Park Warden Alumni Society of Alberta Thank you to the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies for granting permission to the Park Warden Service Alumni to post this interview on our website
Park Warden Alumni Society of Alberta
Oral History Project – Spring 2014
Interview with Paul Kutzer– Canmore, Alberta
Interview conducted by Christine Crilley-Everts
March 24, 2014
Place and Date of Birth: Meekow, Germany, 1941.
Occupations: After working with the RCMP and provincial parks, Paul joined the warden service in Waterton in 1966. From Waterton, he moved to Banff where he worked in the townsite and then in the Minnewanka district. Following centralization, Paul worked with problem bears, served as an Area Manager, worked in Lake Louise and was an Assistant and Acting Chief Warden in Banff National Park. Paul then moved across the country to Halifax to work as the Regional Warden Specialist. After nine years in the east, he returned to the west so that his daughter would get to know her family. He finished his career in Yoho National Park where he served as the Chief Warden until he retired for medical reasons in 1997.
Additional Information: Paul remembers fondly the camaraderie of the service, his Park friends across the country and especially the time he spent he eastern Canada.
“What is your place and date of birth?)
(0:17) Well, I wasn’t born in Canada. I was born in Germany in a town called, Meekow, which is now in Poland actually, but it was in Germany then That was one of the things that happened at the end of the war. Russia decided to take a pile of Polish land and then they took a bunch of German land at the end. That’s what’s happening in Crimea right now. No, we got basically told to get out or else…when I was about three years old. We walked and walked and walked and walked because there was no transportation. We ended up in Eastern Germany and from there we went over to Western Germany, to Bavaria, when I was nine years old. Then I came to Canada when I was 11. 1941, to actually a place called Agassiz…in the Lower Mainland. Then we moved to Abbotsford, to what is now Abbotsford. Abbotsford at that time was 1000 people in a square mile…I went to school in Abbotsford.
“How then did you become involved in the warden service?”
(3:14) Well, I thought that would be kind of a nice job to do.) Outdoor type stuff kind of interested me for a long time. I saw an advertisement in 1966 and decided to apply and I got a job.
“Were you in the outdoors a lot with your family?”
Oh yeah, it was usually on the farm. I never really lived in the city.
“You said Gerry Campbell was your first chief, so you started in Waterton?”
(4:17) Yes, in Waterton. I think it was 1966 if I remember right, in around that time anyway. I was a seasonal (warden), I wasn’t a term ever. I was seasonal and I spent the season there until late fall. Then I got a permanent assistant warden position in the Banff townsite. The Chief Warden then was Bob Hand, I don’t know if you have ever heard that name? And the town warden was Jack Woledge. You have probably heard of him.
“Two years ago I interviewed Jim and Muriel. (Jack’s son and wife).
He worked for me. He was a dispatcher in Lake Louise.
Is that right? Good for him! “Yes, he spoke about that.”
Yes, Jim, the young fellow. He was a nice fellow you know…It was unbelievable how he got into that office in Lake Louise, in the wheel chair. (As a result of an accident Jim was left paralyzed.) It was just amazing! Oh no, we had an ATCO trailer, type of thing with steps… There was a bit of a ramp, but it wasn’t much of a ramp. If he came when somebody was there, they would always help him up.
“He had a great story, I think about a bear cub in the office…”
Well, the office got broken into at Lake Louise. Somebody broke the back window and climbed in. They stole a bunch of firearms and stuff, including my pistol which was later recovered in Calgary…that must have been in about 1972/73, somewhere in that neighborhood…years fly by and you lose track of time.
(7:11) No, I was in Banff and then when they centralized…as a result of the Sime-Schuler report they decided to take everybody out of their districts. (The Sime-Schuler report was a national study of the warden service done in 1968.) I was in Banff then and then I went to Lake Minnewanka. I was in Banff for about two years and then I went to the Lake Minnewanka district and lived at a place called the Fairholme Ranch…That ranch was actually built for a fellow called Colonel French. He was a British spy and they were hiding him away. It was a huge log house, which after French passed away, the Superintendent came to live. A Superintendent by the name of (Steve) Kun. He lived there and we lived in the smaller house which was also partly log, in that same complex. We had our horses there and I think I was there for three/four years, until they centralized and we had to move to Banff.
(8:39) There is a nice little story I’ve got from at area. At Two Jack Lakeside campground, I got a call one day and somebody had hit an owl with a vehicle and killed it. So I went down and checked it out, then I saw a small owl about this size (demonstrating) sitting on a post. Of course it was definitely hers, a little one. You can’t just leave him alone because it couldn’t fend for itself or anything. So I captured it, just by going in the back and grabbing ahold of it. It of course started to scratch and stuff. I took it to the Fairholme ranch and put it in the hayloft. At that time the hayloft’s big doors were usually open on top. I closed them just to keep it there for a while so it got used to it and I started feeding it chicken liver that I got from Safeway. Free! They knew that I had this owl, so they saved all the chicken livers and the scraps of calf liver. They always had a big tub of it for me to come and pick up. For about two weeks, I kept it penned up. I gave it water and everything and I went and saw it about four or five times a day. It really got used to me. It would come (to me). As soon as I came, he was there. I had the food! Then I wondered, what I am going to do now as it had started to fly, it couldn’t fly before. I opened up the big hayloft doors, so it went to the edge and flew away. Well, I figured that’s good. I didn’t know if it was old enough to look after itself, but so be it. Lo and behold after about ten minutes he came back, wanting food! So that door stayed open after that and it always came back. It bedded down in the hayloft. I called him Günter, I don’t know if it was a him or a her. Actually, I had him for close to a year and he kept coming back. I took him down to Johnson Lake and taught him how to hunt. He didn’t know how to hunt. There were ground squirrels around and he didn’t know what to do with them. So I would go down to Johnson Lake and he believe it or not would hop along beside me down the road. I got a fishing rod and put a noose on it and put it across a gopher hole. We sat back and he would be sitting beside me, the gopher would pop out and I would grab a hold of it with a fishing line and then I would tell him to go and get it. The first couple of times, I had to actually take him down there. Then he grabbed a hold of it and I took the line off. Then he flew off and ate it. So now he had figured out how to hunt! But you know everybody and their dog came out to take pictures.
(12:12) One of the funny stories was the head naturalist came out, it was towards the winter time. I mentioned to him, “Now don’t wear your fur hat, he (Günter) loves fur.” But he kept his fur hat on. He was sitting in his vehicle getting his camera ready and the owl went inside the vehicle, grabbed his hat and took off. So he never got any pictures and he never got his hat back! I have no idea where that hat went…Oh that was funny!
(12:57) In the bedroom window there was kind of a holder for a flower container and it had a wooden support. He would sit on there and peck on the window. I would go out and call his name, “Günter!” I would do it about two or three times and then I could hear him…and he would land on my shoulder or land on my arm…He landed on my bare arm and his claws were bigger than my hand. He was down here holding (demonstrating) and he didn’t squeeze, just enough to balance. But he wouldn’t come to anybody else. If anybody else came, he stayed his distance. And he would chase our dog all the time, they had a game going. Anyway, that’s a neat little human interest story. Then we got moved into Banff and I left him down in the Johnson Lake area. I went down occasionally and he would still come when I called. Then we got a shock, we got a report that somebody had shot at an owl. So I got the description of the vehicle and everything else and sure enough, there was a young fellow travelling with another fellow I caught in town who matched the description and everything. He was the one who shot at the owl. All that happened was he kind of winged it because a few feathers came off.
“But he didn’t get it?” And that owl lived happily ever after…
No, he didn’t get it.