Misunderstood Moose

Misunderstood Moose

Misunderstood Moose

5 min read –

You have most likely heard the phrase “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”, implying that captivating stories can be hidden behind bland book covers. Similarly, at one time or another many of us have been judged or have judged others based on their outward appearance. Judging others based on their appearance can lead to us underestimating other people’s abilities. Have you ever been underestimated? How did it feel? Due to their funny-looking, long snouts, and gangly, plodding bodies, moose are often underestimated. People tend to view moose as gentle, slow-moving animals, and often don’t associate moose with characteristics such as agile and fierce. Cartoons1Like Bullwinkle the Moose can perpetuate this impression by displaying moose as slow, friendly Canadians. But don’t be deceived by this common misperception. Though moose may look unassuming, they are capable of performing impressive athletic feats in order to find food and avoid predators.

Despite their appearance, moose can easily propel themselves through water in order to find food. While otters, beavers, and other mammals that are known for their swimming ability have lean bodies and webbed feet which allow them to easily glide through the water, moose are heavy-set and have hoofed feet. Despite their size and hooved feet, moose have the advantage of being tall, and their long legs help propel their large bodies through the water. Moose also have hollow hairs, which help them stay buoyant while swimming.2National Park Service With these advantages, moose can swim as fast as 9.5 km per hour. By comparison, most humans only swim at the pace of 3 km per hour. Moose’s ability to swim quickly allows them to travel in search of food while reducing stress on their joints. Water also helps protect moose from predators because it is more difficult for predators to sneak up on them when they are in the water.3Moose Facts 

Moose swimming across Lake Laberge.  Photo credit D. Caldwell.

Photo Credit Johanna Marglowski

Moose also have adaptations that allow them to dive underwater to eat nutrient rich aquatic plants.4National Geographic To prevent water from rushing up their noses, moose have flaps that close in their nostrils. These flaps allow them to hold their breath underwater for up to 50 seconds5Holding breath Ecology and Management of the North American Moose and help them to dive up to 6 m (20 ft) underneath the water surface!6Hinterland Who’s Who After a winter of sparse food resources, aquatic plants provide essential energy to both pregnant cows (female moose), and to bulls (male moose) as they regrow their antlers.

In addition to swimming, moose are also capable of running at high speeds. Being the tallest member of the deer family, a moose can stand around 6 feet tall at the shoulder, which is as tall as some professional basketball players.7National Geographic Even though moose might be too gangly to make great basketball players, their height and long legs allow them to run very fast. A moose calf can outrun the average human after only 5 days of life,8National Geographic while an adult moose can charge at a pace of 56 km per hour, and maintain a pace of 32 km per hour over longer periods. For perspective, during his world record 100 metre dash Usain Bolt ran at an average pace of 44 km per hour. However, moose do not run fast to set world records, their speed provides them protection by enabling them to run away from wolves and other quick-moving predators.

Furthermore, despite the perception of being friendly, moose are actually effective fighters. Though they sometimes use their speed to outrun predators, an experienced and healthy moose is capable of defending itself against wolves by standing its ground and fighting.9Wolves of the Yukon by Bob Hayes Moose will protect their sides by standing next to trees and high shrubs, and then use their powerful legs to stomp or kick attacking wolves, hitting them with their deadly hooves. A powerful strike from a moose’s sharp hooves can result in injury to or even kill a wolf. 

Even young moose are large animals.  The photos show 2 moose bulls; on the left a young 1 year old and on the right a more mature bull of many years of age.

So, are moose really the plodding, polite animals that cartoons depict them as? Have you ever underestimated moose based on their goofy-looking appearance? As we have seen, instead of being slow, and plodding, moose are impressive athletes. Moose are capable of swimming through and under water, which allows them to more easily travel in search of food and access the nutrients they need during pregnancy and to grow antlers. Moose are also capable of running at high speeds and of fighting off other animals, which helps them survive attacks from wolves and other predators. Each of these athletic capabilities are important survival mechanisms that help moose thrive in the wild.

Tasha Mazurkewich

Tasha Mazurkewich

Wildlife Interpreter

Tasha is a self-proclaimed animal enthusiast and adventurer. Originally from British Columbia, she enjoys skiing, hiking, and all things outdoors. She is happiest when she is climbing a mountain with her pup. Having recently moved up north, she has enjoyed learning about Yukon’s wildlife and landscape and is excited to share the new knowledge she has learned with visitors to the wildlife preserve

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Fall In to Autumn

Fall In to Autumn

Fall In to Autumn

5 minute read – 
Autumn is a season of change! It’s the bridge which helps us transition from summer towards winter. What a beautiful bridge it is, with leaves blazing colour in vibrant hues of red, orange and yellow. Fireweed has flowered and the leaves are crimson. Against this backdrop the first snows fall on the mountaintops.

Birds begin their migration back to their southern overwintering grounds, after a summer spent mating, nesting, rearing young, and eating well. Before we see the V’s flying overhead, we often hear them honking and calling to each other.

