BC Parks Made me a Citizen Scientist!

Written by Crystal Mason

November 2019 – amazing Coquihalla views

In 2019 my partner and I volunteered for the BC Parks Citizen Science Wildlife Monitoring Program to install and monitor a trail camera in the Coquihalla area.

The program is a BC Parks initiative and data gathered from the program is available to other researchers, including biologists from Canada and the United States. The main goal over the course of June to November was to increase understanding of the behaviour and movement of grizzly bears in the North Cascades Recovery Zone.  Besides the target species of grizzly bear, program coordinators were also interested to determine if wolf and fisher (a weasel-like animal) may be in the area.

Although we did not capture any target species on camera, we did capture some really interesting photos while experiencing the incredibly gorgeous backcountry.

Stunning patch of Arctic Lupine in the meadow

Our role for this project was to install trail cameras and hike in once a month to change out the memory card while documenting our observations.

Fresh Black Bear print on the Trail

To start our volunteer adventure, we attended a training session at the Cultus Lake BC Parks office.  After a well-organized presentation on safety, the program and its goals, we moved outside to learn how to choose the perfect location for our camera to get the best wildlife photos.

It was here that I also was assigned to my team of four experienced trekkers (pictured below 😊).

The first trek into the target area at the end of June took our breath away – it was such a gorgeous location.  As seasoned outdoors people, views like this never get old and we were happy to trek the approximately 9-12 hour hike each month from there on out.

Our team enjoying the fantastic views

July – August proved to be a busy month for the animals in our camera area – it was such a pleasant surprise to see so many photos of the animals when we swapped out the memory card.  We were super lucky again with the weather and the trek in was thick with ripe blueberry and black huckleberry bushes – perfect bear treats!

Young cinnamon coloured Black Bear
Adorable little fawns sniffing around

By November, the weather had changed dramatically as it does in the mountains.  It was a very crisp, cool, clear morning to start our trek in and quite a bit of snow had accumulated. As it was late in the season, it was time to collect the trail camera to store it for the winter. This would be our last trek as a group.

Amazing views on our last hike into our camera location

This was such an interesting project that I am honoured to be part of.  I hope the information we collected, and even the lack of evidence of our target species, was interesting data for BC Parks staff.  It was nice to have a monthly commitment and a goal to get outside in the fresh air surrounded by mountains, while at the same time knowing we were helping to gather data for a very important project.


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