximately 8 wolves (1 white and 7 gray) likely denned in the
Clearwater. The pack ranged both in and out of the Park.
Overall, the late winter density of wolves in Banff National Park remains less than 4 wolves per
1000 km2, well below the 6 wolves per 1000 km2 threshold where caribou reintroduction is
deemed unviable. This is likely due to a 75% decline in elk populations in the Bow and Red
Deer Valleys.
YEARS OF DATA
1986 – 2011
PARTNERS
University of Alberta, University of Montana
FUNDING
Parks Canada
CONTACT
2
Wolf density (number per 1000 km ) in BNP.
Jesse Whittington, EI Monitoring Specialist,
Banff National Park
P: 403-762-8865
E: [email protected]
46
Research and Restoration
WOLVES AND VEHICLES
RATIONALE
Past research has documented barrier and
displacement effects of roads on wildlife in
the Bow Valley, strongly suggesting that a
vehicle traffic restriction on the Bow Valley
Parkway would benefit wildlife. This is
further supported by a large body of
literature, however some stakeholders
objected to such restrictions and requested
site-specific evidence for management
actions.
OBJECTIVE
Analyze existing wolf data to assess for barrier effects of vehicle traffic on wolf movement
around the Bow Valley Parkway.
METHODS
Vehicle traffic was measured with a
highway traffic counter on the Bow
Valley Parkway. Wolf data came
from two GPS-collared wolves in
the Bow Valley Pack: Wolf 87
(collared 2004-05) and Wolf 902
(collared 2009-10). We considered
two factors in the analysis: time of
day and traffic volume. We used
match-case control logistic
regression to determine whether
wolves selected certain times of the
day or night, or certain traffic
volumes, to cross the road.
47
RESULTS
Bow Valley wolves preferred to cross the Bow Valley Parkway during low traffic periods at
dawn, dusk and at night (see graph at right). At higher traffic volumes, the Bow Valley Parkway
may act as a filter, allowing limited
wolf movement (as evidenced by
shorter distances travelled during
midday periods of high traffic volumes
– see step-length analysis at right).
In 2013, Banff National Park will
implement a mandatory travel
restriction from March 1-June 25,
8am-8pm, on the eastern portion of
the Bow Valley Parkway. All overnight
accommodations will remain fully
accessible during this restriction. By
restricting all travel on this portion of
the parkway, we will secure a portion
of each spring day where wary
carnivores can readily access critical
and limited montane habitat.
YEARS OF DATA 2004-2010
Seasonal wolf activity patterns measured by step
length (distance travelled between two GPS
locations taken two hours apart).
PARTNERS
University of Montana, University of Calgary, University of Alberta.
FUNDING
Parks Canada, University
of Montana, University of
Calgary, University of
Alberta.
CONTACT
David Gummer
Wildlife Specialist, BFU
P: 403-762-1402
E: [email protected]
Four wolves (Canis lupus) travelling along the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff
National Park.
48
Research and Monitoring
WOLVERINE HIGHWAY INTERACTIONS
RATIONALE
RATIONALE
The Trans-Canada Highway (TCH) has long been recognized as a lethal barrier to wildlife and
an acute fracture zone for wildlife movement and migration in the Central Rocky Mountains.
Wildlife fencing, underpasses and overpasses have helped restore connectivity for many
species but little is known about their effectiveness for one of the most sensitive and wideranging animals in the area, the wolverine (Gulo gulo). Banff National Park’s wildlife crossing
structures are the first such structures within the range of wolverines in North America;
monitoring their effectiveness and documenting wolverine occupancy and habitat relationships
in BNP will contribute to our knowledge of this globally threatened animal. We do know that
wolverines are seldom killed on the
highway and seldom use the
existing array of crossing
structures. We hope to determine
if the highway is a barrier to
wolverine movements. This is
especially important in light of
another 30 kilometers of highway
being twinned to the west of BNP
(into Yoho National Park) in prime
wolverine habitat over the next few
years.
OBJECTIVES
Collect baseline information on
wolverine occurrence and assess
the potential effects of a major
east-west transportation corridor on wolverine movements in the Canadian Rockies. Estimate
population size, model habitat occupancy, and assess fine-scale genetic structure and gene
flow across the TCH and other potential barriers.
METHODS
A 6,000 km2 study area around the TCH was overlaid with a
12 x 12 km grid, resulting in 50 grid cells falling in parts of
Banff, Yoho and Kootenay national parks. Noninvasive hair
traps were located in each grid cell with additional sampling in
select grid cells overlaying the highway. Hair traps consisted
of a whole skinned beaver carcass nailed to a tree and barbed
wire wrapped from the carcass down to the ground.
Wolverines climbed the tree several times before removing
the carcass, and in doing so left hair on the barbs. Remote
Researchers baiting a hair trap.
infrared-operated cameras were also placed at each hair trap
to document wolverine visits and behavior. Hair traps were set up for four months (Dec-March)
and checked monthly.
49
RESULTS
Wolverine visitation rates to
the hair trap sites increased
during the three sampling
sessions. More than 900 hair
samples were collected:
• Session 1: 38% (18 of
47 sites) were visited
by wolverines.
• Session 2: 71% of the
sites (34 of 48 sites)
were visited.
• Session 3: 79% (37 of
47 sites) were visited.
A wolverine (Gulo gulo) climbing a hair-trap tree to investigate the
bait. Image captured using a remote camera.
Overall, 85% of the sites were
visited during at least one session. Of 142 sampling opportunities during the three sessions,
wolverines visited the sampling sites 89 times (63%). Seven sites were not visited by wolverines
during the survey. To date, 19 different individuals (12 male, 7 female) have been identified in
the study area. Of these, two males were detected by hair samples obtained on both sides of
the highway.
Additional genetic data will be collected in winter 2012-13. We will then analyse the data for
gene flow across the TCH and determine whether it creates any barriers to wolverine
movement, dispersal and reproduction.
PARTNERS
Western Transportation Institute (WTI) at Montana State University, Woodcock Foundation,
Miistakis Institute.
FUNDING
Parks Canada, WTI-Montana State University, Woodcock Foundation,
Mountain Equipment Co-op, Patagonia Foundation, TD Friends of the
Environment Foundation, McLean Foundation, Wilburforce
Foundation, Alberta Sport Recreation Parks and Wildlife Foundation,
Cameron Plewes, Lake O’Hara Lodge.
CONTACT
Dr Tony Clevenger, WTI- Montana State University
P: 403 609 2127
E: [email protected]
50
Monitoring and Restoration
HIGHWAY WILDLIFE CROSSING
STRUCTURES
RATIONALE
The Trans-Canada Highway (TCH) has long been recognized as a lethal barrier to wildlife and
an acute fracture zone for wildlife movement and migration in the Central Rocky Mountains.
