Dressing and transporting your kill

This blog series is targeted towards first time hunters and focuses on safe and sustainable hunting in Alberta. Check out a list of all the topics in the series here. This is the fifth article in the series.

It’s extremely important to follow safe practices and procedures while hunting. While on a hunt, conditions can change rapidly and good safety practices can mean the difference between life and death. Make sure you’re prepared and have educated yourself before heading out.

There are a few things you need to know about how to dress and transport your kill so that you ensure the meat is usable.

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No black? Put it back! You can help the bull trout recover in Alberta

When we announced the recovery of the trumpeter swan last week, we had some not-so-great news as well: four species have been added to Alberta’s Threatened Species List. One of the species added to the list is the bull trout, Alberta’s provincial fish.

Photo of a biologist holding a bull trout.

Photo credit: Blair Reilly, ESRD.

Threats to the bull trout 

Photo of bull trout habitat in Jacques Lake, Alberta.

Changes to the bull trout’s native habitat have contributed to its decline.

Bull trout were once abundant in at least 60 of Alberta’s watersheds, including downstream of pretty much all of our mountains and foothills. Today, only seven of those watersheds have healthy populations – all of which are found in national or provincial parks. The fish is now absent from 20 watersheds where it was once found, and the total number of bull trout remaining is estimated at only 20,000 province-wide.

Over time, the bull trout’s habitat and spawning grounds have been impacted by dams and weirs and development; competition with other species has also played a role. Bull trout take a long time to mature, produce relatively few eggs, and may spawn only every second year – so recovery is a slow and delicate process. Although fishing restrictions have been in place since the 1990s, illegal harvesting may be interfering with recovery efforts. Continue reading

Calling 310-FIRE to report a wildfire? Here’s what the operator needs to know.

 

When it comes to fighting wildfires, timing is everything – the earlier we can get to a wildfire, the better. Our wildlife lookouts and lightning mapping system help us do this – but we can’t have eyes everywhere at once. 310Fire_MobileAds_1034x1024_v8

That’s why it’s so important to call 310-FIRE (3473) if you spot a wildfire. In the past five years, over 5,000 Albertans have called the number – and 1,000 of these calls have helped us locate wildfires.

When you call in a wildfire, you’re our eyes and ears on the ground. Here are the details our dispatchers are looking for – check them out so that you’ll be prepared if you ever need to make the call.

We need to know where the fire is. Depending on where you are, this might include:

  • An address – GPS coordinates or a legal land description, but even an intersection will do!
  • Whether the fire is near a road or community
  • Landmarks – like a well site, a campground, or a lake
  • Any other details you can provide to help pinpoint the location

We need info about how the fire is burning – this helps ensure we’re prepared to fight it when we arrive.

  • What is burning – Grass? Trees? Is it on agricultural land?
  • How fast is the fire spreading – is it stationary? If it’s moving, is it slower or faster than a normal walking speed?
  • What color is the smoke – is it light grey? Dark grey to black?
  • How thick is the smoke – light or heavy?

Any other relevant information about the situation that you can provide is helpful.

  • What’s in the immediate area – people? Property?
  • Is road access available to the area, or is it blocked?
  • Do you see any clues to what started the fire – like a campfire, off-highway vehicles, or lightning?
  • Is water readily available at the scene?
Photo of a prescribed fire in a field of dead grass.

The color and thickness of smoke can tell us a lot about the wildfire that produced it.

We also appreciate it if you can provide your contact information for any follow-up questions we might have.

Calling 310-FIRE is quick and easy: it’s available 24/7, toll-free. So if you see a wildfire or suspicious smoke – no matter where or when it happens – we hope you’ll make the call.

For further reading, check out our posts on how to prevent your campfire and off-highway vehicle from sparking a blaze this summer.

Want up-to-date info on the wildfire risk in your area? Click here to download the Alberta Wildfire app for iOS and Android. 

Fire hazard is high in Central and Northern Alberta. You can help us minimize the risk of wildfire.

wildfire blog banner

It’s been a wet spring in some parts of the province – but that doesn’t mean that we’re out of the woods when it comes to fire season. Due to a combination of high winds and little rain, the fire hazard level is now high in central and northern areas of the province.

