When Grant Hiebert offloaded photos from his trail camera, he came across what he considers a once-in-a-lifetime shot, a nearly perfectly in-focus photo of a wolverine.
For over a decade Hiebert has been venturing into B.C.’s Interior to place motion-triggered trail cameras to take photos of the province’s wildlife. More recently, he signed on as a volunteer for a study conducted by the BC Wildlife Federation in collaboration with the Okanagan Nation Alliance, The University of BC Okanagan, The University of Idaho and the British Columbia Fish and Wildlife Branch.
The goal of the study is to learn how to restore mule deer populations in B.C. by examining a variety of factors over a vast geographical distance, a task made possible only by the help of volunteers. Information about how landscape change like forest fires, and the predator-prey community are affecting the mule deer populations, will be gathered through a combination of vegetation sampling, the collaring and tracking of deer and, of course, trail cameras.
The three areas examined by the study are the Kettle, Peachland and Garnet valleys, as well as the site of the Elephant Hill fire extinguished in 2017. Throughout these areas, the study calls for the placement of more than 150 trail cameras. Volunteers hike out to specific GPS coordinates and set up the cameras and, after a time, they go back and collect them. Hiebert is responsible for placing and collecting cameras placed in the Elephant Hill area.
The series of photos that included the wolverine shot were not taken at Elephant Hill, but relatively close to Salmon Arm where Hiebert has been a resident for more than 35 years. The photos were taken with his personal trail camera in the area southeast of Cherryville.
He shared his cache of photos on Facebook, which included shots of a lynx, cougars, a grizzly bear and the wolverine. In the post he mentioned the presence of these animals should be enough to keep every hiker’s head on a swivel.
“With the exception of the wolverine, every animal you saw in there is here,” Hiebert said. “Every animal you saw in there we can have on Mt. Ida.”
Out of the 12 years of experience Hiebert has had with trail cameras, he has seen three photos of wolverines, none of them his own – until now.
“I’ve been doing trail cameras for 10 or 12 years now and that is the first I’ve ever got and it’s probably the last I’ll ever get,” Hiebert said.
Hiebert’s motivation to volunteer his time towards the BCWF’s project didn’t come from rare wildlife photography. Instead, it came from the dwindling deer population throughout B.C.’s Interior.
“If I can do something to help us understand it better, that’s kind of what I’m looking for,” he said.