Mitigations in the form of wildlife fencing, underpasses, and overpasses have been very
successful in restoring connectivity for many species in Banff National Park. Lessons learned
here In Banff, are being exported throughout the world and are alsoinforming the design of new
crossing structures as the TCH continues to be twinned through western BNP and into Yoho
National Park.
OBJECTIVES
Monitor the Trans Canada Highway for:
•
•
•
Wildlife use of
crossing structures
Habitat connectivity
and genetic
interchange for key
species
Population-level
effects on wideranging species,
particularly
wolverine and
grizzly bears
METHODS
Cougar (Felis concolour) exiting a wildlife crossing structure
(underpass) on the Trans Canada Highway. Image captured using a
remote camera.
The response of wildlife to
different wildlife crossing
structures is measured in two ways: (1) multivariate analysis of attributes of crossing structures
that facilitate movement by large mammals, and (2) measuring behavioral responses of large
mammals to different crossing structure design types from remote camera monitoring at
entrances to crossing structures. Baseline data are collected for these analyses during routine
bi-weekly checks of the crossing structures on the TCH.
RESULTS
•
Over 200,000 detections of 11 species of large mammals have been recorded at the
Banff crossing structures (Phase 1, 2, 3A and 3B) since monitoring began in 1996.
51
•
•
•
•
Since 1997, grizzly bear use increased
steadily and peaked in 2008 (n=180)
(Graph1). At the peak two or more adult
females with cubs used the crossing
structures frequently. The current decline
may be partially explained by the recent
dispersal of the cubs and may represent
only a temporary blip.
Among large carnivores, most grizzly bear
and wolf crossings are found at the two
wildlife overpasses and the Healy underpass
site, while black bear and cougar crossings
are more dispersed among the crossing
structures.
During 2011, there was an increase in the
Grizzly bear crossings at the Banff
use of crossing structures by grizzly bears
wildlife crossing structures, 1997and black bears with cubs of the year, while
2010. The number of crossing
previous years there were none detected at
structures was constant across years
the crossings.
Some notable crossing events in 2010 and 2011 included 6 documented crossings by
wolverines during winter: one time at the Wolverine wildlife overpass on Phase 3A and
five times at different underpass on Phase 3A. Wolverines have been detected at the
crossing structures only four other times since 1996.
YEARS OF DATA
1996 - 2011
PARTNERS
Western Transportation Institute (WTI) at Montana State University, Woodcock Foundation,
Miistakis Institute.
FUNDING
Parks Canada, WTI-Montana State University, Woodcock Foundation, Mountain Equipment Coop, Patagonia Foundation, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, McLean Foundation,
Wilburforce Foundation, Alberta Sport Recreation Parks and Wildlife Foundation.
CONTACT
Dr. Tony Clevenger, WTI, Montana State University
P: 403 609 2127
E: [email protected]
52
Monitoring and Restoration
WILDLIFE CORRIDORS
RATIONALE
The Bow Valley of Banff National Park is topographically fragmented by high mountain ranges,
roads, human development and increasing human use, particularly in critical montane habitat.
This fragmentation has the potential to compromise ecological integrity as defined in Parks
Canada Policy (1994) and the National Parks Act (1998).
This study was initiated in 1993 to identify and monitor wildlife constrictions that link good quality
montane habitat. Results have led to corridor restoration in some instances (e.g. bison paddock,
cadet camp and airstrip removal from the Norquay/Cascade corridor; Sulphur Corridor closed to
human use; Golf course road closed in winter; Two Jack penstock buried and wildlife crossing
structure installed). The study also provides a good (and non-invasive) indicator of wildlife use
and corridor function in key montane areas of the Park.
OBJECTIVE
To monitor wildlife corridor function as it relates to prey availability, changes in human use, and
resource
management
actions such as
forest thinning.
METHODS
Twenty-five
transects bounded
by highway fences,
cliffs and other
barriers are hiked
after snow events
from Dec-March
(see right). These
include ‘control’
transects in
undisturbed areas
east and west of the
town of Banff.
Figure 1. Map showing key wildlife corridors and monitoring transects in the Bow Valley
of Banff National Park.
53
Tracks of all species equal to or larger than coyotes are recorded per 100m interval. When the
tracks of large carnivores are detected (e.g. wolf, cougar, lynx, wolverine) they are backtracked
and mapped using GPS. Twenty two infra-red trail counters monitor human use on trails within
wildlife corridors. Two motion sensor cameras are used throughout the study area to
supplement snow tracking data.
RESULTS
An analysis of ~15 years of wildlife corridor tracking data from both BNP and the Canmore area
is underway this winter (Whittington et al, in progress). In the meantime we report on some of
the major trends noted around Banff.
•
Elk activity declined from a high in 1999 to relatively stable level in the last decade
(Figure 2). This mirrors the trend in the central bow valley elk population. Deer and
coyote activity has steadily increased over this same period.
•
Carnivore activity has been mainly wolf and cougar with rare instances of lynx and
wolverine. Wolf and cougar activity peaked almost simultaneously around 2000 and
2008 (Figure 3). These peaks coincide with corridor mitigations, high wolf pack
numbers, bold wolf pack dynamics and dispersal. The central Bow Valley cougar
population is difficult to accurately determine yet these peaks are thought to correspond
to cougar numbers.
Figure 2. Ungulate and coyote track indices
for all wildlife corridor transects.
Figure 3. Proportion of carnivores detected.
Carnivore backtracking has consistently shown effective use of Sulphur, Two Jack and
Norquay/Cascade corridors whereas use of the more constricted Golf Course and
Fenlands/Indian Grounds corridors has been more sporadic (Figure 4). We have not observed
any obvious avoidance by carnivores of recently thinned forest areas near town.
54
One decade of tracking
Figure 4.Wolf and cougar backtracking around the Town of Banff (1993-2004)
YEARS OF DATA
1993-2011 (ongoing)
FUNDING
Parks Canada
CONTACT
David Gummer,
Wildlife Biologist, Banff Field Unit
E: [email protected]
P: 403 762 1402
55
56
Monitoring
BREEDING BIRD SURVEYS
RATIONALE
Forest song birds are an important component of Banff’s ecological integrity monitoring because
they are relatively easy to monitor and they respond predictably to stressors such as habitat
loss and fragmentation. Monitoring forest song birds is important and advantageous for the
following reasons: extensive knowledge about bird ecology facilitates the interpretation of the
results; birds are highly diverse and provide more insights on biodiversity than any other group
of terrestrial vertebrates; birds integrate processes at multiple scales (e.g. local / residents vs.
large scale / migrants); niche specialization of certain species can make them sensitive to
environmental change; existing data is extensive in many parks; field methods are well known
and tested; and strong public interest
fosters public engagement.
OBJECTIVE
•
Monitor trends in forest song
bird diversity.
