Back with a sad story...maybe

Back in the "real world" after 30km hike out and drive home yesterday.  I'm so upset, but also hopeful this story will have a happy ending...

You may recall I've often posted photo journals of the Tonquin Valley in Jasper National Park.  Usually we'd ski tour during the winter but this year, due to a planned closure from mid-November to mid-February, we ventured into this beautiful wilderness area before the ground was blanketed in snow.  In fact, we saw no other humans during our entire tour of the area.  The mentioned winter closure is part of a strategy to protect a highly endangered herd of Woodland Caribou - down to only 13 animals in the valley at last count and only 200 in the entire province of Alberta.

So how terribly ironic sad.  While on a late afternoon hike to a nearby lake, we passed through a campground.  I noticed a commotion in the trees and found an adult male caribou snared around the antlers by a cable hanging from the food storage poles.

Just our presence panicked the animal so we stayed only long enough to assess what could be done.  Unfortunately, nothing at the moment as daylight was fading and we were without tools.  Upon our return the next morning, I thought the animal had hung itself!  

In fact, it was still alive but had twisted the cable repeated around until it wound itself up by the antlers and was now hanging with only the hind hooves barely touching the ground.  So we got to work with a hacksaw and cut one of the two support cables.  When the cable snapped, the animal collapsed to the ground and quickly got up.  It backed away from us but was still tethered by the other support cable.  Ideally, the noose around it's antlers should have been removed but this large animal with sharp hooves and antlers wasn't to be approached.  Still, the caribou was surprisingly calm as I worked on the remaining cable, appearing to wait patiently for me to finish the job.

Once the other cable released, the caribou was off like a shot, bucking and shaking its head as it ran to a nearby meadow.  Unfortunately, with the mess of cables firmly twisted around it's antlers there was virtually no hope it could free itself.  After several miinutes of trying, the animal stopped to rest and even graze a bit.

We hiked to a nearby Warden's Cabin with the faint hope it was manned, but with the summer season well over it was shuttered up.  Still charged with adrenaline, we treked to another campsite to ensure the bear poles there were properly secured.  We hiked out the next day and called the park wardens this morning.  They acted immediately and last I heard were preparing to set out by helicopter to locate the animal.  If possible, they would tranquilize it and remove the cables.  If not, it's not likely to survive very long.  I have the biologist's promise of an update and will share the news, if any.  They may simply never find it.

Here is a YouTube clip I posted to an outdoors forum, but be forewarned it may be upsetting to you as well...

Back with a sad story...maybe

I hope this event leads to a re-evaluation of this particular system of food storage poles and cables.  As I understand it from replies on the outdoors forum, this type of accidental snaring has occurred before.  The careless individuals that ignored the posted warnings and left the wire cables swinging free will probably never know what they've done angry.

