May 17th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 20
“Road Watch” Emerald Lake Wildlife Fencing update
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
John Kinnear Photo
Greg Hale, Senior Wildlife Biologist talking about sheep management.
Elk Valley Herald Contributor
Last Thursday night a comprehensive update on the Emerald Lake fencing program was presented at the Frank Slide Interpretive Center. Event organizer Rob Schaufele of Road Watch in the Pass and the Collision Count Project provided the crowd some background as to why this project had come about. Rob has worked tirelessly for years to document wildlife issues on Highway 3 and played an important part in the process that led to the fencing.

The case was made for important wildlife mitigation opportunities back in 2010 through the Highway #: Transportation Mitigation for Wildlife and Connectivity study. This comprehensive document revealed key areas along Highway 3 where wildlife was being lost in large numbers. After years of documentation and advocating Alberta Transportation finally saw the light and secured funding to try and deal with some of the sheep issues at Emerald Lake. 1.5 kilometers of directional fencing complete with six jump-outs was installed late last fall. The jump-outs allow any sheep that find themselves on the wrong side of the fence an avenue to jump down to the other side. They are so designed to allow this one way escape and are high enough to prevent the reverse from happening.
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For those of us wondering how this project has been working Rob indicated there have been no losses in the fencing area since it was finalized in October but conceded that there have been two sheep lost since then on the east side and on the west side of the fenced area.

Rob stressed that Emerald Lake was chosen as a starting point because it had the highest number of sheep losses in the lake area. He also indicated that this is a work- in-progress and over time there will be improvements and probably additions to the fencing both east and west.

Guest speakers Thursday night included Greg Hale, Senior Wildlife Biologist, Environment and Parks Operations, Blairmore, who gave an important overview on the issue of sheep management throughout the province and talked about land use in critical areas such as Emerald Lake. It was also interesting to hear from Thomas Vogelsang, an infrastructure engineer for Alberta Transportation, who gave a comprehensive chronological background on how the project evolved, issues they faced in installation and, like Rob, acknowledged there was more work to be done.
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There was also a brief presentation by local conservation biologist Dale Paton who spoke about a post construction study now in the works. The study will use remote cameras and collared sheep to monitor sheep responses to the fence. The monitoring will help evaluate changes in bighorn sheep-vehicle collisions pre- vs. post-mitigation, quantify bighorn sheep intrusions to Highway 3 and determine key points of access. It will also evaluate the sheep’s use of the jump-outs including the number of approaches and successful use. Finally the monitoring will: “Collect data of Crowsnest Pass Bighorn sheep herd movement patterns throughout their home range, with a focused effort on locating the safest sheep crossing sites to maintain connectivity across Hwy 3.”

Some of the project partners include the Hillcrest Fish and Game, Wild Sheep Foundation of Alberta, Willow Valley Trophy Club, Southern Alberta Bowhunters Association, Ascent Helicopters, Volker Stevin ( documenting and collecting road kill animals), the Municipality of CNP, Riverdale Resources and Lethbridge College Fish and Wildlife students and faculty. The Minister’s Special Licence Grant for the project was administered by the Alberta Fish and Game Association.

“Long-term monitoring of mitigation measures has shown that there is an adaptation period to new structures and therefore monitoring should be a minimum of 3 years for ungulate species.” So the refinement and improvement will take some time. The bottom line message from all four speakers was that the work at the Emerald Lake area will continue and further mitigation and studies will help refine and improve this important area’s ungulate issues.
May 17th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 20
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