In the world of ungulates, it is the time of the rut. Antlered animals have finished growing this season’s antlers; their velvet has sloughed off and now they sport their hardened, ready-to-duel finery. We can see and hear as the males clash, challenging each other for the right to breed the females. Elk stags bugle, bull moose softly grunt – calling to interested females in the area and warning off competing males.

Watson, in the foreground, has shed the velvet on his first year’s full antler growth.

Those with horns are also clashing. This looks less like a duel and more like a train crash. Thinhorn Mountain Sheep rams, both Stone and Dall subspecies, run at each other and smash heavy horns together – the echo of this collision ricochets like a rifle shot. Muskox bulls have been rumbling since early August, chasing each other, establishing dominance and finally banging horns as they work to impress the females for breeding rights.
We begin to notice a lack of Arctic Ground Squirrel activity. We no longer hear the constant shrill warnings as nearby predators hunt; where are these industrious rodents? Hibernation comes early – females are already underground for the long winter ahead, and the last of the males aboveground continue to harvest and stockpile their midden, into early October. Predators such as Red Foxes can be seen traveling from one burrow-entrance to another…..looking for a disappearing meal of ground squirrel which used to be in abundance. Soon they’ll be gone completely, hibernating through the winter, under a thick layer of blanketing snow – but not just yet.

Autumn means hibernation is coming.  We’ve noticed a lessening of Arctic Ground Squirrel activity at Yukon Wildlife Preserve.

Humans are adding clothing layers, finding sweaters, mitts and toques in storage. We need these warm additions on the crisp, cold autumn mornings. Afternoon sunshine heats up; we turn our faces to the sun and shed those layers – it’s not winter yet! So too are the animals growing coats of winter fur, wool and hair. Mountain goats have spent all summer shedding last winter’s wool; almost immediately it’s time to grow in this winter’s layer of hair. Arctic Foxes are beginning to add some white to their brown and grey camouflage. They not only change colour with their winter fur, they also add seeming bulk. All those layers of white fluffy fur help them stay warm, maintain body core temperature and thrive in the harsh winter environment of the Far North.
Enjoying this short season is highly recommended – there’s nothing as seasonally relevant or celebratory as jumping into a pile of autumnal leaves. Cranberries are ripening, harvesting continues. Underneath the beauty of the changing season, there is a sense of urgency. Whether we are human or animal, we know winter is coming, and while it’s not here yet, time and opportunity are limited to eat, put enough weight on, or store food to survive the coming months.

Summer is over, the cycle continues. Autumn is the clear signal to prepare for what’s ahead. Fall in to Autumn; experience the sights and sounds with enjoyment, wherever you are.

Julie Kerr

Julie Kerr

Visitor Services Coordinator

Julie is a Registered Veterinary Technologist, living and working in Whitehorse since 2012. She joined the team in May 2018. She is passionate about wildlife, nature and living in a conscious manner with both. Her free time is spent outdoors observing wild animals and ecosystems; her connection to the natural world around her brings great joy – joy she loves to share with anyone interested. Honestly? Work and life blend rather seamlessly.

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Annual Report for 2019-20

Annual Report for 2019-20

Annual Report for 2019-20

About the Preserve in 2019-20

Our Mission

The Yukon Wildlife Preserve is a non-profit, charitable organization. The Perserve is operated under the full name of the Yukon Wildlife Preserve Operating Society (YWPOS).


The Yukon Wildlife Preserve will see informed voices that speak for the natural world.


To connect our visitors to the natural world by being a living centre of Yukon’s species.

Core Values

  • Relentlessly pursue the highest standard of animal care;
  • Be accessible to all visitors;
  • Model respect and teamwork with coworkers, volunteers, and our community; and,
  • Treasure the Yukon’s natural world.
Our Board and Committees

The YWPOS Board in 2019-20 included:

Alexandra Tait, President
Shawna Warshawski, 1st VP
Chris Evans, 2nd VP
Kristine Hildebrand
Kirk Cameron
Harmony Hunter
Emily Hoefs
Melissa Croskery
Eamonn Pinto (joined mid-season)
Dennis Berry, non-voting YG rep (joined mid-season)
Drew MacNeil, non-voting YG rep (joined mid-season)
Helen Booth, non-voting YG rep (departed mid-season)
Darrell March, non-voting YG rep (departed mid-season)

The YWPOS board meets approximately 6 times each year – quarterly meetings on the 3rd Wednesday of July, October, January and April, as well as a couple of special meetings depending on the projects / needs at hand.

The board is responsible for several key committees that provide oversight and support to various aspects of operations. These include:

  • Executive Committee – works closely with the Executive Director on a regular basis – meets monthly.
  • Animal Care Committee – oversight and support on care and management of the collection – meets monthly to quarterly depending on need.
  • Education Committee – assists on education and experience based projects – meets as required.
  • Research Committee – reviews research proposals and makes recommendations to the board – meets as required.

