Wildlife cameras installed in the Seymour and Coquitlam watersheds captured an abundance of animal activity, including some sightings that pleasantly surprised local environmental enthusiasts.
Images show black bears exploring with their cubs or curiously investigating snow pickets, a bobcat trotting through leaves and a cougar shoving its way through fresh snow. Yet it was the appearance of a pack of elk, some captured battling it out on camera, others showing mothers and calves, alongside a few lone wolves, that really got people talking. of them.
“Most of the species commonly captured by cameras are what we expected, such as black-tailed deer, black bears, bobcats, coyotes and cougars,” said Kirstie Rendall, management supervisor of environment at Metro Vancouver’s Water Services.
“What we really didn’t expect was the capture of a lot of moose, and now we’re also starting to see wolves moving to certain places.
Prior to these sightings, evidence of elk and wolves was limited and largely anecdotal, she said, and knowledge of movement patterns or population numbers was therefore scarce.
“Now we have been able to identify several wildlife travel routes that are consistently used by elk and other wildlife, including predators like wolves,” she said, adding how much of these trails are often deactivated service roads, no longer in use. to the public and therefore a preferred passageway for stray species.
“We even filmed elk which are collared individuals suggesting they migrate into the area from the nearby Indian River and Squamish area,” she said.
“It was interesting to see, it was not planned at all.”
The camera program, orchestrated by Metro Vancouver’s Watershed and Environment Division, was launched in 2017 via a single camera in Capilano Reservoir, with the goal of better understanding the species that call the area home. The program has since grown to see two more implemented in the Seymour and Coquitlam areas.
With watersheds protected from development and the public to ensure the water is of the highest drinking quality for local residents, the areas function as de facto wildlife sanctuaries – a refuge from human disturbance in an otherwise urban landscape.
Rendell said the presence of the two species is an indicator of “a healthy environment,” with Roosevelt elk, a subspecies of North American elk, and wolves both playing important roles in maintaining the ecosystem.
While one, as one of the largest herbivores in the region, has created diversity in the vegetation layers of the forest, the other controls the prey populations of the region.
“Having this healthy and thriving ecosystem is essential to maintaining the clean and reliable drinking water supply that Metro Vancouver is responsible for,” she said.
“Since the Europeans arrived here, elk and wolf populations have been severely impacted by the loss of our habitat and all of our activities, so it’s nice to see those populations rebounding and our animals returning to their historic home ranges. “
Following these promising findings, Randell has only high hopes for the future, with the water services team crossing their fingers for the return of other once-prevalent species.
“Grizzlies are mostly absent from southwestern British Columbia, and we haven’t had any known sightings inside water supply areas for decades,” she said. declared.
“But recently there have been more sightings in the north, and we’re hopeful the bears will eventually make their way to watersheds and repopulate what was once part of their natural range.”
Until then, Rendell said witnessing the re-emergence of wolves and elk, plus getting a glimpse into the hidden lives of frolicking black bears, curious cougars and other wildlife that inhabit the three basins slopes, is quite satisfactory.
“There really is nothing more rewarding,” she said.
Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the Indigenous and Civic Affairs reporter for North Shore News. This pace of reporting is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.