METHODS
Fifteen breeding bird transects are
distributed throughout Banff National
Park in a variety of habitats (see map
at right). Most transects are
approximately 3 kilometres long and
contain 10 “listening points” about
300 metres apart. Parks Canada staff
visit these points at dawn during the
June breeding season and
acoustically record all bird songs for
11 minutes. A bird specialist later
plays back the recordings and
identifies all species recorded for
each point. All mountain national
parks follow the same protocols and
data is pooled for large scale
analyses.
Breeding bird monitoring locations in Banff,
Kootenay, and Yoho National Parks.
57
RESULTS
All Mountain National Parks have collected 5 consecutive years of point count data following the
same protocols. We will analyse this data in 2012 to assess our power to detect trends and our
optimal sampling frequency. The number of bird species at each location ranges from 2 (on the
Pipestone Trail) to 30 (near Vermilion Lakes) (mean = 12.2, SD = 5.1).
YEARS OF DATA
2006 – 2011
PARTNERS
Bow Valley Naturalists
Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay,
Waterton, Mount
Revelstoke and Glacier
national parks.
FUNDING
Parks Canada
CONTACT
Jesse Whittington, EI
Monitoring Specialist,
Monitoring equipment used to acoustically record bird songs.
Banff National Park
P: 403-762-8865
E: [email protected]
58
Monitoring
AVIAN PRODUCTIVITY & SURVIVORSHIP
RATIONALE
The Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) program was established in 1989
by The Institute for Bird Populations, based at Point Reyes Bird Observatory in California. Its
goal is to provide long-term demographic data on landbirds to help identify factors behind trends
noted in other monitoring programs such as the North American Breeding Bird Survey and
Christmas Bird Counts. It is a cooperative effort among public agencies, private organizations,
and individual bird banders and has resulted in
thousands of mist-netting stations being set up
and operated during the breeding season across
North America. The one in BNP, established in
1999 along the Bow Valley Parkway at Ranger
Creek (see map) has been operated continuously
since 1999. Parks Canada contributes to MAPS
but the project itself is coordinated and run by the
Bow Valley Naturalists, professional bird banders,
and volunteers.
OBJECTIVE
Provide long-term population and demographic information on target passerine species through
annual indices in adult population size, post-fledging productivity, survivorship and recruitment.
METHODS
Forest songbirds are captured using mist
nets at 10 day intervals from early June
to early August and, after being identified
to species, are aged, sexed, weighed
and assessed for breeding and body
condition by way of plumage, cloaca,
body fat and brood patch indicators.
Birds that are unbanded are fitted with a
uniquely-numbered internationallyrecognized aluminum leg band. Survival
and productivity is estimated by
analyzing bird ages, body condition and
capture-recapture rates.
Ranger Creek MAPS site in Banff National Park
59
RESULTS
Between 1999 and 2011, 2,816 birds were captured at Ranger Creek. The busiest year was
2001, with 356 birds handled, but 2011 had the second highest number of captures, with 284
birds (see graph below). The site has the highest species richness (57) of the four stations in
the mountain national parks (Jasper, Mt. Revelstoke, Banff and Waterton) and the second
highest capture rate for adults (34.5/100 net-hours) and for juveniles (10.5/100 net-hours). Onehundred-and-nine birds of 21 species have been recaptured between years. One Orangecrowned Warbler (banded in 2004) was most recently recaptured in 2010, seven years later.
400
MAPS monitors 12 target
species in this region, of which
10 occur at Ranger Creek
(Swainson’s thrush; American
robin; Warbling vireo; Orangecrowned, Yellow, MacGillivray’s
and Wilson’s warblers; Song
and Lincoln’s sparrows; and
Dark-eyed junco). Of these, 7
showed negative population
trends, two of which (Warbling
vireo and Common
yellowthroat) were substantial
but not statistically significant.
Substantial increases in
Year
Lincoln’s sparrow were also
noted. The 8-year trend for all species is a non-substantial and statistically insignificant (P =
0.867) decrease of -0.7% per year, suggesting songbird condition is currently stable at this site.
Total captures
350
New bandings
Recaptures
Number of birds or species
300
Unbanded
Number of species
250
200
150
100
50
0
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
Four of the 10 species showed negative productivity trends and 7 showed positive trends but
none were statistically significant. The pooled productivity trend for all species indicates an
average annual increase of 0.030 (SE = 0.054) per year. The reproductive index (# young
/#adults) shows a slight decrease from 1999 to 2010 (R2 = 0.014). Annual adult survival ranged
from a low of 0.252 for Yellow warbler to a high of 0.734 for Lincoln’s sparrow (mean = 0.502).
Continued monitoring will increase the sample size and improve the statistical significance of all
abundance and productivity measures over the long term.
YEARS OF DATA 1999 – 2011
PARTNERS
Bow Valley Naturalists
FUNDING
Parks Canada
CONTACT
Jesse Whittington, EI Monitoring Specialist, BNP
P: 403-762-8865; E: [email protected]
Using mist nets to capture songbirds.
60
Monitoring and Active Management
BOW VALLEY ELK MANAGEMENT
RATIONALE
The Banff Park Management Plan endeavors to promote ecological integrity in part by restoring
carnivore movement corridors and ensuring habitat security by managing development and
visitor use. However, the Central Bow Valley elk (Cervus elaphus) herd generally selects
wintering grounds near the town of Banff where predators are rare or absent, human use is
high, and corridor restoration has been partially effective. The Banff Elk Management Strategy
(1999, 2007), recognizes that continued emphasis on corridor restoration and carnivore habitat
security is essential but
acknowledges that
hyperabundant elk around the
Banff Townsite need to be
managed for ecological
reasons and to minimize risks
to visitor safety from
aggressive elk.
A comprehensive body of
research in Banff National
Park has greatly improved our
understanding of the influence
of people and large carnivores
Photo: Jamie Bruha
Park visitor gets too close to a bull elk (Cervus elaphus) in Banff
National Park.
on ecosystem structure and
diversity and has found that in
the absence of predators,
hyperabundant elk can overgraze vegetation, compete with other herbivores like beaver and
moose, and alter long term ecosystem processes. More recently, the large herds of elk
inhabiting predator refugia (e.g. near Banff Townsite and the Yaha Tinda Ranch) have been
linked to high levels of wolf predation on secondary prey such as the threatened mountain park
caribou.
The Banff Elk Management Strategy uses a variety of adaptive management tools including
aversive conditioning, relocation and destruction, fencing of school grounds, and public
education and awareness. Many of these actions are ongoing, specifically aversive conditioning
of elk from the Townsite, temporary seasonal rail fencing to hold elk north of the Trans Canada
Highway (to better expose them to natural predation pressures), culling elk with assistance of
First Nations where natural predators are absent, assessing options to further improve wildlife
corridors, and ongoing public communications.
