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Johnston Canyon 'secret cave' closed to protect swifts

BANFF – Parks Canada has announced the closure of a section of Johnston Canyon known as the ‘secret cave’ located between the upper and lower falls until Nov. 15 to allow black swifts time to nest and fledge in peace.
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Off-trail use at Johnston Canyon is banned to protect endangered black swifts (pictured) nesting along the cliffs at one of Banff National Park’s busiest tourist attractions. The species was assessed as endangered in 2015 by the Committee on Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

BANFF – Parks Canada has announced the closure of a section of Johnston Canyon known as the ‘secret cave’ located between the upper and lower falls until Nov. 15 to allow black swifts time to nest and fledge in peace.

“This doesn’t really affect any official trails, this is an unofficial trail off the main side of the trail,” said Parks Canada resource conservation manager Bill Hunt. “It’s a fairly unique bird; they’re quite unlike anything we have here. They’ve very rare throughout the rest of the park.”

According to Hunt, young black swifts need to be safe and secure in the nest for a longer period of time than other birds. 

“These birds have a single egg, and another thing that is strange is the young don’t fledge until late August early September.”

Johnston Canyon is one of three areas in Alberta the black swift is known to breed in, with the number of nests seeing a noticeable reduction throughout the years, from 20 observed nests down to just three. 

In 2015, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) stated the species was assessed as endangered, based on the swift’s highly specialized feeding and nesting. 

“What we’re asking is for people to respect the closure,” said Hunt. 

Parks currently has no plans to make the closure annual, but will reassess the effect of the closure during winter. Hunt asks for anyone on trails who observe other hikers violating the closure to call Banff dispatch at 403-762-1470.