BioBlitz slithers its way to Pemberton 

Scientists will explore Spud Valley for first time, home of endangered sharp-tailed snake

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO BY THOM O'DELL - PLEASE BRAKE FOR SNAKES   Volunteer scientists taking part in the Whistler BioBlitz will explore Pemberton for the first time this year in the area where the endangered sharp-tailed snake, pictured, was spotted in 2011, the first confirmed sighting of the species in Mainland B.C.
  • file photo by thom o'dell
  • PLEASE BRAKE FOR SNAKES Volunteer scientists taking part in the Whistler BioBlitz will explore Pemberton for the first time this year in the area where the endangered sharp-tailed snake, pictured, was spotted in 2011, the first confirmed sighting of the species in Mainland B.C.

Whistler BioBlitz, the annual 24-hour race to catalogue as many species as possible, is spreading its wings to Pemberton this year, and scientists will have their eye out for Spud Valley's endangered sharp-tailed snake.

BioBlitz, produced by the Whistler Naturalists, is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 23 starting from Alpha Lake Park, and will bring together some of the region's top scientists along with dozens of community members who will scour Whistler's forests, peaks and wetlands to uncover the rich biodiversity of the area. Over its eight years, the Whistler BioBlitz has led to the documentation of over 1,000 species never before recorded in the resort.

"We're especially excited about this year's BioBlitz," said the Whistler Naturalists' Bob Brett in a release. "It's great to welcome back most of the core group of scientists who've made BioBlitz such a success. Plus, we're delighted to welcome for the first time some star scientists who've never been able to make it before."

New this year is the addition of a Pemberton race, set for Sunday, Aug. 24, adding an entirely different ecosystem for volunteers to explore. The Pemberton BioBlitz will take place on the Fulton property, recently acquired by the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) for its habitat value. The site is home to Mainland B.C.'s first confirmed discovery of the red-listed sharp-tailed snake, and attendees will gain valuable insight on the home of the highly endangered reptile.

"[The discovery] was a big deal in herpetological circles because this was a big range extension," said Leslie Anthony, who discovered the sharp-tailed snake while collecting reptiles for the 2011 BioBlitz. "Not only is it highly endangered; it is also very hard to find. It's like finding a hay-coloured needle in a haystack the size of a baseball stadium."

The Whistler blitz gets underway at noon on Saturday, with a free nature festival chock-full of live critters, touching tables, interactive displays, crafts and several scientists on-hand to answer all of your questions. The festivities also include plenty of kid-friendly activities, like Swamp Monsters from 12 to 1 p.m., where budding naturalists can learn all about their local wetland; the Wild Things Scavenger Hunt at 2 p.m., followed by the popular Night Critters expedition at 7:30 p.m., when experts will share their knowledge of all your favourite (and misunderstood) nocturnal creatures.

"BioBlitz is a chance to get to know nature better and better understand its value," said Whistler Naturalists' Kristina Swerhun in the release. "It's the educational side of conservation — if we help people care about nature first, there's a better chance they'll care for it."

The Pemberton nature tour starts at 2 p.m. on the Fulton property, hosted by Stewardship Pemberton and the SLRD. Visit www.whistlerbioblitz.ca for more information.

SLOW FOOD CYCLE A SUCCESS

Nearly 2,600 people participated in Slow Food Cycle Sunday on Aug. 17, the 10th edition of the annual bike tour of Pemberton's agricultural community, and the event's new organizers are hailing it as a success.

"We're very happy with how the day turned out," said David MacKenzie, president of Tourism Pemberton, which took over operations of the event for the first time. "We had great weather, and the other nice thing was that we had almost 1,000 people pre-register, so that gave us a solid (sense of participation levels) going into the event."

Although Sunday's turnout was down from 3,800 visitors in 2013, MacKenzie said it still attracted more than double what similar events in B.C. get, and fewer people on the road led to a smooth day overall.

"It certainly was a more manageable number," he said.

Tourism Pemberton has reached an agreement with event coordinator Stephanie Nicholl to continue producing Slow Food Cycle for the next three years, and MacKenzie said Tourism Pemberton received good feedback from participating farms and vendors over Sunday's festivities.

RAIL CELEBRATIONS SATURDAY

The Pemberton Museum will mark a century of railway activity in the Spud Valley on Saturday, Aug. 23, with free music, activities and more to celebrate 100 years since the first train pulled into Pemberton station.

The railway's arrival in Pemberton is an important part of the community's history, said museum curator Niki Madigan.

"It was a huge event in its day because it was the result of 50 years of lobbying and much speculation as to whether or not it would happen," said Madigan. "Without the railway, Pemberton probably would be a ghost town."

The feature attraction of Saturday's celebrations will be the West Coast Railway Association's mini-rail, which will be set up in the parking lot across the street from the museum and offering rides for $1. There will also be speakers, games and activities for children and museum tours on offer. See www.pembertonmuseum.org for more details.

With files from Eric MacKenzie.

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