AB fire weather index map July 3

 

What this means for you

It’s your responsibility to be aware of the fire hazard in your area before you burn – even if you have a permit. To give you as much information as possible on potential fire bans, the province has updated its system.

When an area’s fire hazard begins to climb, a fire advisory can be issued. This means your permit may be suspended or it may even be cancelled. Each advisory will vary depending on the current situation, so it’s important to check the details in your area. Remember: any burning in Alberta’s Forest Protection Area requires a permit during fire season – the only exceptions are campfires.

If the fire hazard continues to rise, a fire restriction or fire ban can be issued – which means that even campfires can be restricted or prohibited. In extreme situations, a fire ban may be upgraded to a forest area closure where no forest access is permitted for public safety reasons.

Here’s a breakdown of the fire ban system’s five levels:

ESRD fire ban summary 2014

You can check for fire bans for your area 24/7 at albertafirebans.ca

Help us minimize the risk

Last year, more than 900 wildfires in Alberta were caused by human activity. No matter where you are in the province, you can take some simple steps to minimize risk when you’re out and about this weekend: 310Fire_MobileAds_1034x1024_v8

  • Put it out. Know these three steps for building and extinguishing a campfire safely.
  • Check for hot spots. If you’re taking out an ATV or other off-highway vehicle, remember to check your vehicle’s hot spots and take steps to prevent a wildfire.
  • Report it. If you see a wildfire, you can call 310-FIRE (3473) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The sooner we know about a fire, the sooner we can start fighting it.

 

Don’t move a mussel! Bringing a boat into Alberta? Get inspected.

If you’re taking a boat across Alberta’s borders this summer, we’re asking for your help to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

These species – which include rock snot algae, zebra and quagga mussels, and Eurasian watermilfoil – have no natural predators. Once these organisms get into a water body, they are very hard to eradicate, and can cause serious damage to ecosystems and fish species, boats, and infrastructure – including power plants and irrigation canals.

These species have already infested certain water bodies as far west as Lake Winnipeg and the United States – so it’s important that we keep them from crossing our borders. Last year, we set up a voluntary inspection station and a hotline number – 1-855-336-2628 (BOAT) – and asked boaters to report anything suspicious.

Our efforts have paid off: a call to the hotline in May helped us stop a boat infested with quagga mussels before it crossed the border. Although this is good news, it’s also a reminder of our vulnerability.

This summer, we’ll have four inspection stations on major highways coming into Alberta. These stations are set up at commercial vehicle weigh stations outside of Coutts and Crowsnest Pass in the south and Dunmore and Vermilion along in the east. These inspections will help protect boats as well as our native ecosystems.

This map shows our 2014 boat inspection stations.

Each of our 2014 inspection stations is marked with a blue pin on this map.

Here are the steps we need all boaters to take to help us stop aquatic hitchhikers: 

  1. Taking your boat out of the province? Call the hotline number to schedule a free inspection.
  2. Know how to recognize these species – check out the gallery (above) and read more about them here.
  3. Clean, Drain, and Dry your boat every time it comes out of the water! Here are the steps you need to follow.
  4. Report it. If you find anything suspicious while cleaning your boat, call 1-855-336-2628 (BOAT).
We look forward to seeing you - and your boat - this summer!

We look forward to seeing you – and your boat – this summer!

Round-up: what To ‘Know Before You Go’ out to Alberta’s backcountry this long weekend

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Albertans spent all year looking forward to summer – and we all have the right to enjoy it. But garbage and damage from improper use of our public land can ruin the experience for everyone – not to mention damaging the local ecosystem. Here’s a round-up of resources to help you stay safe and responsible when you’re spending time in Alberta’s backyard.

If you’re hiking or camping in the backcountry:

Many Albertans enjoy backcountry camping – but this privilege comes with responsibilities.

If you’re taking a ride on an off-highway vehicle:

ATVs and other motorized vehicles are a popular way to experience Alberta’s public lands. Minimize your impact to help ensure others can enjoy the landscape you love.

