12 Days of Christmas Spirit for Mother Nature – Day 9

Category: Fun Stuff, Newsletter

Day 9 of the 12 Days of Christmas Spirit for Mother Nature. Here are two fantastic organizations that help with wildlife preservation in Alberta that both run out of the Bow Valley.

Bow Valley Naturalists

For almost 50 years, Bow Valley Naturalists have been active in learning about local ecosystems and advocating for their protection. Source – Bow Valley Naturalists

This group hosts a monthly speaker series on current topics within the Bow Valley, the last one being about Whirling Disease, which was recently found at Johnson Lake in Banff National Park.  

johnson lake banff national park
Johnson Lake, Banff National Park. When my boys were young, it was our favourite beach. Now, we enjoy it more for paddling, with the occasional building of a sandcastle.

They organize an annual Banff-Canmore Christmas Bird Count.  This count relies heavily on volunteers and everyone is welcome. 

Another very important initiative from this group is the High Elevation Localized Species (HELS) project.

Update 2021: At the moment, the HELS portal on the Bow Valley Naturalist website is not available, please sign up for their newsletter for updates about this program.

For educational purposes, here are the four High Elevation species of concern.

Mountain Goat

mountain goat in jasper national park
Mountain Goat, mother and kid. This pair was not at subalpine, but at a salt lick down on Highway 16, close to the Jasper Lake Sand Dunes.


marmot in jasper national park
Marmot, peeking up to say hello at Mt. Edith Cavell, Jasper National Park.

White-tailed Ptarmigan

baby ptarmigan in banff national park
We saw this baby Ptarmigan, and its mother in summer camouflage, at the top of the Parker Ridge Hike, The Icefields Parkway.
baby ptarmigan in banff national park
Mother Ptarmigan, summer camouflage. Parker Ridge Hike, Banff National Park. It is hard to see the whitetail on this bird.

and Pika.

pika in banff national park
I saw this Pika at Lake Louise. It sat long enough for me to get a photo.

There is little to no information about these species population trends, or the corridors they require to maintain connectivity between their habitat patches. Source – Bow Valley Naturalists.

To give back to the Bow Valley Naturalists, visit their website to learn about all of the volunteering opportunities and upcoming events to help support this society thrive for years to come.


Wildsmart is a program of the Biosphere Institute Of The Bow Valley and relies entirely on donations and sponsors. Their goal is to develop a coordinated approach to education/outreach programs and help support direct management activities that will aid in increasing public safety and enjoyment as well as contribute towards sustainable wildlife populations. Source – Bow Valley Wildsmart

Every spring they organize a free, family-friendly, very informative, hands-on Bear Days in Canmore event.  This event is done in conjunction with Alberta Parks. 

bear days celebration
Taken a few years ago during Bear Days.

The annual Wildsmart Bear Days in Canmore event talks about living with bears, what to do if you see a bear and most importantly how to avoid a bear encounter.  There are bear spray demonstrations put on by Conservation Officers and you even get to try spraying a can of fake bear spray. If you and your family spend any time in bear country, I would highly recommend attending this event.

bear eating berries
I took this photo fall of 2015. it was a bad buffalo berry crop that fall and this black bear decided to fill up on the Mountain Ash berries. This is a very good example of why you shouldn’t have any attractants in your yard. (not my yard, but a yard in my neighbourhood)

In addition to the Bear Day event, they provide a weekly bear activity report called, Wildsmart Bear Report, they also offer education and outreach programs.

Are you interested in giving back to the Wildsmart initiative? Wildsmart has a great volunteer ambassador program to help monitor wildlife in Alberta in distress. As an added bonus – each wildlife volunteer receives a complimentary First Aid training course and certification!

Happy Hiking!

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