Video: Wild Spaces Recreation Dialogues — mountain goats and bighorn sheep

Photo: Trevor Haldane

This event was part of the Wild Spaces Recreation Dialogues, a series of Wildsight-hosted events geared specifically toward those who move through our valleys and mountains on foot, wheels or water. Click here for more information about the upcoming talk in Fernie on June 12. 

Mountain goat responses to recreation in Banff and Yoho national parks

In 2022-2023, Banff National Park recorded 4 million visitors. The nearby Yoho National Park, though less globally renowned, recorded 664,000 visitors. As visitation to wild places such as these grows, land managers are finding it increasingly difficult to balance providing a positive visitor experience — including allowing folks to recreate — without negatively impacting wildlife. One of their big challenges is a lack of knowledge about how and why recreation impacts specific species. That’s where Madeleine Wrazej’s research comes in. 

An avid trail runner, backcountry skier and climber, Madeleine’s master’s thesis aims to enhance our understanding of how increased recreation in Banff and Yoho national parks is impacting mountain goats.

Over 50% of the global mountain goat population is found in British Columbia, where the animals are listed as a ‘species of special concern’. Climate change presents a significant threat to their future, and, as such, they’re considered an excellent indicator of the overall impact that climate change is having on an ecosystem. 

Alongside climate change, backcountry recreation has also been identified as a potential threat to local mountain goat populations. To better understand this threat, Madeleine studied goats in two areas — one with high levels of human activity (mostly hiking) and one with low levels of human activity — using two methods: motion-sensor camera traps and testing the concentration of cortisol, a stress hormone, in shed hair. 

For more information on Madeleine’s research and results, watch her talk below from 0:40-17:35.

Where the wild sheep are (and how to help protect them)

Our second speaker in the Radium Wild Spaces dialogue was Jeremy Ayotte. A consulting biologist based in Salmon Arm, B.C., Jeremy has been coordinating the BC Sheep Separation Program for the past 11 years. His work aims to promote healthy wild sheep populations by preventing the spread of diseases, particularly pneumonia caused by the bacteria M. ovi from domestic to wild sheep populations. 

When introduced to a previously uninfected bighorn sheep population, M. ovi can can cause mass die-offs affecting up to 90% of a herd. In B.C., these bighorn die-offs have been documented since the early 1900s, with the last major event occurring in the Okanagan in 1999, and spurring the establishment of the BC Sheep Separation Program. 

For more information on Jeremy’s work, watch his talk below from 18:20-46:00.

Born and raised in Golden, Brian Gustafson grew up hunting with his dad, mountain biking, kayaking and playing hockey. During winter drives to Invermere for hockey games, he remembers seeing herds of hundreds of Elk.Watch more  
Do you spend time on the trails or in the backcountry and want to learn more about the wildlife around you? Join us to hear about wildlife issues relevant to those who move through our mountains on foot, wheels or water. Attend an event