It’s a truck meet wildlife world out there
I live inside a National Park. It’s an amazing privilege to be able to live in a ‘somewhat’ protected habitat. I say ‘somewhat’ because it’s a sliding scale and my naive little mind has been shocked time and again by the contradictions that occur within the framework and ‘purpose’ of our National Parks.
Yesterday afternoon, my partner witnessed a horrifying murder that has my little digits on the keyboard today.
As an avid nature lover, he’s out there day in and day out observing and documenting our natural history. He follows and bears witness to the changes of the seasons and how those changes drive wildlife behaviour from migratory songbirds to courtship and mating behaviours of a wide variety of mammals.
Most recently he’s become quite intimate with a large herd of Big Horn Sheep that are relatively famous here in Jasper National Park. He’s observed the old white-faced ewe whom he’s affectionately named Vera-Lynn who seems to be on the outer edges of the mating rituals. And Linda, another ewe who is so old that her horns are almost worn away, who lets those rams know that she will have none of their antics. Then there is Clarence, who seemed to be the lead ram for a while until Big Red came along and Chief, who thought he might give Big Red a go. The battle scars on Chief one morning proved that to be an unwise decision.
After spending a relatively uneventful morning with the gang, Big Red followed a small group of ewes down the mountainside to where they were licking salt on the highway. My partner was thrilled with a beautiful image that he took when Big Red paused and turned to look back at the herd at the edge of a cliff on his way down, describing it as incredibly majestic.
Five minutes later, the majestic ram was skidding on his back across the highway after being struck by a transport truck.
The driver was audibly angry and aggressive. He honked and yelled out the window, but he did not slow down for the sheep on the road and he did not stop after he killed Big Red and neither did the several trucks and cars that passed following the tragedy.
Don’t delude yourself into thinking that this is a random incident. This behaviour happens all day every day on this highway. We know because, we see it every day while we attempt to peacefully enjoy nature. And the frequent fatalities are quickly swept away.
Is this not especially ironic in the season of love, hope, peace and joy? Or does that only come with a prime membership and free shipping?
Finally a plow driver stopped and two gentlemen got out to move the twitching carcass off the road. Thank you for that.
It wasn’t too long afterward that a Parks vehicle came along and it was ‘business as usual’ to remove the carcass to it’s final resting place at the dump.
Yes, the dump.
Not the forest where it would provide nourishment to a whole host of wild creatures that are also ‘protected’ within the National Park.
Not in the hands of an indigenous community that would give thanks and honour the life that was given to harvest the meat, fur and various parts for survival.
Not in the hands of a wildlife foundation that would ensure the life was not lost in vain.
The dump, where the copious evidence of human existence will linger far longer than the decomposed carcass.
I’m saddened, angry and frustrated with the lack of respect and reverence for our wildlife, not only, but especially within the boundaries of the National Park whose existence is specifically for the purpose of protecting our natural environment and ecosystems.
Why do we allow highways to cut through a National Park? Through vehicles do not pay park fees, yet they use the roads and facilities along the way without care or concern for the wildlife whose home they are racing through.
I started to research things like “what are the guiding principles for National Parks in Canada” and started reading through the legalese to try to gain a deeper understanding of the answer to that question.
But seriously – you need a law degree (and I would say an unhealthy dose of caffeine) to get through it.
Common sense and politics are like oil and water in this writer’s opinion.
I have many questions in addition to why we allow highways to cut through ‘protected’ areas. But for today, I will honour and revere Big Red.
Thank you for being. Thank you for your majestic beauty. Thank you for the amazing images. Thank you for the experience of being in your presence.
And I hope that Linda or Becky-Sue or several of the ewes of that beautiful herd will give birth to Little Reds that we will see frolicking amongst the cliffs in the spring.