How terribly ironic :-( I've always preferred to ski tour the Tonquin, but this year we ventured into Wates-Gibson hut this past weekend due to the planned closure of the area from mid-Nov to mid-Feb. This closure is part of the strategy to protect a highly endangered herd of Woodland Caribou.
So, on a late afternoon hike up to Amethyst Lakes while passing through Surprise Point campground, I noticed a commotion in the trees. We found an adult male caribou had snared its antlers around a loop of the food storage cables aka bear pole.
Of the four cables hanging suspended from a main support line, three were swinging free and only one was properly secured to the pole. Our presence panicked the animal so we only stayed long enough to examine the cables and left, determined to return next day with tools.
Our arrival next morning was a shock...the caribou appeared to have hanged itself.
In fact, it had twisted the cable repeatedly around and slowly wound itself up so that it was now hanging by its antlers with only the hind hooves barely touching the ground. It stirred as we got closer...it was alive! I cut one of the main support cables with a hacksaw and the animal collapsed to the ground then quickly got up and pulled away from us but was still tethered. The caribou was surprisingly quiet as I worked on the other cable - my partner said it appeared to be waiting patiently for me to finish the job.
Once the other main cable released, the caribou was off like a shot into a nearby meadow, bucking and throwing its head as it ran. Unfortunately, with that first loop firmly around the base of its antlers and now the entire collection of cables twisted into a single gnarly strand, there was virtually no hope it would free itself. After about 10 minutes of trying, the animal stopped to rest and even grazed a bit.
We left it alone at that point, hiked over to the Warden's Cabin on a faint-hope, then up to Clitheroe campground to check those bear poles (thankfully, they were properly secured).
A telephone call to the Jasper Wardens upon our return home was quickly responded to and I believe they are going to scout the area by helicopter to locate and tranquilize the animal so the cables can be removed. I have their promise of an update and will hopefully conclude this story with a happy ending. Meanwhile, here is a YouTube clip of this misadventure.