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Parks looking for squirrels and sheep

Parks Canada is trying to learn more about the distribution of bighorn sheep and golden-mantled ground squirrels in the mountain parks.

Parks Canada is trying to learn more about the distribution of bighorn sheep and golden-mantled ground squirrels in the mountain parks.

Wildlife officials in the Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay field unit of the mountain national parks are asking the public to report any sightings to help them fill in knowledge gaps.

“We’d like to fill in some gaps about the distribution of bighorn sheep and golden-mounted ground squirrels, ” said Alan Dibb, a wildlife biologist for Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay. “We’d appreciate reports. ”

In Kootenay National Park, Parks Canada does regular surveys on a well-known sheep population near Radium in the south end of the park, which is estimated to be in the range of 150 individuals.

In the north end, a small group is sometimes sighted along the highway at Vermilion Pass at the boundary with Banff National Park. Historic ranges east of the Kootenay River and south of the Simpson River appear to have been abandoned for reasons that are not well understood.

Beyond the Radium herd, information on bighorn sheep in that field unit is somewhat limited. Sheep are reported in the Lake Louise area, sometimes Castle Mountain and Saskatchewan River Crossing.

Occasionally, Dibb said, there’s been sheep sightings reported from the Siffleur and Dolomite drainages in the northern part of Banff. There are rarely sheep observations reported in Yoho National Park.

“We’re very interested in places that people may see sheep at locations other than those locations where they’re commonly seen, ” said Dibb.

For golden-mantled ground squirrels, there are two main knowledge gaps: general distribution of the species and when the little critters enter and come out of their winter burrows.

The golden-mantled ground squirrel is also often mistaken for a chipmunk, but it’s bigger with black and white body stripes that don’t extend onto its face.

Dibb said information on distribution could be useful in timing project work that might affect squirrels in their burrows.

“They really are a common species, and we do have a fairly good handle on them in some of the more common areas. We know some sub alpine areas and trails in park are quite heavily populated with squirrels, ” he said.

“We mostly want to hear from people getting into unusual places, going off trails or infrequently used trails. We’re interested in some of those off the beaten track areas. ”

While ground squirrels have already emerged from the burrows this spring, Dibb said he is interested in hearing the dates at which people continue to see golden-mantled ground squirrels into the fall.

“We have very few records of them, for example, after the middle of September and into October, ” he said.

Anyone with information can contact Dibb at [email protected].

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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