Squirrel pups, mountains and…curling!

The new season has begun and squirreling is well under way! The new crew has become fully integrated into the wonderful and unique world that is squirrel camp. Snow is still piled high and we dare not risk trudging through the fresh snow without our snowshoes or else risk disappearing into a tree well up to our hips. The chilly weather and high levels of snow have made for a slightly slower start to the season, but squirrel activity is starting to pick up and already we have had the pleasure of going to two squirrel nests to successfully find pups! This week the icicles are starting to drip and before we know it we will madly be clambering from tree to tree trying to keep track of the newest members inhabiting the grids.

Morning sun glistening off Sulphur Lake

This Sunday the squirrelers partook in a curling bonspiel family fun day in Haines Junction. What better classic Canadian thing to do than to go curling in the Yukon!  To take full advantage of the beautiful day off, we woke up early to explore the nearby Sulphur lake and went on a speed hike on the Dezadeash trail in Haines Junction.

After fulfilling our daily dose of fresh air and mountain views, we took to the curling-converted hockey rink in town. Hoping to rely heavily on the one curler in our crew (varsity curler from U of G!), we took to the ice in our finest curling cloths (aka. tuck taped jackets, Carhartt overalls and hiking boots). After a few slips, tumbles and splits, the crew slowly got the hang of lunging across the ice pushing a 45lb rock.

Squirrel crew waiting in anticipation for their turn to slide down the ice.

Getting some practice in before the start of the game!

Taking a lunch break before things got serious, we scarfed down the free hotdogs (much to the great delight of the non-vegetarians at camp), and eyed the impressive curling trophy sitting on a nearby table. We were already eagerly planning where to display it in the cookshack should we win it. The curling game got started, and much to the delight of two Americans on our crew, they left the curling rink wearing 2 gold medals around their necks (let’s call it beginners luck 😉 ). The varsity curler on our crew came so close to drawing to “the button”, which would have gotten us the trophy. New goal for next year! Camp will be looking extra clean soon with the sweeping practice.  But she did win us some bacon and oranges due to her curling knowledge in the trivia quiz, which in many of the crew’s eyes is better than a trophy 🙂 We finished our day off some much desired showers, laundry and tasty pub food in Haines Junction. We headed back to camp with the sun setting over the beautiful Kluane Mountains, stomachs full and gold medals glistening.

Post by Brynlee Thomas (KRSP field coordinator, University of Alberta)

Beautiful mountain views from the Dezadeash Trail in Haines Junction.Brynlee Thomas


Field Assistants Required – North American red squirrels in Kluane, Yukon, Canada

MaleRattlingWe are looking for volunteers to assist with fieldwork for a number of different time periods: (a) 1 March-30 April/15-May (b) 1 May-15 July, and (c) 1 September-15 October. We will also have two positions that extend from 1 March to 15-Aug.


The positions are part of a long-term study of red squirrel ecology, evolutionary biology and physiology. As a member of the study, assistants will be involved with monitoring the reproduction and survival of individuals. Fieldwork will involve live-trapping and handling of animals, radio-telemetry, behavioural observation, and climbing trees to find young in nests. Some positions will also require handling for physiological assays (e.g., blood sampling) This is an excellent opportunity to gain experience working with a collaborative research team on a long-term study of a wild mammal.


All fieldwork is carried against the beautiful backdrop of southwestern Yukon, Canada. We will be staying at a rustic field station two hours from Whitehorse, and ~30 min to the nearest town (Haines Junction). Food and accommodation are provided. Volunteers are required to provide for their own travel to Edmonton, Alberta; however, travel from Edmonton to the field station (and back again!) is provided.



Photo by Jessica Haines

Training will be provided and no experience is necessary. An on-site head technician will coordinate the project, in coordination with the PIs. Candidates should have an interest in a number of the following (the more the better!): ecology, evolutionary biology, wildlife, field biology, and animal behaviour. The field camp is remote and low tech (no showers, cell phone service, or internet), so successful applicants must enjoy the outdoors and be able to remain a positive and responsible team member under relatively isolated and demanding conditions. Candidates must be in good physical condition, be willing to climb trees, and have an enthusiasm for learning. We work on ‘squirrel time’, which often involves long work days; as such, applicants must have a strong work ethic. That said, the atmosphere at squirrel camp is friendly and inclusive, and this area is one of the most beautiful in Canada. All nationalities are welcome.


If you wish to apply for one of these posts then please send a CV with a cover letter and contact details for three references (with e-mail addresses), by email to Ainsley Sykes (contact info below), by January 30, 2016. Please also indicate the time period(s) you are interested in.


Contact: Ainsley Sykes (Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta)