Aikens hosts a Woodland Caribou study
Jun. 29, 2008
For the first time since Gerry and Lorraine bought the lodge in the late 80's, we hosted a group of biologists and wildlife experts at Aikens Lake. The purpose of the visit was to gather information on the protected Woodland Caribou that frequent the shorelines at Aikens. A team of 7 people and led by Kelly Leavesley (Wildlife Manager, MB Conservation) was attempting to corral Woodland Caribou in order to get GPS collars on the animals and do various tests - including taking blood samples. After this short capture, the animal would be released back into the woods. During the summer, Caribou are mostly solitary animals but they do herd up in the wintertime. MB Conservation set up this visit because they had noticed many tracks and resting areas for a herd of Woodland Caribou near Stange Bay this past winter. They wanted to learn more about their movements and migration patterns. How easy is it to nab a wild Caribou without the help of tranquilizers, you ask? Well, not very easy as it turns out! To be honest though, it actually isn't as impossible as you may think... although it certainly takes strategy and planning! Aided by Pit and a few of the guides (Mitch & Marcel), the team set out with a strategy to "push bush" on peninsulas and islands in an effort to scare the animals into the water. Teams of bushwhackers would holler, clap their hands, and blow whistles as they moved through the forest. The animals would hear the ruckus and presumably head to the water to swim for safety. From there, awaiting boats would easily be able to lasso the animals and lead them back to shore. Once on shore, they would be blindfolded (it subdues them quite a bit) while the biologists took their samples. Our team was lucky on the first morning when a boat with Kik and his guests from Indiana (the Drerup family) came roaring down the lake to let us know that they had just spotted a Caribou in Horseshoe Bay. Everyone quickly setup up at the Impassible Reef to herd the animal into the water. The Caribou was very alert and jumped to the next island as we were just beginning to walk. In fact, a cow moose did the same thing! The Caribou had moved to the big island next to the Saddle. We regrouped and walked the new island. The caribou was able to double back behind us and he attempted to get back onto Horseshoe Island. A team of two biologists was in a boat near Horseshoe Bay waiting for him, but even though our plan worked the caribou was too quick to swim the short gap, then he found his footing in the shallower water and was off and running again! We were never to see him again! We pushed bush in several other areas over the next day and a half including the islands near Moosehead Bay, the Cookie Jar, Lost Lake, and the mouth of the Gammon. Unfortunately we ran out of time and didn't end up encountering any other animals, but the experience was thrilling. We invite MB Conservation to come back anytime to learn and gather data on this majestic animal!