I think my favourite time was at Lake O’Hara. You opened the trails with a shovel. Literally, you had to go up and clear the high trails of snowdrifts, clear all the debris, fix signs, check fishing licenses, act as a naturalist, and do the Public Safety. We went up to Abbot’s Pass on a fairly regular basis because we were still looking after the hut itself, the Alpine Club hadn’t taken over. The hut was pretty rustic, just had the big old CPR blankets, a Coleman gas stove and an old wood burner. We packed wood up whenever we went. Sometimes we’d just go up on time off to get away from everything, smoke a bit of dope, and watch the lightning happening down below. We knew many of the guides and climbers at that time. That summer I got to know Jim Davies, Peter Furhrmann and wardens that came over to Yoho to do public safety schools. The following year I worked for Regional Office for Bruce Leeson, doing some trail studies. Andy Anderson moved from Yoho to Banff and I somehow landed a seasonal position in Banff in 1974. I started in Stoney Creek to Scotch Camp with Earl Skjonsberg as my supervising warden. The next summer was Bryant Creek with Larry Gilmar. Another summer, Egypt Lake. For our town shifts I worked on rescue with (Keith) Everts, (Lance) Cooper and (Earl) Skjonsberg. Over time the rescue stuff started to get more and more complicated. I was able to return the favor to Tim Auger and talked Andy into bringing Tim over from Yoho. Because Lance and I and Keith and Earl were in over our heads and getting scared! The rescues were getting too technical and we needed somebody to lead. Peter Fuhrmann was stepping back. He didn’t want to be involved all the time. So that’s when we managed to have Auger come in and lead the Public Safety work in Banff. Clair Israelson was responsible in Lake Louise and Yoho was left with nobody until Dale Portman came in and assumed some of those responsibilities. It all started to shift and to get a bit more specialized.

Rick Kunelius  Bryant Creek bathtub 1976
Rick Kunelius Bryant Creek bathtub 1976

Keith Everts packing 1976
Keith Everts packing 1976

Even the 1980s were good for generalists and you’d be given an assignment for a year or so. They’d say, “Your specialty will be Law Enforcement this year” and you’d think, Oh shit, not Law Enforcement! I don’t want to be Court Warden, oh no. But it wasn’t that bad because Al Anger was the judge and I got along with him really well. He would declare a recess and go to the back and have a smoke and a chat and come back out again. So it wasn’t that onerous, and we were dealing with tourists, not terrorists. It wasn’t anything I really looked at wanting to do, not like Doug Martin and those guys. They were Law Enforcement people. So I stuck with it for my year that I had to do that and then I figured that’s enough of that.

My time with Public Safety slowly drew to an end when we started ice climbing in the late 1970s. The waterfall stuff was getting to be a big deal with the public. I went up Cascade Waterfall with Auger and Cooper and Keith Everts. We got up there and we punched through the ice and water was running down our arms. I was thinking, what am I doing freezing my ass up here with an avalanche slope above me (every waterfall has a big funnel above it). I’m hanging onto crampon points with a hook in my hands, and getting wet. I didn’t like this Public Safety stuff anymore! I loved slinging in the summertime when you would just zip in, bag the patient, and go as soon as you could. We did the EMT training one spring. I’ve got a picture of the whole team, it was a regional school and Eric Rast was the instructor. We had to spend two weeks in May, beautiful bright high pressure weather, in the firehall becoming EMTs. We had fun with that and we got a little bit more professional in terms of how we handled our victims. We tried using nitrous oxide, thinking that would be good for the patients that were really in pain, we could gas them with nitrous oxide. But it turned out to be too hard to handle when you are slinging in and doing all this stuff and have to juggle a cylinder of nitrous oxide. We ended up using it more for parties at the Warden Office. Sitting around the big table and passing the gas around. I’ve got a picture in Lance Cooper’s memorial of Keith Everts exploding with laughter from nitrous oxide. Moe Vroom wasn’t impressed at all. She just thought we were being silly.

That was kind of the end of Public Safety for me, I didn’t want to be an ice climber and every year it was getting a little harder and became more death defying. I thought Tim could do that with new younger staff. He was the leader, I was just the follower anyway. I worked at Sunshine in the wintertime. That was great fun. We got to ski and throw bombs. We all had our explosive permits in those days to do avalanche control. I took some Primacord to Egypt Lake in the summer and instead of digging with a pick all around the shelter there because it needed better drainage, we just brought some explosives and blew the trenches. We had a lot more flexibility in those days. I don’t think anybody would get away with that now!

Cooper, Auger, Skjonsberg, Sorenson, Everts, DND, DND, Fuhrmann, Bourgeau 4 Remote Bombs
Cooper, Auger, Skjonsberg, Sorenson, Everts, DND, DND, Fuhrmann, Bourgeau 4 Remote Bombs

The Trudeau government came up with a job sharing program and I was able to give up 0.3 of my yearly employment and get in some travelling. I happily turned my responsibility at Sunshine during the winter over to someone else. I was able to make trips to Africa to learn about wildlife management in Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Perry Jacobson was doing wildlife at that time and I began to work with him. Those were the days when computers were becoming a part of our lives. I was assigned the transition of wildlife observations on to computer data cards. It was a slow learning process and all of the cards were sent to Ottawa for input into the Canadian Soils Information System. Months later they would send back massive printouts of the observations. This was long before we could plot them on maps.

Sometime in the early eighties, Perry was promoted to Chief Warden in Kootenay and I was promoted to Senior Wildlife Warden.

We got our first Radio Shack “personal computer” and we were going to ween ourselves away from the cumbersome CanSIS process. I will never forget spending hours with Don Mickle entering aerial survey data, only to have it disappear. At that time one had to “save” continuously for fear of a glitch happening, and the data disappearing. I can remember Steve Logan, our computer tech, pounding into my head “Read the screen!” “Hit the SAVE key”!

The wildlife shop worked with a budget of $20,000. That included relocating bears in the summertime, flying them to remote locations, as far as Indian Head, species specific aerial surveys, purchasing telemetry equipment, the whole shooting match. We had a few volunteers but most of the work was myself and assistants would rotate through; Don Mickle, Terry Skjonsberg, Glen Peers, Steve Logan and so on.

Research in past years was undertaken by the Canadian Wildlife Service, but for some reason the arrangement dissolved. Our first “contract” wildlife research project was a 3 year Black Bear Research Project. John Woods came from Glacier Revelstoke to undertake an elk research project for his Doctoral thesis. Mike Gibeau conducted a coyote project for his Master’s thesis in MSU, and Paul Paquet was contracted for a wolf study.

We used to write a weekly column for the local newspaper, “Wildlife Notes”. People were kept informed with wildlife counts, population trends, unique behaviors, antics of various animals, updates on research, pretty much everything that was going on with the wildlife of the Park. The locals were kept informed and they cared about what was going on in the Park.