miércoles, 16 de enero de 2013

Seventy-five years of conservation in the Gaspesie National Park, in Quebec

Photos and text by Philippe Henry

 Fig 1. Spruce forest and mist at sunrise. October.

In 2012 the Gaspesie national park was celebrating its 75th anniversary. In 1937, when the park was created, there were four goals : protection of the panoramic views from mount Albert and the Tabletop massif (now McGerrigle), conservation of salmon in the Ste Anne river,conservation of woodland caribou, and development of tourism. But then, a change of government and the outbreak of World War II put a break on conservation efforts and the park was gradually opened to logging and mining. Work on the park resumed in the late 1940s. Some trails were developed but the main recreational activity was fishing.

 Fig 2. Clouds over mount Albert at sunset. September

 Fig 3. Caribou stag running during the rut. September.

According to the Management Committee of the park, in 1981 the borders were redrawn to their current limits, reducing the total area but increasing the level of protection. Conservation efforts were also updated, focusing more on ecosystems and endangered species like the caribou.

 Fig 4. Caribou calf and female on the alpine tundra of mount Jacques Cartier. July.

Members of the small herds in Gaspesie National Park are the last woodland caribou [Rangifer tarandus caribou] south of the St. Lawrence River. They belong to the mountain ecotype and they are intimately related to the mountains all year long. 

 Fig 5. Caribou silhouette on the alpine tundra of mount Jacques Cartier. September.

To balance people's desire to see the caribou with the animals' need for peace, access to Mont Jacques Cartier is now prohibited before June 24 and after the end of September to avoid disturbing the caribou during the calving and breeding seasons. There are also special regulations on Mount Albert.

 Fig 6. Mount Albert with the first snow. October.

 Fig 7. New born moose and cow. May.

Gaspesie national park has one of the densest moose populations in North America. During the mating season, which runs from mid-September to mid-October, park naturalists lead guided tours in the Valley of the kings. 

 Fig 8. Dominant bull moose patrolling his territory. October.

 While discovering part of the moose habitat, you have many chances to encounter one. 

Fig 9. Bull moose fighting during the rut. October.

 Fig 10. Dominant bull moose standing in the mist. October.

 Fig 11.Gray jay in flight. August. 

The park is a shelter for a large diversity of birds. There is a huge climatic difference between the high mountains and the forested valleys. Species that normally live far away from each other are found here. Hiking along the trails, birdwatchers can observe ruffed and spruce grouses, golden eagles, Bicknell's thrushes as well as black-backed woodpeckers, American pipit...

Fig 12. Harlequin duck standing on a bank of the Ste Anne river. May.

Only a few ducks are nesting in the park. My favourite is the harlequin duck one can see along the fast-flowing Ste Anne river in spring. This species is listed as "endangered" in Canada. In the park, breeding takes place in late May or early June. 

 Fig 13. Spruce grouse. October.

Fig 14. Fall colours in the Chic-Chocs mountains. October.

By early October, many visitors come to the park to photograph fall colours. This is the end of the season for those who like long treks. 

Fig 15. Mount Richardson at sunset. October. 

Earlier, between late June and the end of September, you can cross the Gaspesie Park from mount Logan to mount Jacques-Cartier -the second highest mountain in Quebec-. This long excursion of more than 100km is part of the Appalachian trail that ends in Forillon national park, in eastern Quebec.

Fig 16. Bull moose eating twigs in late fall. October. 

Fig 17. Red fox stretching and yawning. February.

Fig 18. Sunset reflection in the waters of the Ste-Anne river. February. 

Also see Philippe's previous articles on Mute and Whooper swans in Europe and Andean Bears in Ecuador.

Short Bio: Settled in Quebec since 1994, Philippe Henry, who was born in France, is specialized in wildlife and environment photography. He spends part of his time working with biologists involved with conservation projects. He is also author and illustrator of several books.
Two new books by Philippe that will be published are:
  • The Alligator of Texas. Publisher Texas A&M University Press / USA.
  • The Andean Bear. Publisher L'Ecole des Loisirs / France
E-mail: philippe_henry@hotmail.com
Website: www.philippe-henry.com
Tel: (Quebec) + 514 259 0664

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