Great Canadian Parks / NWT/ Alberta
 

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The Parks / NWT / Alberta / Wood Buffalo National Park


 




The salt plains are one of the few places where you may see the whooping crane feeding far from its only breeding grounds in the far northeast corner of the park. The tallest North American bird (1.5 metres), it is an impressive all white with black wing tips, face and legs. Officially classified as an endangered species, the tiny population of 15 in 1941 increased to 133 by 1994. To reduce the danger of extinction, attempts to use sandhill cranes as foster parents and to introduce whooping cranes raised in captivity into a Florida habitat are a measure of the concern felt by conservationists for their survival. Risks include dry weather that destroys their habitat, wolves, and the hazards, man-made and natural, encountered on the 3900 kilometre migration to the Texas coast. In late December 1999, 16 of the rare birds failed to reach their wintering ground, a serious setback to a species it was hoped might have attained the 200 mark by the year 2000. Waterfowl that converge on the delta in millions: sandhill cranes, geese, swans and ducks funnel through here on their northward migration. The shores of the Slave River near Fort Smith are home to the northernmost colony of white pelicans, bald eagles, and the endangered peregrine falcon. The delta wetland is host to typical boreal wildlife species such as muskrat, coyote, red fox, bear, caribou, beaver, wolves, moose and the protected red-sided garter snakes that emerge from their sink hole hibernaculum in April to form ‘mating balls’ before settling into their summer homes in the bogs.

 


 



Archaeological evidence of stone artifacts and flint instruments places man in the park area for 9000 years. Europeans arrived in the region in the 18th century searching for the Northwest Passage through the Canadian Arctic; most notably, Samuel Hearne visited the region in 1771 and Alexander Mackenzie in 1789. Fur traders were attracted by the rich store of wildlife, and the logging industry, commercial fishery and wildlife harvesting continued until the modern phase of conservation and resource protection was instigated as part of the park’s policy. Local natives still hunt, fish and trap within the park boundaries; at Peace Point, a typical native settlement in the midst of the park, five families live in the wilderness following their traditional lifestyle. The majority of Mikasew-Cree First Nations however has adapted to more modern ways and participates in Park management decisions.



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