In this divided time, can we please agree on just one thing: let’s not harass the wildlife that we co-exist with in this area.
Friday morning (March 20), I witnessed a cyclist barrelling down the paved trail alongside Cougar Creek. Perhaps he was late for work. Perhaps he was simply oblivious to the dozen elk that were grazing along the path beside the creek, immediately above the highway.
That’s difficult to imagine, since they were scattered right across the pathway, blocking his way. Maybe he was just in a rush.
Did he slow down? No, not until a single lame elk jumped up in front of him and ran, obviously in pain, to rejoin the herd. Even then, the cyclist continued to herd the group downstream, towards the highway.
Why am I so livid about this? Surely it happens regularly.
Perhaps, but 24 hours earlier, in almost exactly the same spot, we observed the same herd, stampeding eastward from near the pedestrian underpass. They were obviously spooked by something or someone, and in a panic, they were trying to escape.
They had three options: cross the lower pedestrian bridge, run into the concrete lined Cougar Creek bed, or out onto the highway. Tragically, they chose the latter.
Literally only a moment after first seeing them running onto the roadway, we heard a screech, then the sound of a heavy impact. We saw at least five elk had been hit by a pickup truck. Fortunately, the driver appeared uninjured and was able to stop in the median. He never would have had a chance to avoid them.
Three elk died: one immediately, two others shortly afterwards. I believe the police arrived. We heard gunshots. Our hearts and gratitude go out to the officer who had the unenviable task of putting the elk out of their pain.
Why were they stampeded like that? I don’t know. We saw several dog walkers, cyclists, as well as other pedestrians out walking. Could they have caused this? I didn’t see the lead-in to this tragedy, and I don’t cast blame. But something had that herd in a panic, and it’s hard not to attribute it to human interference.
Here’s what I do know: if we don’t pay attention when we are in Canmore’s great outdoors, then we run the risk of inflicting injury or death on the wildlife we love so much.
Common sense dictates that we give them as much room as possible if we see them in similar precarious situations.