Other ad hoc committees and work groups are formed as required to tackle specific projects!

Learn more about the YWPOS Board, Board Committees, or connect with the board.

Our Staff
The YWPOS Management Team in 2019-20 included:

Jake Paleczny, Executive Director/CEO
Randy Hallock, Manager of Outdoor Operations
Dr. Maria Hallock, Veterinarian
Lindsay Caskenette, Manager of Visitor Services
Erin Jamieson, Manager of Education and Programming (joined mid-season)
Breanna Hall, Manager of Education and Programming (departed mid-season)

Learn more about the YWP staff and get in touch.

President’s Report

Having the privilege to sit as the President this past year, enables me to reflect on so many aspects of the Yukon Wildlife Preserve and the Operating Society, our Staff and volunteers, our government ambassadors, and our incredible Yukon community. For us, like many of you, this year has been a rollercoaster of both the physical and emotional form: a test of adaptability, perseverance, tenacity, and creativity.

Our plans for the past year included being open year-round, 7-days a week, which proved to be successful, and we are so blessed and honoured to be a winter destination for so many Yukoners and visitors, alike. We also saw immense outpouring of support in the form of donations and sponsorship, without which we cannot operate. We were also actively moving towards a public roll-out of our next 10-year Master Plan which includes upgrades to infrastructure, visitor services, and interpretive experiences. As the winter progressed however, our reality changed, along with the rest of the world. The Staff and Board of Directors made the decision to shutter our doors for a time, while we assessed all our options. With the leadership of our Executive Director, the support of our Board and that of the Yukon government, we emerged with creative solutions to keeping our members, our campers, and our staff safe and remain a coveted destination for members and visitors alike.

Because of the adaptability of our Staff, we have been able to continue to provide you with a place of peace, a place of reflection, a place of exploration, in a time where these places may seem inaccessible. While much of our programs and long-term plans are on hold for the moment, we look forward to continuing to be a favoured destination by all of you.

I am going to take this opportunity to thank again, our incredible Staff who dedicate every day to the animals, the place, and the people; and to our volunteer Board of Directors of which we rely for counsel and guidance. Thank you all for your continued support, and we all look forward to seeing you out at the Preserve throughout the coming months.

Alexandra Tait
President, YWPOS Board of Directors

Executive Director’s Report

For all the right reasons, 2019-20 was a very exciting year! Our team was incredibly busy and boy was it fun. Here’s some of the highlights:

Out with the Old – in with the Future

The year kicked off with a major upgrade to our membership and sales systems, along with a comprehensive pricing change. Front of house staff had long struggled with an outdated system and a pricing structure put into place in 2006. At more than 10 times the visitation, those systems and pricing options weren’t cutting it. While implementing a new system is never easy, it almost immediately eliminated most of the line-ups at the front of house. Long overdue price increases also drove record revenues – a critical step in the long term sustainability of the organization.

Planning for the Future

Meanwhile the Board and management team was working closely with PJA Architects and a team of sub-consultants to craft a vision for the next 15 years of development at the Preserve. PJA and their team represented some of the best landscape planners, business strategists and marketing expertise in our marketplace. They helped bring key concepts and approaches to the table for developing the Preserve’s future. More on that below!

A Big Contribution

This past year also marked a first for the Preserve – a major donation. Steve Smyth and his family donated $25,000, making a significant contribution to the Preserve. Needless to say, we met our fundraising targets for 2019-20! To read more about Steve and his contribution, check out this blog article by Board member Kirk Cameron.

Becoming more Accessible

The Preserve also took delivery of a low floor bus just as Nature Camps kicked off. Prior to that, one of our most common visitor injuries were slips on the older bus’s stairs (despite a seemingly endless number of attempts to make them safet). Not only was a big step for accessibility, it also has great heaters making it (at long last) very comfortable to do tours at colder temperatures!

Moose in the News

And of course it was another exciting year in Animal Care and Wildlife Rehabiltiation with not just one, but two moose coming in from Faro and Watson. Sadly, the little moose from Faro didn’t make it. Fortunately, Watson has thrived and has joined our (growing) herd of famous meese 😉

… And then COVID

Needless to say, 2019-20 didn’t end on a high note. We’ve all faced adversity we couldn’t have anticipated. We’ve cancelled, cut, pivoted, and more… But we have an incredible team here at the Preserve – one that has faced this head-on, ingenuity and positivity. I’m incredibly proud to be able to work with and support the team I have here.

Here’s more on how we’re responding to this crisis.

Thank you for all of your continued support!


Jake Paleczny
Executive Director
Yukon Wildlife Preserve

Ex-Officio Report

In 2019-20, the Department of Environment and the Yukon Wildlife Preserve Operating Society concluded a two-year Operational Funding Agreement. The funding agreement was renewed for another year, up to the end of March, 2021. The agreement provides $732,000 to support the core operations at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve for the year, including animal care and facility maintenance.​

The Government of Yukon is supporting the Yukon Wildlife Preserve Operating Society to respond to the challenges of COVID-19 and to complete the master planning process to refine a long term vision for the preserve.