61
OBJECTIVES
•
•
•
•
•
Reduce elk density (to <2/km2) and increase elk wariness and migration
Reduce human-wildlife conflict incidents (by 75%)
Maintain and restore wildlife corridors and habitat security
Improve forest and grassland condition by reducing herbivory effects and restoring fire
Continue communications and engagement to support ongoing science-informed
actions.
METHODS
Aerial and ground surveys of the elk population are done annually along with calf counts. A
portion of the local elk population is radio-tagged to determine migrant/resident ratios. All
human-wildlife conflicts are tracked using occurrence reports. Track monitoring of wildlife
corridors occurs each winter for trends in predator activity (see Wildlife Corridors report, this
document). Vegetation plots to assess shrub/forest condition relative to herbivory are conducted
each year. Regular stakeholder/science advisory meetings are held to discuss results and future
management.
RESULTS
Elk impacts on vegetation, other wildlife, and public safety have declined as the Elk
Management Strategy has progressed through several phases under the guidance of
stakeholder and science advisory bodies since 1997.
Elk numbers began to decline in 1985 in the western and eastern portions of the Bow Valley
following natural recolonization of wolves in combination with several severe winters. In
contrast, high elk numbers persisted in the central Bow Valley (townsite area) until 1999 when
the first elk relocations took place as part of the new Elk Management Strategy (see graph).
Between 1999 and 2001, 217
elk were relocated to areas
outside of the park, and the
Fairholme wolf pack colonized
the central Bow Valley
resulting in a sharply reduced
elk population of 172 animals
(2003). The wolf pack
dispersed from the area in
2003 and the elk population
rebounded to 318 animals by
Spring elk count and recruits (yearling calves), Bow Valley 1985-2011
2007. Between 2007 and 2011
60 elk were culled to address
the rapidly growing number of habituated, non-migratory elk that were not otherwise exposed to
natural predation.
62
The current Bow Valley elk population is 263
animals (fall 2011), 166 of which reside in the
central Bow Valley. Elk culling in combination with
some predation has limited the increase of the BV
elk population; yet a high proportion of calves are
recruited each spring, suggesting future growth, in
the absence of natural predators.
Aversive conditioning of elk from the Townsite has
reduced the level of elk habituation and increased
elk wariness (increased flight distance). Incidents
with aggressive elk have declined from an
average of 100 a year prior to the Elk
Management Strategy to 15-25 incidents per year.
A growing proportion of the herd is also migrating
away from the Townsite in summer, and
temporary rail fencing on the Trans Canada
highway crossing structures has held 50-75% of
the central herd to the portions of their winter
range where predators are active.
Research shows that vegetation recovery begins,
on average, at an elk density of approximately 2
elk/km2 or less. For the central zone, this would
Recovery of willow at the First Vermilion Lake
mean a population of approximately 116 elk
exclosure, BNP between 1999 and 2008.
(currently 166). Elk population simulations suggest
that under the current elk management strategy, target elk density will be reached by 2019
assuming similar conditions of natural predation, winter severity, nutrition and management
actions. We will continue to apply, adapt, and adjust the Elk Management Strategy based on
input from stakeholders and monitoring results.
PARTNERS
University of Guelph, University of British Columbia, University of Alberta, University of
Montana, Elk Advisory Committee (1997-2003) Montane Advisory Group (2007-2010)
FUNDING
Parks Canada
CONTACT
David Gummer, Wildlife Biologist, BFU
P: 403-762-1402
E: [email protected]
Photo: Elsabe Kloppers
63
64
Research and Active Management
YA HA TINDA ELK
RATIONALE
Despite recent declines, elk (Cervus elaphus) continue to be the dominant herbivore in Banff
National Park (BNP). This has repercussions for a number of other species, including wolves
and caribou. All elk were migratory until a few decades ago but since wolves recolonized the
area many elk now remain in either the Bow Valley or Ya Ha Tinda winter range year-round,
resulting in partially migratory herds. Understanding how density-dependence affects these two
strategies is important to the overall management of elk in the Park.
OBJECTIVE
•
Determine whether migrant and
resident elk are regulated more
strongly by top-down (predation) or
bottom-up (habitat) forces in a partially
migratory herd over a 10-year period
of declining elk density.
METHODS
A radio collared population of 55 adult
female elk was maintained in a population
of 325 animals (maximum 2011 winter
count). Marked individuals were located
via telemetry on average every 12 days
throughout the summer (June 1 to Aug 31
2011). The majority of these locations
were obtained by vehicle, foot and on
horseback. Animals were observed
Study area and summer 2011 elk locations.
whenever possible to see if they had
calves. Whenever a mortality signal was
detected the carcass and surrounding area was investigated for cause of death.
65
RESULTS
Of 55 collared adult female elk, 39
(70.9%) migrated from the winter
range on the Ya Ha Tinda Ranch. Of
the 39 migrants, 21 migrated east
towards the Wildhorse area and 18
migrated west into BNP.
We detected a total of 7 mortalities, 4
from marked individuals (2 migrants
and 2 residents) on the winter and
summer ranges and three unmarked
individuals on the Ranch. The
percentage of predator-caused
mortality (43%) was similar to all other
years of the study (36%).
Proportion of migrants to residents (blue
dots) against population size (gray bars).
We estimated calf:cow ratios for
migrant and resident elk. We divided
migrants into two subsets –
western (Banff) and eastern (Wildhorse) – because the difference was interesting enough to
report. Total calf:cow ratios were 16:100, resident calf:cow ratios were 9:100, and migrants were
39:100. If we split migrants between western and eastern directions, eastern migrant ratios were
45:100 and western migrants 24:100. Although we have not yet compared survival rates
(pending calf:cow survey this upcoming winter) we expect differences between the Wildhorse
and Banff migrant elk to be statistically and biologically significant, explaining the growth of the
Wildhorse component of the YHT elk population over the last five years.
The general trend of declining population size appears to be continuing, however the proportion
of migrants to residents appears to be on the rise since 2009 (see graph). This may be in
response to increased predation on the Ranch during the summer and an increase in eastward
migrants moving away from predation pressure and selecting for the 5-10 year old burns in the
Wildhorse area. This is further supported by the high calf:cow ratios for these eastward migrants
YEARS OF DATA
2001-2011
PARTNERS
University of Montana, University of Alberta, Alberta Conservation Association
FUNDING
Parks Canada and Alberta Conservation Association
CONTACT
David Gummer, Wildlife Biologist, Banff Field Unit
P: 403-762-1402; E: [email protected]
66
Research and Monitoring
PIKA POPULATION TRENDS
RATIONALE
American Pikas (Ochatona princeps) are an IUCN Red-Listed species with some subspecies in
the United States listed as Vulnerable or Near Threatened but little is known about their status
in Canada. Most of the declines in the US have been caused by hotter and drier summers,
lower precipitation, warming temperatures, loss of vegetation, and timing of spring snow melt.
