Ducks with a trail of ducklings have been spotted crossing Highway 5 just south of Valemount, between Cranberry Marsh and what has for many years been a hay field.

This year, the water level in the marsh is higher than it has been in years, and driving along Highway 5 between Valemount and Cedarside this spring, you might have gotten vague impression of where the original lake was about 100 years ago. Between the dike constructed by Ducks Unlimited and the highway, where coniferous trees have started growing over the past few years, looks this summer like an extension of the marsh, and many of those small coniferous trees seem to be dying. On the west side of the highway, the field which Ron Baer has been haying for some years is slightly drier, but far too wet to hay – or for the hay to grow. Baer is using it this year to pasture his cows, and lots of water fowl and other birds have been spotted on both sides of the highway.

Brennan Clarke, Public Affairs Officer for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations says it is not unusual for water levels in marsh lands such as this to fluctuate from year to year. Slightly higher water levels would likely be the result of extra inflows or higher groundwater levels in the surrounding area this year. Whatever the reason, it seems to be good for the wildlife that use the newly designated Cranberry Marsh/Starratt Wildlife Management Area.

But ducks on the highway is a concern for motorists and wildlife alike.

Kate Trotter, Public Affairs Officer for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, says the Ministry is always on the lookout for the best ways to reduce animal encounters on our highways, and the safety of the travelling public is the ministry’s top priority.

“Ministry staff are now investigating this situation,” says Trotter, “to determine if a duck crossing information sign would help motorists.”

The Ministry has a comprehensive program to prevent wildlife from being killed, ranging from underpasses for amphibians to overpasses for deer and elk, fencing to direct deer and other large wild animals toward safe crossings and “jump-outs” so they can get off the highway where it is fenced. BC has the largest, species-specific wildlife warning sign inventory of any department of transportation in North America.

“Cranberry Marsh is a provincially important waterfowl nesting and resting area,” says Dr. Jasper Lament, CEO of the Nature Trust of BC, a partner in creating the Cranberry Marsh/Starratt Wildlife Management Area. “The Nature Trust of BC has been working closely with Ducks Unlimited Canada, the Province of B.C., Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation and the Village of Valemount to protect the important habitat values provided by these conservation lands.”

By: Korie Marshall