During rutting and calving seasons in the Fall and Spring, the number of elk sightings increases around The Banff Centre. Open spaces like the green space in front of the music building allow them to see potential predators coming from a distance while keeping their backs to a wall to minimize surprise attacks. It’s a good place to be.
Twenty years ago, the elk invasion had become so serious that a TBC Elk Action Plan was hatched. Options discussed with wardens included removing large trees to prevent pedestrians from being surprised by hidden elk, installing temporary electric fences, and placing canisters of artificial wolf scent in the woods surrounding the Leighton Studios. Security at the time offered to ferry nervous staff or visitors through elk herds to other buildings on campus.
Things have calmed down since then, but I had caught a hot tip that our campus cowboys were wrangling the herds using only a hockey stick with a garbage bag tied to it and I felt compelled to investigate what sounded too good to be true. Crossing my fingers, I called up Alasdair “Grif” Griffith and Chris Furlan from Security who were prepared to divulge some of their tried-and-true tactics for cajoling the creatures off campus.
The Security team was quick to correct my misconception about the hockey stick.
“It’s a rake we use, not a hockey stick,” Grif said as he pulled said tool out of the back of the security van. The rake, a remnant pilfered from grounds crew’s throw-away pile, has half of its tines missing and handle sawed or broken off, and is wrapped in a green garbage bag. The handle is covered in duct tape for added grip and greater protection from splinters.
“I mean, the [park] wardens use a hockey stick and it’s the same principle. It’s just that the rake, it’s got more area. And so you can sometimes make a bigger or a louder noise with it,” Chris explained.
“So you think the rake is better than the hockey stick?” I asked.
“In my opinion, anyways.”
“I think it is, yeah,” Grif chimed in.
Wardens, take note.