Master Plan Project Update

The Preserve undertook a comprehensive master planning process that started in March 2019 and substantively wrapped up in March 2020. It resulted in:

  • A Master Plan Report
  • A Business Plan and Financial Planning Tool
  • A Brand Blueprint and Marketing Plan

The Preserve is now working with key stakeholders to refine the Master Plan Report. The renewed branding and marketing is now in the process of being implemented.

Master Plan Report

The plan represents a comprehensive plan for development of the Preserve over the next 15+ years. The document included:

  • Site and Program Inventory
  • Master Plan (including future goals, animal management, iste improvement, interpretation and education and more)
  • Improvements to existing facilities/infrastructure
  • Phasing and Budget
  • Community Engagement

Some of the key results from this work include:

  • Enhance animal handling infrastrucure that enables low-stress, safe handling for both animals and staff.
  • Enhanced visitor infrastructure, including a new welcome centre and entrance walk, play areas throughout the Preserve, new walking trails, as well as other important amenities.
  • New Yukon species and new habitats.
  • New infrastructure to support mission based revenue generation.

Business Plan

Working with Zoo Advisors the Preserve identified key areas for enhancing sustainability of the Preserve through on mission revenue generation. The plan aligns with the Master Plan. A sophistacted projection tool will help the Preserve model impacts of different scenarios and revenue generation projects!

Marketing Plan

Working the Aasman Branding, the Preserve undertook an audit of its audiences and brand position. The results include a brand signature (positioning and our promise in its simplest form), clear audience segments and core messages.

The plan is focused on capturing more of Yukon’s tourists (as this represented the greatest area of growth).

Operations Report

Some of the highlights from the Outdoor Operations Department include:

  • Upgraded / fence at AC Building and added apron
  • Changed out fence along neighbours (Peter and Dinah) – was still old perimeter fencing and possibly one area where predators still had easy access.
  • Installed 2nd cross fence between Mountain Goat cliff habitats.
  • Repairs to 2nd MOuntain Goat cliff fence
  • Removed old stand-off barrier in front of Mule Deer bucks (old T-bar)
  • Finish demo and cleanup of “old chicken house” (beside new haybarn)
  • Removed garage door from green shop and cleaned out
  • Sorted, painted and organized pipe and wire supplies (there was a lot to do here).
  • Demolished and cleaned up old hayshed in the back Elk habitat
  • Inventoried buildings / quoted replacement values for insurance value updates.
  • Inspected and repaired perimeter fence (a few holes patched but in good condition)
  • Fixed muskox cow fence (new posts and wire along the back side after damage from broken trees late last winter).
  • Upgrades to goat handling system (new gates and posts).
  • Rebuilt cross fence between sheep ewe’s and rams
  • Poured concrete pad and moved fuel tanks to Service Area by Garage.
  • New fence line separating Ewe’s and Rams (fence will run perpendicular to the road, rather than on a diagonal, minimizing visible fence lines in Female Thinhorn Sheep pasture).
  • Plowing snow and sanding, shoveling viewing platforms
  • Site garbage collection and disposal
  • Upgrades to signs in parking lot
  • Griding large amounts of apples, carrots and oranges for animal feed
  • Refurbishing chalk board signs
  • Repairs to skidoos
  • Wiring in reception
  • Design eavestrough and roof extensions for feeding stations 
  • Put up insulators for electric fence extension 
  • Assisting with immobilized animals 

Randy’s crew keeps very busy!

Animal Care Report

Main Collection

Elk: 15
Moose: 5
Caribou: 12
Mule Deer: 50
Thinhorn sheep: 35
Rocky Mountain Goats: 29
Bison: 15
Muskox: 13
Lynx: 3
Arctic fox: 2
Red fox: 2

Total of 181 Animals in Main Collection


(Born July 03, 2019-September 14, 2020)

Rocky mountain goats: 1 (2019)
Mule deer: 10 (2019)
Bison: 2 (2019) 1 (2020)


(Deceased July 03, 2019-September 14, 2020)

Bison: 1 (2020)
Elk: 2 (2019,2020)
Peregrine Falcon: 1 (2020)
Mule deer: 10 (2020)
Arctic fox :1 (2020)
Mountain goat :1 (2020)
Muskox :1 (2019)

Animal Care Committee

The ACC is one of the Preserve’s most active committees – it provides oversight and support on care and management of the Preserve’s collection. The committee meets 4-8 times a year and provides recommendations to the board on a range of topics – including collection plan, animal care policies, aquisition and disposition of animals and more. To find out more or if you have expertise to contribute to this committee, reach out to president@yukonwildlife.ca

Wildlife Rehabilitation Report

Overall, Wildlife Rehabilitation was much busier this summer than last. Highlights include a family of ducks – and of course a young moose!

