Conservation through education and citizen science

Marathon | Highway Wilding Blog

Not sure how I get myself into these things. We have 3 more sites to check before we wrap up the wolverine survey work for this winter. A site up Bryant Creek that’s been the haunt of a hungry lynx since January, a site up Og Meadow in Mt Assiniboine Prov Park, and one site in the Upper Spray River drainage below Palliser Pass.

Mirjam and I decided to check the Bryant and Assiniboine sites. The Bryant site we ski into. Not much trouble since it’s about a 10 km ski in. The Assiniboine site we’ve been lucky to have the support of Andre Renner who’s let us fly into the Lodge with him twice. However, this late date, there’s not any flights into the Lodge, so we’ll have to ski in and ski out – could be tricky given the deteriorating snow conditions.

I had initially thought we’d spend a couple of nights at the Bryant Cabin – ski in the 15 km to the cabin. Get up next day and ski to the Assiniboine site about 15 km away and then back to the cabin. Ski out the next day, checking the Bryant hair trap.

Mirjam had another plan. Get up early, ski to Bryant, continue up to Assiniboine Pass and  to the hair trap site 3 km away, check the site, ski down the Pass to Bryant Creek and the warden cabin – an estimated 37km day.

Well, we’ve done a couple 35-40 km trips in one day this year – both times at the Spray 16 site – so what’s the big deal I thought. The more I thought about it, the easier the trip seemed, and that mix of anticipation and challenge set in.

We left Canmore at 6am and headed up towards the Smith-Dorrien road but was stopped by a locked gate just up from the Nordic Centre. A call to dispatch told us that the road was closed to wash-outs. Headed back down and around to Hwy 40 – getting a delay on our “early start” time.

We ended up at Mt Shark a little before 8am, the only car in parking lot, of course. By 8am we were skiing towards Bryant. At 1045 we’d arrived to the Bryant warden cabin – the snow was packed and skiing was fast. We opened the cabin up, got the stove fired up and began brewing tea and Top Raman noodles for an early lunch. By noon, we were back on our skis and heading towards Assiniboine Pass.

The weather turned on us, dropping in temperature and showering us with rain. By the time we arrived at Assiniboine Pass, there were low dark clouds, steady rainfall, and the occasional burst of thunder and lightening nearby.

We skied to the site, arriving around 330pm, and it definitely had all the signs of a wolverine visit. Lots of wolverine-ish looking hair on the barbs and no beaver left on the tree. We collected 17 hair samples while the rain continued to pour down on us, and finally about 430pm packed up and began the ski out of Assiniboine and back to the warden cabin.

We arrived at 700pm, soaked to the bone. In no time the cabin looked like a Chinese laundry. Pasta al pesto, some great cheese Mirjam brought (and fried), done dishes and a good night’s sleep.

Next morning, nearly clear skies, beautiful day and fast ski out. Fresh grizzly bear tracks over our ski tracks coming in. We hooted and hollered as we ski down and out along Bryant Cr. At the Bryant site, not any wolverine-ish looking hairs, but just a lot of light-coloured lynx type hairs. The cameras will tell…

Source: Marathon | Highway Wilding Blog