Given the projected trend for a warmer climate, pikas face high risk of extirpation in many areas.
Pikas do not hibernate. Instead, they collect and dry their winter food supply through the spring
and summer, building large and often easily observable haypiles beneath boulders. Research
elsewhere in North America has suggested that late-summer surveys of such haypiles and
whether or not they are active (i.e. contain green or brown vegetation) could provide a low-cost
and repeatable index of whether or not local populations are going up or down.
OBJECTIVES
•
Assess the potential for a citizen-sciencebased monitoring program for pikas in Banff
and Kootenay national parks using haypile
surveys.
METHODS
Twelve locations were surveyed in 2011 (see map).
Surveyors (2-4 people) searched a given block of
pika habitat (e.g. talus pile) for hay piles and pikas
within 30m of the talus edge. The locations of
active and inactive hay pile clusters were recorded
with a Global Positioning unit, as were observed
pikas.
RESULTS
A total of 437 hay pile clusters (i.e. all hay piles in a
15m radius and assumed to belong to the same
pika) were recorded in 2011, of which 63%, 30%,
and 7% were active, inactive, and not found
respectively (not found means pika seen but no hay
pile observed). Fifty-eight percent of the “clusters”
had 1 hay pile each but up to 9 were found
clustered at some sites, an unexpected result given
Pilot study areas for pika hay pile monitoring in Banff
and Kootenay National Parks, 2011.
67
the one-hay-pile-per-pika territory (25m radius) observed in the Ruby Mountains of SE Yukon
Territory (D. Hik, pers. observation).
The difficulty in defining the boundary between pika territories, coupled with the difficulty in
sometimes finding hay piles (especially in large, blocky talus) constituted our two greatest
challenges. The magnitude of these challenges will directly affect the precision of population
estimates and the power to detect trends over time. Based on our analysis and modelling of the
2011 results, the power to detect trends will likely be high but additional field work is required to
estimate detection rates and to calibrate the number of hay piles with the actual number of pikas
in a given area.
Monitoring success will also depend on the ability for surveyors to “find” the same hay piles
between years. Given current GPS error (up to 5m) unobtrusive markings are needed at hay
pile sites (e.g. small paint splotches on rock above) to facilitate monitoring.
This program shows great potential and there are plans to involve more citizen scientists next
year as well as a post graduate student from the University of Alberta.
YEARS OF DATA
2011
PARTNERS
Dr. David Hik, University of Alberta
Bow Valley Naturalists
FUNDING
Parks Canada
Pika (Ochatona pinceps) in a talus slope in Banff National Park.
CONTACT
Jesse Whittington, EI Monitoring Specialist, Banff National Park
P: 403-762-8865
E: [email protected]
68
Research and Restoration
CARIBOU REINTRODUCTION
RATIONALE
Woodland caribou (Rangifer
tarandu, caribou) are declining
across Canada including the
Threatened Southern Mountain
caribou herds of Banff, Jasper,
Mount Revelstoke, and Glacier
National Parks. Historically
Banff had a population of 25-40
caribou. The population declined
to 5-10 animals by the mid1990s because of unnaturally
high populations of elk and
wolves. Then, in spring 2009, an
avalanche killed the remaining
four animals.
Five of 7 caribou populations in
the Mountain National Parks
have recently declined to less
than 20 animals.
OBJECTIVE
Caribou numbers in the Mountain National Parks (2011). In the
last 10 years, the Tonquin population has declined from over 75
animals, the Maligne and Columbia North populations from over
60 animals, the Brazeau from over 40 animals, and the Banff
population is almost certainly locally extinct.
Determine the likelihood of
caribou translocation success within Banff National Park and in the Maligne, Brazeau, and
Tonquin regions of Jasper NP.
.
METHODS
We used GPS, survival, and calf-recruitment data from radio-collared caribou in Banff (2003 –
2005) and Jasper (2001 - 2010) to assess the potential success for future translocations.
Factors we investigated included the number of existing caribou (zero for Banff), wolf densities,
caribou habitat quality, and the amount of time wolves spent in caribou range. In Banff we put a
GPS radio collar on a member of the Bow Valley wolf pack (2009-2011) to determine how wolfuse of caribou range has changed with the 75% decline in elk and a concurrent decline in wolf
densities. We also examined genetic connectivity among subpopulations of caribou, what
source populations would be most genetically similar to the Mountain Park caribou, and
examined the feasibility of a caribou captive breeding program as a source of translocation
animals.
69
RESULTS
Caribou populations generally require areas with wolf densities lower than 6 wolves per 1000
km2. Banff wolf densities have hovered around 2 to 4 wolves per 1000 km2 since 2004,
presumably because of a 75% decline in numbers of elk. Indeed, one analysis shows Banff to
have plenty of high quality caribou habitat where wolves rarely venture. However, another
analysis shows wolf-caribou encounter rates are 3 times higher in Banff than in the Tonquin
area of Jasper. That analysis also shows that roads and trails in caribou range increase the
probability of wolf encounters, especially in winter.
Translocation success and population viability will depend on the number of caribou
translocated, their survival rates, the existing population size, and their learning period. Other
translocation projects show that caribou are relatively elastic in their behaviour and adapt to
their new environment quickly; their biggest challenge is in avoiding predators in their first year.
Our analysis suggests that at least 45 female caribou would be required for successful
translocation to Banff at current wolf densities. Source caribou populations exist elsewhere in
Alberta and in British Columbia and the Yukon however those in northern British Columbia are
most promising because of their large population size (greater than 1000 animals), stable
population growth rates, and access.
Given the low number of suitable source populations, we also assessed the feasibility of a
captive breeding program at the Ya Ha Tinda Ranch, the University of Alberta’s Ministik
Research Station, and the Calgary Zoo Conservation Centre. The Calgary Zoo offers veterinary
expertise, an existing facility, safety from predators, and public education and outreach
potential. It is there that Parks Canada and the Province of British Columbia are now focussing
their efforts. Source animals for such a captive breeding program could come from several
genetically diverse wild populations.
Once caribou are available, Parks Canada will translocate them to the park or region that has
the highest likelihood of success. In the meantime, Banff will continue to monitor factors such as
wolf use of caribou range.
YEARS OF DATA
2001 – 2010
PARTNERS
University of Montana, University of Calgary,
Government of British Columbia, Government of
Alberta, Calgary Zoo, Environment Canada.
FUNDING
Parks Canada
CONTACT
Adult male caribou in the Tonquin Valley, Jasper.
