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They are among us: Trail cams show how close Fernie comes to meeting wildlife head-on

Images from popular trails around Fernie are being captured as part of a study into the effect of recreation on wildlife

We live closer to wildlife than you might think: Images captured from trails around Fernie have shown that Elk Valley residents come closer to crossing paths with our wild neighbours far more often than sightings might suggest.

In one sequence of images taken on a popular Fernie bike trail, a group of cyclists ride by, and a black bear wanders by going in the same direction only five minutes later. Less than five minutes after that, another group of bikers ride by, this time with a dog. All trail users (bear included) appeared unaware of each other.

Local wildlife biologist, Clayton Lamb has been collecting trail cam images from three different types of trails in the Fernie area since last year. With 450,000 images so far, the valley is teeming with wildlife and activity.

“The main types of wildlife that people think of when they think of the Kootenays - all of those animals are present in the photos,” said Lamb.

“We see grizzly bears, black bears, wolverines, deer, elk and moose on all of the trails.”

20 cameras are set up on three different types of trails in the area around the Fernie Provincial Park (but not in the park), separated into trails that can be used by motorized vehicles, trails that are used for hiking and biking, and trails that are obviously wildlife trails.

The images are being collected as part of a study into the impact recreational usage of trails has on wildlife, and to promote and understand peaceful coexistence between wildlife and people in the valley. (For those that are camera-shy, any images with people in them are blurred out).

“The idea is to understand how animals are choosing to navigate that landscape,” said Lamb.

“We know there’s an abundance of wildlife population in the area …We see them when we’re out hiking or mountain biking, but we’re looking a bit deeper into how they’re spending their time between these different types of trails.”

Lamb said the data would be used to establish whether recreational use of trails had an impact on how wildlife used those same trails.

“We want to measure the effects of recreation, especially considering the increase of motorised and non-motorised recreational activities in the Kootenays.”

Lamb said that so far, the data was showing that the majority of wildlife was around when people were not. “(But) there’s definitely some examples of bikers and pretty large wildlife in pretty close proximity - within minutes (of each other)”.

Data collected will be used to educate people and provide visuals on how close we all live to wildlife, and to stay mindful and safe when using the trails.

“Even though we may not see these animals, we can often be in close spacial and temporal proximity to wildlife when we’re on these trails. There could be a bear right in front of you or behind you at any time.”

READ MORE: A tough year for bears in the Elk Valley: Dozens euthanized, more killed in collisions
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