“Of moose and men”

Frank Ritcey talks about research into moose as part of Wells Gray World Heritage Year

Frank Ritcey points to a slide of a moose on its knees during a presentation at Upper Clearwater Hall on Nov. 10. The event was part of the Wells Gray World Heritage Year.

Margot Venema

“The moose has a very sharp hearing and will respond to the moose call from up to five km away and come,” Frank Ritcey told the group that joined him on an hour-long walk across the road of the Upper Clearwater Hall on Saturday, Nov. 10.

Ritcey then performed his best imitation of a moose call followed by the call of a fawn in distress.

“When another fawn hears this call it feels obliged to respond,” he tells everyone. Along the route he pointed out interesting animal prints, bear diggings, and many other forest features.

Upon return to the hall, Ritcey put on a slideshow with photos of his youth in the park. He was what he calls “a free-range” kid, the kind that had lots of freedom but also had responsibility at an early age. His family enjoyed the 30-mile diet. Most of the food was homegrown and the rest was hunted for.

When in spring their property would flood the family would build rafts of outhouse doors. They would put their dinner table chairs on top and then float around to the edge of the property.

“Growing up in a house with scientists can be somewhat strange,” Ritcey said. When his favorite stuffed animal tiger fell apart, his father replaced it with a real stuffed marmot. His parents adopted Jerry and Libby the Moose into their family. Libby considered herself to be a full family member and, in Frank’s opinion, should have been more famous than Jerry, even though Jerry went on to become the official BC Parks mascot.

Ritcey showed the documentary film “More Than Just Waterfalls,” a movie he is developing with Loyd Bishop and Peter Miller. This documentary features the research work that was performed by Bob and Hettie Miller in the 1950s in Wells Gray Park.

The unique footage shot by Bob Miller showed baby bears being lifted out of their den to be tagged and the measuring of a baby moose, as well as the corral that was specially built to tag moose. It was challenging to catch them but even more challenging to free them. The corral operated for about three years.

 

Ritcey, Bishop, and Miller hope to secure funding to be able to put Bob Miller’s film footage into a full documentary that will capture and highlight the research history of Wells Gray Park for generations to come.