Jesse Whittington, EI Monitoring Specialist, Banff National Park
P: 403-762-8865 E: [email protected]
70
Research and Restoration
BISON REINTRODUCTION
RATIONALE
The 2010 Banff National Park Management Plan commits Parks Canada to “reintroduce a
breeding population of the extirpated plains bison, a keystone species that has been absent
from the park since its establishment.” It also commits that Parks Canada will “work with
stakeholders and neighbouring jurisdictions to address potential concerns through joint
management strategies before reintroduction”. This initiative nests within the Canada National
Parks Act and the broader mandate to maintain and restore ecological integrity as a “first priority
in the management of national parks.” Ecological integrity includes more than just the
composition and
abundance of native
species, of which bison
(Bison bison, bison) are a
part, but also includes
maintaining and restoring
natural processes. In this
case we must consider the
role of bison as both
herbivores and as a prey
species for larger
carnivores. In addition we
must strive to understand,
and where possible
accommodate, their
natural seasonal use of
Female bison with young-of-year calf.
the landscape.
Archaeological and historical evidence indicates that bighorn sheep and bison were once the
dominant herbivores in Banff National Park (BNP) but that the latter spent much of their lives on
the prairies (as evidenced by the presence of C4 grasses in their diet). It is not clear whether
bison occupied BNP seasonally, or if they were pushed or attracted here, from the prairies, by
First Nations as part of a hunting strategy. The absence of bison for the last 130 years means
information about their ecology and their potential interactions in BNP must be derived from
other wild bison populations like those in Prince Albert and Grand Teton National Parks. To
better predict how bison will respond to specific conditions in BNP, a habitat assessment, range
capacity estimate, and disease risk study are all underway to inform the public consultation and
environmental assessment phases of the reintroduction process.
71
OBJECTIVE
Assess the habitat quality, carrying capacity, and disease transmission risk of bison in Banff
National Park.
.
METHODS
A 2006 elk foraging model, developed for Banff National Park, is being adjusted for bison to
incorporate differences noted between the two species in other scientific studies (e.g. in
Yellowstone and Prince Albert national parks). Banff-specific snow coverage and depths will be
incorporated into the new model using MODIS (remote sensing) and Environment Canada
weather station data. Predictive maps of summer and winter range will be generated by the end
of May 2012 followed by ground truthing in the summer. Bison carrying capacity estimates (e.g.
maximum number of animals the Park can support) will be generated from forage biomass
equations developed for other free-ranging populations. Disease transmission risk is being
assessed based on the status of source animals (Elk Island National Park), likelihood of bison
excursions outside of Banff Park, and proximity to domestic livestock.
RESULTS
Results will be forthcoming in
summer 2012.
PARTNERS
University of Montana,
University of Calgary,
University of Saskatchewan,
Canadian Cooperative Wildlife
Health Centre, Elk Island
National Park.
FUNDING
Parks Canada
CONTACT
Male bison.
David Gummer, Wildlife Specialist, Banff Field Unit
P: 403-762-1402
E:[email protected]
72
Monitoring
GRIZZLY BEAR CUB-OF-THE-YEAR INDEX
RATIONALE
Unnatural sources of mortality (e.g. highway/railway collisions) coupled with increasingly
industrialized lands around the national park, in addition to naturally low densities and low
reproduction rates render Banff’s grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) population amongst the most
vulnerable in the world. It is for this reason that tracking grizzly bear trends is a priority in Banff
National Parks’ (BNP) 2010 Management Plan.
Over the past 30 years, Yellowstone National Park has used a female-with-cub-of-the-year
index to track grizzly bear reproduction. The technique, which uses direct observations from
park staff, researchers and the public, is simple and non-invasive. It was tested in BNP during
the East Slopes Grizzly Bear Study (see Brodie and Gibeau, 2007) but results were limited due
to small sample size and poor detectability. Since then remote, motion-activated cameras have
been deployed throughout Banff’s backcountry for a variety of wildlife monitoring projects (see
wolf, caribou and wildlife occupancy reports within this document) and, collectively, could make
a female-cub-of-year index more feasible.
OBJECTIVE
Assess the feasibility of a
grizzly bear cub-of-the-year
index by combining direct
(staff and public) sightings with
images from remote, motionactivated wildlife cameras.
METHODS
Grizzly bear family groups
were counted throughout BNP
using public and staff sightings
(as entered on park Bear
Photo by Russ Osborne
Monitoring databases), ~50
Female grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) with three young-of-year cubs.
motion-activated cameras
located at pinch-points throughout the backcountry, and motion-activated cameras located at
wildlife crossing structures along the Trans Canada Highway . Observations from all these
sources were sorted and filtered using the following rule-set for determining discrete family
groups (adopted from Brodie and Gibeau (2007) and Knight et al. (1995)):
73
•
•
•
Once a female with a specific number of cubs was sighted in an area, no other female
with the same number of cubs within 30km was regarded as distinct unless 2 family
groups were seen by the same observer/camera on the same day, or by 2
observers/cameras at different locations but similar times, or 1 or both females were
radio-marked.
Because of possible cub mortality, no female with fewer cubs was considered distinct in
that area unless she was seen on the same day as the first female or unless both were
radio-marked.
Cubs were classified from their size and, if known, the reproductive status of the female
from the previous year. The maximum number of cubs observed was considered the
litter size, although cubs lost early in the season would not have been recorded.
Annual counts of unique females-with-cubs-of-year were used to calculate population growth
rates (λ) using the bias-corrected Chao population estimates (as per Brodie and Gibeau, 2007).
RESULTS
Six discrete family groups of grizzly bears were observed in Banff National Park in 2011 (Table
1). All were observed on remote cameras while 4 of the 6 were also observed by park staff
and/or members of the public. All of BNP was not surveyed exhaustively and a number of areas
remain where a family group of grizzly bears could exist undetected. This is therefore a
minimum estimate/count.
Table 1: Unduplicated grizzly bear females-with-cubs-of-the-year observed in 2011, Banff National Park.
Discrete Family
Groups
Remote Camera Observations
1. Female with 1 YOY
– Cuthead
2. Female with 3 YOY
- #64
- Bow Valley
Cuthead camera; Aug 29, Sep 7
3. Female with 1 YOY
- Fairholme
4. Female with 3 YOY
– Panther R.
Fairholme camera; Jul 20
5. Female with 2 YOY
- Sunshine
6. Female with 3 YOY
Elk Pass camera; Aug 21
Redearth overpass; Aug 7
Wolverine overpass; Aug 9, Aug 10
Scotch camera; Jun 30, Aug1
Windy camera; Aug 18
Shale Pass camera: Sept 10.