Stay off trails that are marked with this sign.

Stay off trails that are marked with this sign.

 

Want more tips? Take a look at these round-ups from last year’s long weekend:

Stay in touch – here’s the number to call if you spot… 

  • A wildfire: 310-FIRE (3473)
  • Damage to public land: 310-ESRD (3773)
  • An environmental emergency: 1-800-222-651

 

Spring trail closures: flood recovery is still in progress

If you plan on hiking, biking, camping or taking an ATV out in southern Alberta this long weekend, you might see some new sights along with the usual spectacular views – trail closure signs. They look like this:

Flood Trails Rehab sign 4x8 (3)-page-001

 

Last year, many of Alberta’s southern trail systems were devastated by the June flood. Trails and roads were washed away, and many areas remained waterlogged for weeks or even months. Many outdoor recreation communities banded together and worked with government and municipalities to repair the damage and make these trails safe and sustainable again.

Photo of a washed out ATV trail

We’ve made a lot of progress since this photo was taken last June – but we still have work to do in some areas.

That recovery is still ongoing – and we know how important it is to everyone waiting to get back on the trails. This year’s budget earmarks $10 million to repair flood damage to trails and other infrastructure on public lands. This funding will allow us to complete an inventory of trail conditions, and assessments of damage to infrastructure like bridges, signs, and staging areas. Once we know where the problems are, we’ll be able to go in and fix them, helping ensure that our trail systems – and the infrastructure that supports them – make a full recovery.

Please help us support these recovery efforts. When you see trail closure signs, please obey them and stay off those trails. This prevents further damage and helps us get our trail system back in great shape as soon as possible.

No one likes having their plans interrupted. To avoid disappointment when you’re out on the land, check out our Recreation and Public Use Features portal before you head out on your latest adventure. This portal has everything you need to prepare, including:

Want to keep riding? Keep your off-highway vehicle legal.

Photo of some off-highway vehicles.Start your engines: for many outdoor enthusiasts, May long weekend is the unofficial start of off-highway adventure season.

Alberta’s legislation designates motorcross bikes, ATVs, and quads as off-highway vehicles. Built to handle rough terrain, they’re powerful – and as we know, with great power comes great responsibility. Here’s what you need to do to keep your vehicle legal.

GET REGISTERED

  • All vehicles – including off-highway vehicles – used on Alberta’s highways or public lands must be registered. Registration helps us keep track of vehicles and their owners, so that we can enforce Alberta’s laws.
  • You can register at any Alberta Registry Agent office. Click here to search for a registry agent near you.

INSURE IT 

  • According to Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act, all off-highway vehicles must be insured before being operated on Alberta’s highways or public lands. This applies whether the vehicle is being used for work or play.
  • Insuring your vehicle protects you in case it’s stolen or damaged. In addition, if someone is injured while riding your off-highway vehicle, insurance can help you cover the cost of liability.
  • Check with your insurance agency to see if they register off-highway vehicles. If they don’t, they can recommend another agency that does.

KEEP IT LEGAL

Close-up photo of a dirt bike

Grass and other debris that ends up wedged in vehicle ‘hot spots’ can easily become a fire hazard.

  • Any vehicle used on public land requires working headlines, taillights, and mufflers. Make sure your vehicle has these, and that they work.
  • Off-highway vehicles can start wildfires – and if yours does, you could be footing the bill. Make sure to clean and check your vehicle’s ‘hot spots’ regularly
  • Youth under 14 years of age need to be directly supervised by an adult in close proximity when using any off-highway vehicle on public land.
  • Some trails have maximum width and height allowances for vehicles. Know these numbers for your vehicle, and check your route before you go.

Enforcement officers will be out and about this summer checking compliance with these rules. Following them is the best way to make sure that you have a safe, worry-free weekend – and that you can keep riding all summer long.

 

 

Put it out! 3 simple steps to keep your campfire from turning into a wildfire

One of the biggest causes of wildfires in Alberta isn’t lightning; it’s recreation. Campfires, off-highway vehicle use, and other activities on the land cause hundreds of wildfires every year – and all of these are 100 per cent preventable.

