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 . 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...
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 .