Healy overpass; Jun 27, Jul 6, Jul 11, Aug 10
Wolverine Ck camera; Jul 27, Aug 11
Wolverine underpass; Jul 27
Redearth overpass; Jul 21
Pilot culvert; Jul 16
Sawback culvert; Jun 29, Jul 2
Wolverine overpass; Jul 9, Jul 10
Massive culvert; Jun 29
Edith underpass; Jun 8, Jul 8
Watchman Lake; Aug 26
Verified Resource
Conservation (RC) and public
(PU) sightings
Bow Valley: (RC) Jun 28, Jul 2,
Jul 9, Jul 12, Jul 15, Aug 19,
Aug 20
Bow Valley: (PU) 16x
East Gate: (PU) Jun 9
Panther R; (RC) Aug 18
Healy Ck; (RC) Jun 28, (PU) Jul
19
Sunshine Rd; (RC) Aug 29
74
The 2011 family group count was the same as what was detected in 2009 (N=6) and 1.5 times
larger than what was detected in 2010 (N=4) (Table 2). As a point of reference, Gibeau and
Brodie (2007) surveyed an area almost twice as big (included 50% of BNP) from 1993 to 2004
and reported 2-9 family groups, depending on the year.
Table 2: Number of unduplicated females with cubs of the year (M); total number (N) of sightings of M grizzly
bears; number of M bears seen i times (fi), and number of females estimated from summation (Nˆ sum) and
Chao (Nˆ Chao) monitoring-based estimators. Estimated population growth rate (λ) in year t.
Year
M
N
2009
6
2010
2011
f1
f2
f3
f5
f>10
25
2
2
1
4
13
2
6
55
2
1
N^ sum*
N^ Chao
1
N/A
6
N/A
1
1
N/A
4
0.67
1
2
N/A
6
1.5
* the N^sum estimator requires a minimum of 4 years of data as it accounts for the
breeding interval of female grizzly bears in the Canadian Rockies.
The bias-corrected Chao estimator (N^Chao) inflates raw counts of known family groups seen
only once, but reduces this inflation by females seen twice or more. For the last three years all
but one family group has been seen more than once per year, implying few escaped detection;
thus, the Chao-estimated populations are largely the same as actual annual counts. Brodie and
Gibeau (2007) acknowledge this may be a common scenario for small grizzly bear populations.
Three years of grizzly bear family group data (2009-2011) allowed us to estimate two annual
population growth rates: 0.67 for 2009-2010 and 1.5 for 2010-2011. However these rates should
be interpreted with great caution: small sample size and large variation in the two growth rates
resulted in very large confidence intervals (95% CI = 0.006 to 1.3). The upper end of this
confidence interval (1.3) is the maximum reproductive rate for all North American grizzly bear
populations which, according to recent research, is highly improbable for the Banff grizzly bear
population.
The high variation in grizzly bear family groups between years could be a function of differential
reproductive success depending on
the previous year’s berry
(Shepherdia) crop. This, along with
naturally low sample sizes, is
problematic in terms of statistical
analysis. Brodie and Gibeau (2007)
recognized these limitations and
suggested they could partially be
overcome as more years of data are
collected and by minimizing
1Female grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) with a single young-of-year
cub.
75
sampling variance between years.
Promising new methods of population abundance and growth estimators may be integrated
with, or supplant, the above methods in coming years. For example, Parks Canada is
developing a new camera research project to test the feasibility of indexing population growth
for a variety of species using an emerging technique known as “occupancy modelling”. In this
case, the research could be used to develop spatially explicit trend estimates of occupancy and
density of female grizzly bears.
Additionally, researcher R. Sawaya (in press) recently completed a study within the Bow Valley
of BNP which estimated, with excellent precision, grizzly bear abundance and population growth
rates using DNA collected from hair found on bear rub trees. He used Pradel open population
models with just 3 years of bear rub data. Surveying bear rubs for long-term monitoring of
grizzly bear population growth rates shows considerable promise for all Mountain National
Parks and will be evaluated for its future application once the work is completed and published.
YEARS OF DATA
2009-2011
FUNDING
Parks Canada
CONTACT
Jesse Whittington, EI Monitoring
Specialist, Banff National Park
P: 403-762-8865
E: [email protected]
Grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) using a rub tree.
76
Research and Active Management
GRIZZLY BEAR – RAILWAY INTERACTIONS
RATIONALE
Female grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) in Banff National Park (BNP) demonstrate an exceptionally
late age at first reproduction (6.7 yrs), a long interval between litters (4.4 years) and few cubs
per litter (1.8), making them the least reproductive of any studied grizzly population in the world.
Meanwhile, the Canadian
Pacific (CP) rail line has
emerged as the primary
source of human-caused
bear mortality in the Park.
Eleven grizzlies have died
since 2000, including nine
since 2005.
The BNP Park Management
Plan (2010) focuses on
reducing human-caused
grizzly bear deaths. In 2010,
the Canadian Pacific Railway
signed a 5-year
memorandum of
understanding with Parks
Canada and together the two agencies are funding and managing a research program to find
on-the-ground solutions to grizzly bear mortality on the tracks.
OBJECTIVES
•
Better understand the
causes of train kills
through focussed
research.
•
Develop and
implement actions to
reduce train-kills.
Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) walking the railway tracks in Banff National
Park.
77
METHODS
Experts in engineering, biology and transportation came together in Banff in September 2011 to
discuss the issue. From these discussions came five factors thought to influence the risk of
bear-train collisions and an associated suite of hypotheses for how we might reduce/resolve the
problem:
Problem
Hypotheses
1a.
Grizzly foraging on the rail line will be reduced if grain/cereals leaking from
rail cars is reduced to very low levels or eliminated, and/or by taste
aversion conditioning to grains and other cereals.
1b.
Grizzly foraging on the rail line will be reduced at specific sites if bears are
excluded by measures such as exclusion fencing in conjunction with
automated gates. This measure may depend on the effectiveness of 1a
(above).
2a.
Grizzly foraging in the rail line right-of-way will decline if important foods like
berries are removed, although attractive forbs and grasses will still be
present.
2b.
Grizzly bear foraging in the right-of-way will be reduced if equal or higher
quality natural forage becomes more widely and predictably available away
from the railway right-of-way through forest thinning, prescribed fire, and/or
by seasonal intercept feeding using road/rail kill ungulate carcasses.
3a.
Collisions will be reduced by mitigations that exclude bears from high risk
sites along the rail line using measures such as fencing, automated gates,
and peg-boards.
3b.
Collisions will be reduced by mitigations that provide advance warning of a
train’s approach such as sight- line clearing at curves, and/or stationary
noise/light emitters triggered by an oncoming train, slow zones, etc.
3c.
Collisions will be reduced by providing travel routes for bears to egress the
tracks where steep terrain and raised ballast exists.
4. Behaviour
4a.
Individual bears will learn to exit the rail line ahead of a train through
aversive stimuli such as sound/light emitters, etc., mounted directly on
trains. .
5. Movement
5a.
Grizzly bears can be excluded from travelling along the rail-line at specific
sites (see 3a)
5b.
Grizzly bears will travel less on the rail line if better off-site foraging
opportunities are available (See 2b). To be effective this measure depends
on unnatural attractants (1a) being removed.
5c.