July 3, 2019 – September 14, 2020


Species Released Deceased

Still in care

/ YWP residents

American robin 6 3
Gull spp 3 2
Bald Eagle 3 1
Great horn owl 1 1
Merlin 1
kestrel 1
Thrush spp 2 2
Bohemian Waxwing 1
Pine Grosbeak 2
Swallow spp 12 1
Junco 4
Spruce grouse 4
Mallard ducks 9
Raven 3
White-winged crossbill 1
Northern shoveler 1
Boreal owl 1
Lesser scup 1
Sparrow spp 2 3
Yellow bellied sapsucker 1
Northern flicker 1
Kingfisher 1
Sharp shinned hawk 1
Golden eagle 1
Red squirrel 13 2
Moose 1
Total 62 28 2



July 3 2018 – July 3, 2019

Species Released Deceased

Still in care

/ YWP residents

American robin 3 2 1
Tree Swallow 2
Pine Grosbeak 1
Sparrow 2
Crossbill 1
American Kestrel 1
Northern Goshawk 1
Moose 2
Bald Eagle 1
Red Squirrels 9 4
Hawk Owl 1
Snowshoe Hare 1
Red Fox 1
Total 18 12 7



Visitor Services Report

Retail Operations

Huge gains (13.0% increase in total revenue for 2019-2020 over previous year) were made in our Little Gift Shop revenue stream over the years while the building space remains the same. Visitor Services staff have been able to capitalize on every bit of space in the shop while still balancing aesthetics and an effective staff/client work space.

A major remerchandising of the front cabin occurred in December including upgraded display and furniture units. This was really well received by both staff and customers and allowed an important freshening of the space and product rotation to encourage sales of existing stock. It also allowed new stock, including some higher-end jewelry from local artists Vanessa with Yukon Wild Furs to be displayed well. Also, new book cases made our increasing and diverse collection of books easily viewable and explorable by visitors. 

We saw a significant increase in retail revenue in December as we worked with several local entrepreneurs to bring back the YWP exclusive Community knit toque fundraiser with 8 hats, 4 of which featured muskox qiviut.


The Preserve saw a 2% increase in overall visitation in 2019-2020 from the previous year (2018-2019). Month to month saw on par visitation to the previous year or growth with the exceptions of May, January, and March. 

  • May typically fluctuates depending on our opening date and that this month is a shoulder season build potential for the tourism market. 
  • January saw an 8 day closure due to extreme cold temperatures. 
  • March closure on the 23rd in response to Covid-19 also reduced possible visitation numbers. 
  • The Preserve came the closest ever to breaking the 5,000 visitors in a month mark by just 86 people!

Visitation tracking by month for 2019-2020 for members versus non-members tells us that between 13.2% (January) and 36.8% (April) of total visitors are member visits.

Visitation Type

People like to walk – it’s a great way to experience the Preserve. With that however this year was the first time we offered Guided Bus Tours daily through the winter season. In years previous we offered Guided Bus Tours from October to March only Friday – Sundays.

Visitation through Events

4 major annual events occur which are well established, recognized, anticipated and attended! 

  1. Easter Eggstravaganza 2019 – every year the riddle changes and every year this is one of our not to miss events where we see a lot of membership renewals and strong interest from families across Yukon. 
  2. Run Wild 2019 saw 68 participants and raised over $1,000 for Wildlife Rehabilitation. It also included a special announcement and recognition to major donor – Steven Smyth.
  3. Yukoner Day 2019 – was our 15th Anniversary celebration. We offered free tours and animal feeding viewing experiences that are always a highlight. This year we included some Education Programming included a few dip netting experiences in the back pond. Alongside our Master Planning process we reached out to our public for input to the Preserve future
  4. Wild Trick or Treat 2019 – Our fast growing event! This year we added some games and activities along the way while families worked on the scavenger hunt clues. Spooktacular pumpkin feeding with our carnivores are always a treat for humans and animals! Of course a bonfire and (chocolaty) treats await those that make it through!

Education and Programming Report

Swan Haven 2019 School Programming

Early in 2017, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve (YWP) and Yukon Wildlife Viewing Program (WVP) signed an agreement for the YWP to develop and deliver experiential, outdoor school programming at the Swan Haven Interpretive Centre in April 2017. Based on a successful 2017 season, the YWP and WVP continued the arrangement in 2018 and 2019.

Between April 8th and May 1st 2019, 678 students participated in outdoor, experiential programs highlighting the importance of early season open water for migrating swans. The Swan Haven program reached 73% capacity in it’s 2019 season. Curriculum-linked programs were delivered to students in grades 2, 3, 5, and (new in 2019) 6. Over half of the programs booked and delivered (55%) were Grade 2 curriculum-linked. The newest program offering (Grade 6), was also the lowest attendance in its inaugural year (9%). 

