Event honours two Wells Gray Park researchers

An online library being developed to hold documents relating to Wells Gray Park is to be named the Edwards/Ritcey Library

Members of the Ritcey family congratulate their father on having an online library named after him during an event held Saturday in Upper Clearwater Hall. Pictured are (l-r) Susan (Ritcey) Murray

Ralph Ritcey received a surprise Saturday evening.

He thought an event being held at Upper Clearwater Hall was to honor his fellow biologist and one-time supervisor Yorke Edwards.

In fact the event was held to honor both Edwards and Ritcey.

An online library being developed to hold all the research and other documents relating to Wells Gray Park is to be named the Edwards/Ritcey Library, Upper Clearwater naturalist Trevor Goward told the gathering.

More than 60 people attended the event, which was described by one of those present as a veritable who’s who of natural historians of Canada.

Work done by Edwards and Ritcey meant that there were probably more studies published about Wells Gray Park in the 1950s than any other park in the province, said Goward.

“They were a team and they essentially put this park in the map,” he said.

So far about 70 of the 130 scientific papers they helped produce about the park have been typeset to be put online.

Having the papers online will mean that people anywhere in the world will be able to do research about Wells Gray Park, Goward said.

Edwards recognized that moose hunting in Wells Gray Park was a million dollar industry and that the province therefore should study it.

Born in Toronto, Edwards got a degree in forestry from University of Toronto but was drawn to UBC to study wildlife by Ian McTaggart-Cowan.

He led the research program at BC Parks for several years, then went on to direct the BC Museum.

He passed away in 2011.

Edwards was instrumental in establishing the naturalist program at BC Parks, said Bill Merilees of Nanaimo, who is writing a history of nature interpretation in B.C.

“Yorke affected everyone he talked with, who he walked through the woods with,” said Merilees. “He changed lives.”

One of the people he hired was Ralph Ritcey, to do research on the moose of Wells Gray Park.

“Yorke Edwards was a pretty perceptive man but he fouled up once in a while,” Ritcey recalled. “He thought he could make a pioneer out of me. Fortunately, when I came here I found there were a lot of pioneers here. I learned to rely on them.”

Ralph Ritcey was born in 1925 in Halifax, said his son, Frank Ritcey. He served in the Navy in World War II, which allowed him to go to university after the war.

He came to Wells Gray Park in 1950 to work as a research assistant with Yorke Edwards.

Ritcey moved to Kamloops in 1963 to work with the Fish and Wildlife Branch. He retired in 1987.

Dave Lowe worked with Ritcey at Fish and Wildlife for many years.

He recalled an argument between Ritcey and biologist Tom Bergerud in 1968 about what was the limitingTrevor G sign factor with mountain caribou: food or predators.


Thirty years later Bergerud said to Lowe, “Ralph was right. I was wrong. It is food supply. Healthy caribou can survive predators. They’ve been living together for thousands of years.”

Right: Trevor Goward holds a sign that invites people to ask the naturalist. He retrieved it after the naturalist program ended at Manning Park a few years ago. Yorke Edwards hired the first BC Parks naturalist to work in Manning Park in 1957.


Below: Special guest Jerry the Moose arrives at an event held Saturday to honor researchers Yorke Edwards and Ralph Ritcey. The original Jerry was a moose from Wells Gray Park raised from a calf by the Ritcey family. Escorting him is senior park ranger Jessie Paloposki (l).


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