KOOTENAY PASS BIGHORNS GET MULTI-COMMUNITY ATV HAY LIFT
Nelson, Salmo, Ymir, Fruitvale, Castlegar, and Trail Did It!!!
It is getting towards that time when the Kootenay Pass herd of Bighorns move down from the mountain heights where they spend the summer, to occupy their winter feeding area. Area outdoor clubs, notably Nelson District Rod & Gun, and Trail Wildlife Association, have for over 30 years now provided a winter food supplement of hay, feed pellets, and salt to the sheep. This serves to keep the sheep healthier throughout the winter. It also encourages less use of the highway by the Bighorns, to avoid roadkill.
Getting the feed to the sheep three-times weekly has been a very labor intensive process. Bales of hay and sacks of pellets have had to be manually packed up by volunteers, so with Ministry of Environment’s permission, the Nelson District Rod & Gun built a hay shed nearby. This shed stores the bulk of the winter hay, so that the club volunteers can now just hike up and access the feed without having to pack it manually each time.
But – getting the winter’s hay to the shed has been a logistical challenge – the trail is steep, the highway is a risky place to park while unloading, and the sheer labor was gruelling.
Enter the Salmo Valley Seniors ATV Club, and ATV-using members of the Nelson District Rod & Gun Club and Trail Wildlife Association. On 15 October 2017 a collaboration of club members and other volunteers cleared a gnarly stretch of “lost” overgrown trail to allow ATV access almost to the hay shed. Then, on 28 October, another, much bigger collection of area volunteers from the communities listed above, gathered for the Hay Lift. We all rendezvoused at an access point, safely off the highway, and moved hay over that trail like it was the Chilkoot Pass at gold rush time! Well, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but the foot volunteers and drivers that hefted the hay bales from the flatbed trailer, onto quads, and later off the quads and on into the shed, did NOT get time to be idle! Some of the bales were also off-loaded from ATV partway at a “choke point” and were then manually transferred back to other ATV / Quads to finish the trip.
The Hay Lift was a combination of machine labor, manual labor, and good planning by all. The participants from so many communities, both on foot and with quads showed the Kootenays values our wildlife. With such a get-it-done attitude, we saw everyone gathered at the now-empty flatbed trailer well ahead of the anticipated schedule. As soon as the hay departed the flatbed, a BBQ, coffee, and snacks appeared on the convenient flatbed “table”. Great food was ready as work finished! Also our special thanks to whoever arranged that beautiful calm sunny day!
Visitors will be welcome for pix and questions after the feed program starts,(the Bighorns decide that!), probably mid-December, Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday 10 AM-ish. Just drive up the West side of Kootenay pass, Hwy 3, 25 km from Salmo, to a big pull-out, and you will find the trail uphill nearby. NO dogs please. The Bighorns get spooked by all canines. Please NO private feeding – it actually disrupts the Bighorn winter metabolism. See you there!