Feedback from teachers and students was overwhelmingly positive. One hundred percent of teachers (n=45) rated student engagement and Instructor Knowledge/Enthusiasm at Good or Excellent (4 or 5 on a scale of 1 – 5). Teachers rated student engagement on average 4.4 out of 5. The main challenge identified by teachers to bring their students to Swan Haven were bus costs and challenging student behaviours.

Spring 2019 School Programming

In September 2018, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve signed a one-year funding agreement with the Department of Education encompassing programming in the fall/winter 2018 and spring 2019.

Through continued support from the Department of Education, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve provided experiential outdoor-education programs to roughly 880 students between May 10th, 2019 and June 7th, 2019.

Programs were delivered on all 20 days available, and feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Students in Kindergarten, Grade 1 & Grade 4 participated in place-based programming at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve.

We see opportunities to further develop and expand the outdoor-education offer in partnership with the Department of Education.

2019 Nature Camps

From June 17th to August 16th, 2019, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve offered 9 weeks of Nature camps to Yukoners aged 6 to 12, with space each week for  a total of 22 campers, sorted into spots for 14 campers ages 6 to 8 years (Discovery), and 8 campers ages 8 to 12 years (Explorer). 

Camp themes in 2019 were: Animal Care, Hidden Worlds, Wilderness Skills, and Nature Detectives. 

Over the 9 weeks, there were a total of 197 available spots for campers. For the Discovery age group (6 to 8 years), registration was at 100% and each week there were between 5 and 9 campers on the waitlists. For the Explorer age group, registration was at 98.6 percent, and all but two weeks had between 1 and 3 campers on the waiting list. Over the course of the nine weeks, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve provided camps for a total of 196 campers, using a team of three staff. 

Fall 2019 School Programming

In the Fall of 2019, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve signed a 1-year funding agreement with the Department of Education encompassing one fall/winter and one spring school program sessions for fall/winter 2019 and spring 2020 respectively. 

Thanks to the continued support of the Department of Education, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve provided outdoor experiential programs to 425 students (27 teachers & 44 other chaperones) between November 12th, 2019 and December 13th, 2019.

The season was booked 95% of capacity. Over 19 days available for programming (excluding the blackout day), the YWP team delivered 14 half day programs and 11 full day programs. The majority of programs were divided between Grade 7 & Grade 2 groups.  As in past seasons, teacher and student feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

The Preserve in 2020-21

Thank you.

We are forever grateful for your continued support. Together, we will overcome the challenges ahead. Our commitment to wildlife—and to you, our community—are at the heart of everything we do.


More on how the Preserve is Responding to COVID-19

1. Ensuring Continuity of Care

We have more than 200 animals that depend on us. As a result, we have a heightened responsibility to protect the well-being of the staff they depend on. 

The daily feeding and care of 200+ animals is no small task. We have a small but dedicated team who makes this all happen. Ensuring continuity of care is about protecting our team and developing contingency plans.

To protect our staff we are going above and beyond the recommendations on cleaning and physical distancing. This includes:

  • Compartmentalizing our primary animal care staff to minimize onsite contact and work-site overlaps;
  • Developing and continually enhancing work-site cleaning protocols;
  • Developing protocols for working with felids (due to known cases of human-felid transmission of COVID-19);
  • Developing protocols for interfacing with public when required for accepting wildlife in need of medical care and rehabilitation.

We have also put a number of contingency plans in place, including:

  • Cross-training other staff to create a secondary animal care team;
  • Developing emergency care protocols and emergency contacts for the secondary team;
  • Developing a list of trained heavy equipment operators who can move hay and pellets;
  • Close monitoring of medical and food supply chains as well as careful inventory management of key supplies and food;
  • Diligent financial planning to ensure quality of care is not compromised.
2. Staying Connected

Our team has been hard at work to bring you stories, videos and regular updates during our temporary closure. As we transition to being open again, we’ll continue to bring you stories and videos as we are able

You can support the Preserve by engaging with and re-sharing this content. Reaching a broader audience has a direct impact on the number of donations we receive – and will help us rebound when tourism gradually resumes!

Our animals need daily food and care. Those donations are still critical for off-setting the loss of visitor revenue.

3. Reduction of Services

The pandemic has forced a reduction of services across our organization. Wherever possible we are redeploying our team to continue on our mission. However, in many cases we have also had the difficult necessity of reducing our team.

With a phased re-opening, we’ll be slowly returning to our original levels of services – as is feasible.

Our educational programming has also been impacted. The suspension of schools has also meant that:

  • YWP staff did not deliver school programs at Swan Haven in April;
  • YWP staff will not deliver school programs to Yukon students at the Preserve in May and June.

We are working closely with our funding partners for these programs to redeploy these resources (as feasible) to achieve our program goals in other ways.