Soak it stir it 2014

Don’t let our cold spring fool you. As this past weekend’s wildfire near Whitecourt reminds us, we’re in the thick of wildfire season – and it’s more important than ever to use caution.

We’ve talked before on the blog about how off-highway vehicle riders can minimize wildfire risk. It’s just as easy to ensure that your campfire doesn’t become a wildfire – just follow these A, B, Cs and 1, 2, 3s:

SELECT THE BEST SITE POSSIBLE:

a)     At a campground, use the stoves, rings and fire pits that are usually available. These are designed to keep fires from spreading and are an easy and safe choice.
b)      Use sites that are clear from dry grass, heavy bushes, leaves, logs, tree trunks, peat areas and overhanging branches. If you can, re-use a site that has already been used for a campfire.
c)       Build your campfires on level ground that is sheltered from the wind. A breeze can carry sparks from your fire to flammable material elsewhere.

PREPARE YOUR CAMPFIRE: 

a)      The tools you need: a shovel or spade, an axe or hatchet, a large water container full of water and a small fire extinguisher are ideal.
b)      Prepping the site: make a circle about 1 metre around. Dig or scrape down to the mineral soil. Clear away any flammable materials within a metre of the pit.
c)      Building the fire: use split kindling, small branches or dry mosses to start your fire. Add larger pieces of wood gradually until you have a steady fire.

PUT YOUR CAMPFIRE OUT:

a)      Let the fire burn down well before you plan on putting it out. Spread the embers around in the fire pit and then add water or loose dirt and stir.
b)      Expose any material still burning and then add more water or loose dirt until you can no longer see smoke or steam. Don’t bury your fire and leave it – embers will continue to smolder and can re-emerge as a wildfire.
c)       If your fire is out, you will not be able to feel any heat from the ashes.

 

Make sure you check for fire bans before heading out. And remember: if a person is found guilty of starting a wildfire in Alberta, he or she can be fined up to $5,000 and held liable for all costs associating with fighting that fire. Extinguish your campfire no matter what season it is. Soak it, stir the ashes and soak it again.

Random camping is no service camping. Here’s how to prepare before you go.

Photo of a canoe on a lake

Alberta’s summer season is short and sweet – which means we’re all the more eager to finally get outdoors when the sun starts shining. That can mean a lot of competition for trails and facilities.

Campsites can fill up quickly – and for some Albertans wanting to ‘get away from it all’, staying in a crowded campground isn’t what they have in mind. Many of these folks enjoy “no service camping” (often called random camping), out in Alberta’s backcountry.

This is ‘no service’ camping – no facilities, and often no ready assistance in case of emergency. That’s why it’s important to prepare before you go:

Photo of a washed out road

Last year’s floods washed out many backcountry roads in a matter of hours. Always check forecasts and prepare for emergency situations.

  • There’s safety in numbers: if you can, camp with a friend or a group – don’t go alone. Make sure you tell someone where you are going, your route, and when you plan on returning.
  • Carry emergency supplies with you.
  • Learn the signs of bear activity. Carry bear spray and know how to use it.

No service camping is free – but that doesn’t mean it’s a free for all. All campers must follow rules to protect our environment and keep things safe for others:

  • Make sure you camp at least one km from any backcountry facility or roadwayand at least 30 metres away from any watercourse to ensure your safety and the safety of the animals in the area.
  • Limit your stay to 14 days or less to allow vegetation to recover.
  • Re-use established campsites when you can and avoid pitching your tent on fragile surfaces.
  • If you’re camping on leased land, make sure you leave everything as you found it.
  • Keep your distance from wildlife and don’t feed them. Instead of picking flowers and cuttings, take a photo.
  • Keep your fire small and never leave it unattended. When extinguishing your fire, remember to soak, stir and soak again.
  • Pack out everything you have packed in, including garbage. Make sure to dispose of human waste properly.
Photo of garbage and an abandoned campsite.

If you pack it in, pack it out- camps that are abandoned (like this one by Brazeau Dam) impact the environment and wreck things for future campers.

Following these rules will keep getting back to basics in the backcountry safe and sustainable – for you and the environment.