No walk in the park
Winter translates into writing reports, phone calls for warden

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

NNSL (Dec 11/98) - The difference between winter and summer is like day and night for Nahanni National Park senior warden Barry Troke.

During the summer, he's the envy of many because he spends so much time in the scenic park -- 10 days in, four days out to be exact.

However, when winter rolls around, like many other government employees, Troke spends the majority of his time in the office catching up on paperwork.

Among his duties is writing reports relating to summer activity such as fires and encounters with wildlife. He's also busy reviewing data and charting trends. Time is spent on the phone consulting with other government organizations such as Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development about the status of wildlife, water resources and the climate.

Non-government organizations such as CPAWS are also contacted in regards to endangered species. He also makes calls to outfitters and fields questions from people planning to holiday at the park the following summer.

There's no shortage of work, but it's not the glamorous side of the job.

"The summer is sort of the 'go get 'em season," said Troke, who has a background in environmental technology. "The winter is when you take all the data and information and try to make sense of it... it's sort of like a chance to check on the health of the eco-system."

This is Troke's first winter in the Deh Cho, but he's not new to the North. He arrived in June, by choice, after serving four years at Ellesmere Island National Park Reserve and two at Auyuittuq National Park near Pangnirtung. Not only is Nahanni National Park beautiful, it has trees, something he hadn't seen in those previous six years, he noted.

"It's pretty awesome," he said, adding that the parks "geomorphology" also fascinates him. That means the landscape is still active, constantly changing, he explained.

Another difference is the bears. In the far North, Troke was used to seeing polar bears and spotting them well before they were anywhere nearby. At Nahanni, the grizzlies can be concealed among the trees, he noted.

"They scare the heck out of me," he said, smiling. He has seen a grizzly, but, fortunately, it was from a helicopter he added.

The animal encounters occur throughout the summer as patrols are made routinely on foot, by canoe and in helicopters. With 4,766 kilometres to cover, Troke and his counterpart, Carl Lafferty, each spend most of the summer scouring the park for everything from illegal hunters, archaeological sites and animal habitats to lost tourists or those who need to be rescued.

"As a warden you're sort of a jack of all trades," Troke said. "You've got to be resourceful."