March 17, 2013

Grizzly Bears and the Wonders of GPS

The middle of March hardly seems like the time to talk bears, especially as it snows and blows among the high peaks of Lake Louise, but the first of Banff's grizzly bears will be awakening any day now.

And for some of those bears, Parks Canada will know the exact moment they emerge from their dens, courtesy of some high tech jewelry.  No, it's not Piaget, it's GPS.

Last summer, Steve Michel, Banff National Park's lead grizzly bear researcher, fitted eleven of the park's grizzlies with GPS collars.  This is the first time this technology has been used systematically in the park, and already, it is revealing more about how bears use the landscape than any past studies.

In 2012, those collars beamed up over 19,000 locations, showing where the bears are spending their time.  Among their favourite places were parts of Banff and Kootenay that burned in wildfires in 2001 and 2003.  These spots have rich berry crops in mid-summer.  Another hotspot was the headwaters of the Cascade River in the heart of Banff's backcountry, which offers secure habitat away from people.

Crossing the Wapta
The most surprising finding from the study was one male grizzly bear who crossed the Wapta Icefield three times!  Steve Michel thinks the bear found it the most direct route from Banff National Park to the Blaeberry Valley in British Columbia.  We've skied up on the Icefield ourselves, and it is the last place we'd expect to see a bear.

By summer's end the GPS collars had revealed the size of each bear's range, how often each bear had crossed the railway (a major risk for bears), and last but not least, when and where the bears went into hibernation in the fall.  The earliest of the bunch went to bed on October 12, and the last of the eleven to den up hit the hay on December 3.

We'll look forward to what the GPS collars reveal this summer.  Watch for an update in the fall.

March 12, 2013

Cross-country Skiing in Lake Louise

Our focus in Lake Louise is guided snowshoeing and guided hiking, but there's another great way to travel around here: cross-country skiing.  It's snowing as I write this, which means excellent conditions for skiing. The season here lasts from November until the die-hards put away their skis in the spring.  We've cross-country skied as late as early May!

Last week, the Calgary Herald sent a reporter and videographer up to Lake Louise, and put together a great piece about the ski trails and the Parks Canada grooming team.  Read about it here and if you want any advice about skiing in our neighbourhood, give us a call or send us a message.  Even though we don't lead cross-country trips ourselves, we'd be happy to tell you about trails, instructors, and ski rentals.