    4. Planning for an Uncertain Future

    It’s hard to say when we will reopen. We are now expecting to be closed through May. But we will continue to adapt as the situation evolves.

    We are now expecting to see a 55%+ decrease in expected visitation for the 2020-21 fiscal year. However, we are also planning for scenarios where we see an 80%+ decrease. This is due to two key factors:

    1. 65% of our visitation happens in the first 6 months of the year – and the first half of the year will be most impacted.
    2. Approximately 60% of our visitors are tourists (non-Yukoners). We are currently expecting severely depressed tourism to continue for 6-12 months before slowly returning towards normalcy.

    Revenue from visitation and educational programs accounts for more than $500,000 annually. As a result, we are expecting shortfalls of $200-400k.

    We are staying abreast of and participating, where we are eligible, in Territorial and Federal financial supports.

    In the meantime, your support is a critical part of ensuring the Preserve’s continued operation.

    We still need your support!

    Our commitment to wildlife—and to you, our community—are at the heart of everything we do. Re-opening will allow us to continue our mission to connect our visitors to the natural world. It will also help mitigate the financial impacts on the long-term sustainability of the Preserve. That said, the ongoing, daily costs of caring for 200+ animal doesn’t change; so we’re not out of the woods yet. We still need your support.

    Ways to Support

    • • •

    Leverage extra resources, services or expertice and make an in-kind contribution to the Preserve’s day-to-day operations.

    Make a one-time or monthly tax-receiptable donation to education, wildlife rehabilitation, or general operations.

    Turn your businesses cash or in-kind support for the Preserve into PR for your business and perks for your team.

    Ways to Stay Connected

    • • •

    Get the latest at

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    Jake Paleczny

    Jake Paleczny

    Executive Director/ CEO

    Jake Paleczny is passionate about interpretation and education. He gained his interpretative expertise from a decade of work in Ontario’s provincial parks in addition to a Masters in Museum Studies from the University of Toronto. His interests also extend into the artistic realm, with a Bachelor of Music from the University of Western Ontario and extensive experience in galleries and museums.


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    Mountain Slopes – Yukon Wildlife Preserve

    Mountain Slopes – Yukon Wildlife Preserve

    Mountain Slopes – Yukon Wildlife Preserve

    11 min read –
    The Yukon Wildlife Preserve features eleven iconic northern animal species, but if you look closely at each of the three primary habitats on the Preserve you’ll see many more species than “only” eleven. The three primary habitats include: grasslands, wetlands and mountain slopes. Each of these habitat types support animal and plant species that have evolved together over millions of years resulting in communities where they all make a living and contribute different values to the continuing health of their specific habitat. In this three-part series we’ll review each habitat and examine the greater community it represents, concluding with mountain slopes.

    Mountain goats on their cliff habitat at Yukon Wildlife Preserve

    Looking around the local landscape we easily see the topographic differences near to us and in the distance. These elevational changes of the geography influence how animals move, reproduce and make a living. Some have evolved physical adaptations providing them with advantages to live in different habitats compared to other species.

    Some creatures have evolved to live on the rock faces of mountainsides, while others are better equipped to live in the valleys often near rivers and other water bodies. Some other species can live easily on all land types, like the Caribou that often travel great distances over all types of terrain along their migration paths.

     Caribou often travel great distances over all types of terrain along their migration paths.

    The land all around us is in a continual state of change as it has been since time began. The Preserve is located within the Takhini River Valley. The river is south of us, only a few hundred meters away. Glaciers filled this valley up until about thirteen thousand years ago. While they were here, the glaciers altered the landform in some very dramatic ways as they bulldozed great areas of soil and rock, gravel and forested areas resulting in what we can see today. Look at the mountain tops across the valley and you’ll see the smooth rounded tops where the glaciers ground them down; and the other mountains with jagged and pointed tops indicating where the glaciers did not have a similar impact because they did not grow that high. However erosion is still at work as the influences of wind, rain, ice and snow continue to alter the landscape.

    This type of landform provides a spectrum of variables that influence the safety, nourishment, and rearing of offspring that many species have adapted to over thousands of their generations.

    Going back millions of years, many species evolved due to the influences of what they prefer to eat and where that food source could be easily found throughout the year. For example, beavers depend on wooded vegetation and while trees grow on mountain slopes, beavers had greater opportunity and benefit to feed on the vegetation that grows next to waterways, so beavers evolved to be more adept at swimming and thriving in an aquatic environment that also sustains certain species of trees that beavers adapted to thrive on.

    Mountain Goats and Sheep are the megafauna species featured in the rocky habitats here on the Preserve, They evolved specialized hooves and muscle groups to allow them to move quickly, and safely, on the various rock types found on these slopes.

