This site is dedicated to my sled dogs, their well being and their care while we train for and run the 2007 Yukon Quest 300 dog sled race. Particularly it is dedicated to the memory of Talbot and Rocket, two of the most amazing lead dogs ever to hit the trail, now gone to better trails.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

St Elias Community School Bison Hunt update #1.

Although this doesn't have anything (directly) to do with dog mushing, as the season draws to a close we are starting to move into other activities. Heather is away this week with the annual bison hunt that our community school participates in.

A bit of background on the Bison hunt.

(Note: This information is given from a discussion with a local forestry officer and is subject to the vagaries of my memory, but overall it is correct).

Bison are not an indigenous species to the Yukon, but rather were transplanted here from Wood Buffalo National Park in the 1960"s. The federal govenment at the time wanted to preserve the bison in order to get them removed from the endangered species list. In order to do this, four seperate areas were required to move bison into, that had adequate habitat for the bison. The Yukon offered to participate and a herd of bison were moved to the Aishihik Lake area and corralled for two years. The offspring from this group was then released to the wild and the herd has been growing ever since.

My understanding is that the herd is approaching 1200 in number and may be getting close to outstripping the available food source, hence the annual bison hunt. This hunt is done on a "lottery basis" whereby a hunter wishing to hunt bison enters their name in a draw and if chosen is allowed to hunt a bison from one of two areas and only at specific times of the year. If they are drawn in any given year, they are not eligible for a draw again for five years. In this manner, the government is hoping to control the population of bison and keep it at a sustainable level. It is also my understanding that the bison have not yet been removed from the endangered species list. I will be checking with a renewable rescources officer this week (once he is back from the hunt) and may update or change this information if I find out some of it is incorrect.

Students at St Elias School who participate in this program go through a training regime which has them learn various skills. Although none of the students will actually do the "hunting", they are required to take the Hunter ethics and education course that is provided by the Yukon Government. They also learn proper operation and maintenance of snow mobiles as well as a number of other outdoor related activities.

Heather, as an educational assistant was chosen to go on this trip both as an "EA" and also because she holds a wilderness first aid certificate. Being the adventurous and enthusiastic person that she is, Heather has been anticipating this trip for weeks with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. The excitement part probably needs no explanation, the trepidation stems from a number of factors. She was concerned that, having only ever driven a snow mobile once, she would not be up to the task of doing a 135 kilometer trip on the first day and then various lengths of day trips for the five day duration of the hunt. When she went by my place of work yesterday morning she seemed to have things well in hand in the world of snowmobile operation from what I could see. I just talked to the school principal and was informed that they made it to their base camp safely yesterday. She was also concerned about being able to stay warm enough both during the day and at night. Gathering from the enormous duffle bag that I helped lug to the school yesterday I doubt this will be a concern at all. She has taken my new double goose down sleeping bag which should be more than adequate, especially given that they are sleeping in wall tents with wood stoves in them. She and I also invested a considerable amount of money this year in down clothing and proper winter boots which served us well during training and the Quest 300. Nonetheless, the temperature at home this morning was

-25c and was more than likely colder where they are.

I will try to post information daily as I get it from various sources. Please check back.

The black line on the map below shows approximately the route that they took yesterday to get to their base camp. I just talked to one of the parents who's son and husband are out on this trip and she had heard from them by sattelite phone last night. They had not seen any bison or tracks on the way in. A few of the snow mobiles got stuck in overflow on one of the lakes and a few people got wet getting them out. For those who do not know what overflow is, it is a layer of water below the surface of the snow that you don't know is there till you are into it. Some times when you realize you are in overflow you can get out of it by powering the snowmachine up to full throttle to get back on top of the snow, however, this is not always successfull. One of the causes of overflow is the weight of fresh snow on the lake pushing down, thus displacing water up to the surface. Usually, overflow will freeze when it gets to the surface, but this can take days depending on the temperature. Overflow can be a significant danger in that it can lead to hypothermia and frozen body parts if you become wet as a result of being in overflow.



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