Well done helping
10/23/2013 - 01:55
the poor caribou. Hopefully they can find the animal, (not such an easy task) or if not lets just think that your help improved its chance of survival... This kind of things are not that weird when going to the mountains, long story short I once found a woman but had no possible way of helping her so I immediately returned to the city and advised the first humans that had a mobile to call the autorithies, felt pretty bad/disturbed until two days later when I was told they saved her! :) let's hope you recieve the good news!
Re: Well done helping
10/23/2013 - 02:07
receive* haha srry, not a native english speaker blush
Another amazing story!
10/23/2013 - 18:31
Gosh, please tell us more about this "found woman" surprise.
Re: Another amazing story!
10/23/2013 - 20:36
See my city is in a huge valley so we are surrounded by mountains, I live about 10 minutes from one of the biggest "national parks" of northern Mexico so I often go at least twice a week, I too love nature and hiking, when I don't go with friends I go alone in my motocross, that time it was a monday morning I went on my own, heading to a lake that is about an hour and a half inside the mountains, about halfway there I saw a woman just lying randomly, it was about 10 am so I thought she was a woman that lived nearby and got drunk the night before or whatever, I was driving a bit fast so I didn't stop, then I realised that there were no houses within walking distance so I turned back to check what was it all about, she was not fully concious and looked kind of disorientated, I asked what was up and she asked for water (kind of, she was really like sleeping so I couldn't understand her well), I wasn't carrying any why would one take water to the lake? anyways I figured out something was wrong, I'm no doctor and motocross bikes are not meant to be used by two people at the same time, even less if one is fainting, so I just told her I was getting her some help, she barley said "yes" and I rode with wide open throttle back to the city, almost in the entrance theres a petrol station so I told the guys that work there what happened and asked them to call civil protection (think something between police and medical crew) and gave them relative directions of were she was, they called them and I just went back home, two days later my grandma told me that the newspaper published a story of a woman that was injured deep inside the mountains and was rescued by the helicopter of civil protection who got tipped by the guys of the petrol station... hahahaha I was really glad to hear that. And that Tick-talk is one of the most weird things that have happened to me in the mountains! My apologies to Alex and all the loungers if we are going way off topic here hahaha :P Cheers!
Thanks for sharing
10/23/2013 - 21:34
no worries about being off-topic here laugh.  I'm glad it all worked out and you must feel good about having a part in saving someone.  Imagine if you had not been there at that exact place and time!  Our humanity isn't judged by how many watches we own...
Re: Thanks for sharing
10/23/2013 - 22:24
That's true! And you are correct I feel great about having helped, I can not express with words how good I felt after knowing she was being taken care of in the hospital, and all thanks to a jobless full time student with a bit too much free time n his hands heheheh. Anyways, update us when (if) you know about the caribou.
sad and maddening at the same time, at one point I humans
10/23/2013 - 11:54
will need to be shot off from all protected land and species because it seems we are totally unable to respect nature! You did a fine job Dean and I hope to hear good news soon
Alex, I never imagined this incident
10/23/2013 - 18:34
in my wildest dreams.  Usually one only sees caribou from a great distance as they are extremely shy hence the pressure of human presence was driving them to near extinction in the area.  There are three government biologists in charge of trying to keep the remaining 200 alive, hence the immediate response to our report.
So sorry to learn of your experience...
10/23/2013 - 15:32
Dean, I have read your account, blow by blow, and found it quite disturbing. Your effort and concerns weren't enough, however, you can only do your best in such circumstances and that you did! Hopefully better news is on the horizon. Best wishes Tony
Tony, some comfort may be found
10/23/2013 - 18:50
in knowing the animal should shed its antlers sometime over the next few months now that rutting season has passed.  Still, must survive the wolves and bears until then.
Good job, Dean
10/23/2013 - 19:02
What you did was terrific and hopefully enough to save the animal until the wardens can reach him or until the antlers are shed.  You did all you could do and more.  Yes, the video was upsetting to see, as is this story, but it is important nonetheless.  Best, Robert
10/23/2013 - 21:40
The Parks biologist called today to say they spotted the animal from the air, snagged on a small tree.  They spooked it when they flew over and it pulled free of the tree but took off with such zest they were unable to dart it.  He said they had it in their sights 3X but it swerved just as they were about to fire.  They will return with a net gun and try again, provided they can find it.
Re: Update...
10/23/2013 - 22:27
that is great! if that caribou can scape their sights it sure can scape the wolves!
Re: Re: Update...
10/23/2013 - 22:36
escape* (damn I need to improve my spelling)
Sad to read this post...
10/24/2013 - 06:02
Thanks Dean for going the extra mile to help the poor animal. Both traditional arts/craft and wildlife seem to be fading away in our crazy world today. We should treasure these while they last and also do more to protect them so our future generations can also enjoy them. Cheers Robin
Gosh I almost forgot the calendar pic
10/24/2013 - 18:24
It wasn't all drama, in fact we were likely the only humans in the entire valley.  This space between fall and winter is my favorite time heart.
10/24/2013 - 18:27
The otherside of nature can be so beautiful...
10/24/2013 - 19:08
Dean - it doesn't come any better than this! You've captured a magic moment. Tony
Wow!!! Great shot!
10/24/2013 - 19:48
The majesty of nature. Thanks for posting this Dean. Am sure you had a great time being in the midst of such majestic scenery. Cheers Robin
Gorgeous photo, Dean!
10/24/2013 - 21:31
Real beauty Dean! My Dad's favorite part of the world. You
10/25/2013 - 04:55
Are very lucky to be so close. Best, Tim
Hearing about your deed,
10/25/2013 - 12:38
makes me proud to belong to a club that you want to belong to. Cheers Kent  
Caribou Update
10/31/2013 - 00:00
Just learned from the Parks biologist that they have continued with attempts to capture the caribou but it has proven difficult.  It appears to be running and eating just fine, even with the cables tangled around its antlers.  The strategy now is to let Mother Nature solve the problem and wait for the antlers to fall off.  This isn't as bad as I first thought for caribou are unusual in that they shed their antlers earlier than others, usually Nov/Dec.
Seems like a happy ending, thanks for the update
10/31/2013 - 23:11