Grizzly bears will travel less on the rail line if alternative travel corridors are
secured with low levels of visitor use and development.
1. Unnatural
Food
2. Natural
Food
3. Track
Design
(Risk
Zones)
78
RESULTS
Research proposals were evaluated by a team of technical reviewers in January 2012.
Proposals were assessed on 5 criteria: leveraging/cost sharing, collaboration, project
effectiveness, cost effectiveness and technical soundness. Based on these criteria, the
technical review committee recommended funding a suite of projects designed to provide
information on the root causes of bear-train collisions and projects that hold promise to reduce
bear-train collisions immediately. The following projects are underway or will begin in 2012:
Project
Investigators
Affiliation
Duration
The effect of vegetation clearing on bear response to
trains.
J. Park, R. Kubian
Parks Canada
2012-2013
The effect of off-site habitat enhancements (e.g. fire) to
reduce use of the railway by grizzly bears
J. Park, Dr. S.
Nielsen
Parks Canada
Agency, U. of
Alberta
2012-2014
Environmental and railway factors contributing to bear
strikes and recommended mitigations.
Dr. C. St Clair; Dr.
A. Clevenger; Dr. S.
Nielson, B. Dorsey
University of
Alberta, Western
Transportation
institute, Montana
State U.
2012-2016
Determine whether bears can learn to avoid railway-spilled
grain by applying a Conditioned Taste Aversion trial.
L. Holmstol
Cascade
Environmental
Research, B.C.
2012-2013
Determine bear behaviour ahead of oncoming trains to
determine feasible bear-strike mitigations (video data).
B. Burley, Dr. D.
Draper
Parks Canada
Agency, U. of
Calgary
2011-2014
Fine scale spatial and temporal movement of grizzly bears
relative to railway, roads, other rights of way and other
disturbed areas (GPS collar data).
T. Hurd, J.
Whittington, S.
Michel, H. Morrison,
T. Kinley
Parks Canada
2012-2015
Evaluate grain spill rate from hopper cars and report trends
and distribution of grain.
Provide timely GPS data to other bear-train investigators to
support their research.
Develop and test fence-end mitigations to assess the
feasibility of “hot-spot” exclusion zones on the railway.
To be determined
In addition to the above new research projects a number of initiatives are well underway:
•
Grain Monitoring Program 2007-2011 (see summary this report)
•
Bear foraging rates, mortality, and train-spilled grain in Banff and Yoho National Parks
(B. Dorsey, M. Sc. Thesis, Montana State University)
•
Relative risk and factors associated with mortality for ungulates and bears along a
railroad in the Canadian Rocky Mountains (B. Dorsey, M. Sc. Thesis, Montana State
University)
79
YEARS OF DATA
2007 – 2011 (Ongoing)
PARTNERS
CP Rail, Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University, University of Calgary,
University of Alberta.
FUNDING
CP Rail, Parks Canada, University of Calgary, University of Alberta, Montana State University,
National Science and Engineering Research Council (pending)
CONTACT
Kris McCleary, Science Advisor, Office of the Executive Director, Mountain Parks
E: [email protected]
P: 250-347-6170
Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) balancing on the rail, while walking the railway tracks in Banff National Park.
80
Monitoring
GRAIN ON RAILWAY TRACKS
RATIONALE
Trains represent the largest source of human-caused grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) mortality in the
Mountain National Parks. In spring and fall, when there are few calorie-rich foods for bears to
eat, grizzly bears can be seen on the railroad tracks consuming grain that has leaked from
hopper cars. The spatial relationship between grain deposits and grizzly bear mortality is not
statistically strong but past research has shown the amount of grain clearly correlates with the
amount of time bears spend on the tracks. Indeed, grain has been found in the stomach
contents of many train-killed bears.
A large scale refurbishment program for railway hopper cars began in 2007. As of December
2011, 13,500 cars owned by the Government
of Canada had been repaired, of which 5 – 6
thousand are being used by the Canadian
Pacific Railway (which operates through
Banff). These federally owned grain cars
represent approximately 30 - 42% of the total
grain hauling fleet used by CP Rail.
OBJECTIVE
Investigate the trend in train-spilled grain as it
relates to season, the number and condition of
grain cars, train speed, and track characteristics.
METHODS
Parks researchers monitored ten sites,
located approximately 12km apart, along the
CP rail line from 2008 to 2011 between the
east boundary of Banff National Park and the
west boundary of Yoho National Park (see
map). They placed a sampling screen
(0.37m2) between the steel rails and grain was
collected, sifted, dried and weighed off each
screen approximately every four days, year
round.
81
RESULTS
Grain spill decreased as much as
61% between 2008 and 2010,
suggesting hopper car repair, along
with vacuum truck cleanup, is
having a significant effect. However,
it is important to remember that this
is directly related to the total volume
of grain shipped.
Spills were greatest in the western
portion of the study area between
Lake Louise and Field, where
increased grade and curvature result
in lower train speeds.
3.5
3.0
2.5
Grain Spill Rate (GPD)
Grain spill was highest in Jan-Feb
and lowest during the summer
(likely an artefact of the winter grain
hauling season). Such seasonality
points to the value of timely reporting
and cleanup as a means of reducing
grain and bear conflicts.
2.0
1.5
1.0
0.5
0.0
Grain spill monitoring will continue,
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
along with an analysis of how it
relates to terrain features, train speed, and ongoing hopper car refurbishment. In 2012, this
monitoring will be conducted by a third party as part of a number of other research projects that
have started under a new CP Rail-Parks Canada research initiative to reduce grizzly bear
mortality.
2.500
2008-2010 (Ongoing)
FUNDING
Parks Canada
CONTACT
David Gummer, Wildlife Biologist,
Banff Field Unit
P: 403-762-1402
E: [email protected]
Grain Spill Rate (GPD)
YEARS OF DATA
2.000
1.500
1.000
0.500
0.000
82
83
This “Report from the Field” document is something new for Banff. Its purpose is to
improve how we communicate what’s happening with research, monitoring and
restoration projects currently being undertaken in the Banff Field Unit, not just to
residents of the Bow Valley but to all Canadians. The projects described herein are
works in progress; data is often preliminary and in most cases hasn’t yet undergone
peer review. It is for this reason that these project summaries focus on who, what,
where, when, why, and how. We’ve left conclusions and recommendations for our final
reports and the scientific literature.
By design, each of these projects is only briefly described. If this leaves you wanting
more information, then we have succeeded in piquing your interest. To learn more,
please contact the primary researcher listed at the end of each summary. For many of
these projects we also prepare, more detailed, year-end reports that we can make
available.
As this is a new document, I am interested in receiving any feedback that will help
improve this summary in future years. I can be contacted at [email protected]
Thank you,
Bill Hunt, Resource Conservation Manager, Banff Field Unit, Parks Canada
84
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