April is here. We’re close to finishing the season for wolverine work. It’s been great to continue another winter of the noninvasive survey “trapping hairs” of wolverines, keeping our backs strong, our legs firm and clothes smelling of Gusto. This year we set out relatively few (10 sites), split between the TCH corridor and a “transition area” between our large study grid and one in Kananaskis Country. This winter the full KCtry grid is being surveyed. Next winter (2012-13) we will repeat our survey over 6000km2 in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay NP, as we did in winter 2010-11.
One of our transition sites is in the Spray River drainage. I skied into the site yesterday (Monday Apr 9) to check it for the last time and take it down. No beaver or smelly lure to carry in, so a much lighter load than before. Skiing this time of year can be tricky given the warm temperatures during mid and latter part of day, slowing one down to a laborious trudge, snow sticking to skis, and the constant pole whack on the skis. For that reason I left early, was skiing by 730am.
Start at Goat Creek trailhead and bombed down the icy trail to the Spray River junction. Record time, slightly less than 1 hr – and didn’t fall once! From the junction, our site is about 10km up the Spray drainage. Beautiful morning ski. Don Gorrie snowmobiled in day before to bring out the beaver barrel located near the hair trap site, so having a packed trail made skiing fast. I was following 2-3 day old wolverine tracks down the trail, heading the same direction I was. They went for 3-4 kilometres and most of the time were two tracks, interweaving, one on one side, one on the other, occasionally same side. By 1115am I was at the site. Took down the camera. Collected 10 hair samples (some looking wolverine-ish). Pulled down the barbed wire. Decided to ski back out since the conditions were so fast, rest of day was supposed to stay cool (+7 C) and wouldn’t likely run into sloppy crust-breaking snow. On the return, I found 2 scats along the wolverine tracks (missed them on the way in) and collected them (like hairs) for genetic analysis to confirm species, individual and gender identification. Spring like conditions on the way out. No one seen on the trail anywhere. Arrived at Goat Creek parking lot at 5pm (quitting time!).
When home I checked the compact flash card to see if a wolverine DID visit the site. This is what I found.