Thursday, 13 October 2011 11:53

Waterton draws a crowd during annual celebration

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By Susan Quinlan
Waterton Lakes National Park
With the beautiful fall weather continuing to hold, the Waterton Wildlife Weekend held in late September, was again a huge success enjoyed by many.

“We had a really good turnout; we were really happy with the attendance,” said event organizer Beth Russell-Towe.

The special weekend marks the beginning of autumn in Waterton, Russell-Towe added.

Among those who took part was a Scout group from Calgary.

“It was nice to have that youth group involved, aligning with conservation values.”

Russell-Towe said the weekend’s events included a panel discussion with outside authorities and scientists, exchanging ideas such as how to photograph wildlife in the most respectful, least-disruptive way.

It was an opportunity to get information out to the public regarding the needs of wildlife, said Russell-Towe.

Other workshops held over the three-day event included one by Charles Jonkel, wildlife biologist and bear expert who has devoted his life to the study and conservation of wild bears and their habitat.

Another by nature writer and biologist Doug Chadwick informed the audience about wolverines.

“We had resounding applause for Doug Chadwick and The Wolverine Way (his latest book). He was funny, patient, engaging … The wolverine encompassed our theme this year about the need for habitat preservation.”

Russell-Towe said in planning the Waterton Wildlife Weekend, organizers work closely with Parks Canada.

“Parks Canada has always very generously shared the research and science they’re doing in the park.”

This year, Parks Canada ecosystem scientist Barb Johnson presented some of the results on the work she has done with her remote camera project, observing wildlife behaviour, said Russell-Towe.

Other workshops focused on photography, as well as identifying flora and fauna in the park. Still others included a hike into the surrounding wilderness. There was also one conducted by archaeologist Brian Reeves, who informed the audience about vision quests and the spirit animals of the Blackfoot.

Another highlight of the three-day event was presentation of the Wildlife Champion of the Year Award to Dianne Pachal, Alberta Wilderness Director, Prairie Region, Sierra Club Canada.

Pachal’s life passion is for wilderness and wildlife, and engaging concerned citizens, explained Russell-Towe. Drawing upon more than 30 years of experience in conservation advocacy and organization management, Pachal has led various Alberta campaigns to protect wild species and spaces.

“In our mind, she’s been working terribly hard and generously over the years. She’s inspired many of us … an elegant angel of the wilderness.”

Overall, said Russell-Towe, this year’s Waterton Wildlife Weekend was a success.

“It was the most satisfying event we’ve hosted so far — a celebration of Waterton and the region. The weather was brilliant. All in all, we had a wonderful time.”

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