    Of course there are numerous other species present here as well and while they have not evolved noticeable physical adaptations to live on the rocks, they have learned how best to live in this habitat and find the resources required to raise a family and make a living. Our ever-roaming foxes are often seen walking among the goats on the rock faces in their never-ending search for food. Many birds will nest on rocky crags and outcroppings as the precarious nature of these do provide some level of protection against predators like the fox. Eagles, hawks and owls often select a high perch on the rocks as they scan the area looking for their next meal. They often build nests in the protected areas in a crack high up a rock face to take advantage of these lookout positions.

    Golden eagle nest on Lake Lebarge’s eastern shores early 2000’s.  Photo D. Caldwell

    Rodents also make their homes within the jumbles of rocks hoping they have chosen a safe place to raise a family. Members of the weasel family, including Pine Martin, mink, weasels and even the cunning Wolverine will seek a suitable place to den among the rock slides as well as the forested areas nearby. Bears of course also seek out suitable places in the rocks to den and hibernate over winter.There are no bears denning on the Preserve at this time that we are aware of.

    Also not present on the Preserve, are other creatures like Marmots and Pikas that typically make their homes high up in the rocks and mountains of the Yukon, Some species seem to be very widespread and can be found in a variety of Yukon habitat types. While some others are localised to specific geographic locations or elevations where they have the greatest opportunity for success. The ubiquitous Arctic Ground Squirrel also favours mountain sides to make a home.

    Keep in mind that numerous natural influences like wildfires, landslides, avalanches and similar disruptions may alter the living conditions for a number of animals that will need to go in search of a new home to raise a family. The same may happen when a grizzly bear selects a den near a favoured grazing area of sheep or goats. To remain safe, the sheep will seek out a new grazing area well away from predators and other dangers.

    Thinhorn Sheep rams enjoy sunshine in their predator-free grazing grounds at Yukon Wildlife Preserve.  In the background we see the sheep-accessible cliffs within their habitat.

    Rocky habitats are not without their dangers. During the winter season ice will form in small cracks and crevices within the rocks, as the ice becomes colder and swells it further fractures the rock sometimes making it dangerous in that it may break away completely and fall further down the slope.

    Gravel screes are the deposits of smaller rocks, pebbles and dirt that have fallen from above and form a skirt of loose materials at the base of a rock face. These can be difficult for mammals to walk on quietly and safely and as such provide another level of security for the creatures that dwell on the mountainsides. Flash floods caused by voluminous rainfall and spring snowmelt can also be dangerous for the creatures that live on the rocks.

    Rocky habitats are not without their dangers, which change based on the season.  Here, Thinhorn Mountain Sheep walk through deep snow along the cliff edge at Yukon Wildlife Preserve.

    Because rocks warm in the sun and hold that warmth after the sun sets, some rock faces are preferred by early arriving bird species, like raptors, that will nest there to get started on raising the offspring that may hatch while snow still lies on the ground. Raptor parents teach the offspring how and where to hunt after they have learned to fly. They have lots to do within a short seasonal weather pattern, so nesting in the warmth of the rock faces provides them with an advantage to raising a healthy next generation.

    Like all other habitats on the Preserve, winter brings some profound changes to mountain slopes the animals must literally take in stride. The goats and sheep cannot run and frolic on the snow covered rock faces as they do in the ice-free season. They pay closer attention to where they travel and may use alternate trail systems during these times to prevent slips and falls. They still make it look much easier than it is and they sometimes look quite smug as they look down at us staring up at them from the road.

    The spring thaw also introduces new dangers as the warming rocks may cause the ice to melt from beneath, creating loose patches that can break away when a foot is placed on them. Meltwater cascading down the slope is another seasonal hazard the creatures are well conditioned to avoid. Staying warm and dry is its own reward when the chill winds blow high up on the rocks.

    As the ice and snow melt away and the winter white gives way to the browns and greens of spring and the migratory populations return for another summer in the Yukon, the many animals species return to raise their families and prepare them for a life that continues to transform and evolve due to climate change and the other forces of nature like earthquakes, wildfires, floods and the influences of mankind.

    It may appear that some animal species are well established and very set in their ways, however they are evolving each day to maximize new opportunities provided by an ever-changing planet and the relationships between their habitats and their ability to get what they need to survive. We humans may not notice these changes right away as they can be quite subtle and appear meaningless to us. An example of this is the recent addition of crows and hummingbirds to the Yukon. They are expanding their summer ranges north as the climate warms and they can find enough nectar producing flowers to sustain them as they explore new habitats in the north. The flowering plants they depend on are also moving further north and their presence here will result in other changes that may take us some time to see and understand as they move into habitats presently occupied by the traditional species we normally focus on. Change is all around us, but it can be difficult to see clearly or understand the scope of these changes.

    So take the time to look beyond the megafauna and other species we consider to be normal, you may see something astounding. Just ask Whitehorse bird enthusiast Cameron Eckert who found and photographed an adult female Calliope Hummingbird, on Herschel Island in June of 2017, 1,800 km north of its traditional breeding range.

    Doug Caldwell

    Doug Caldwell

    Wildlife Interpreter

    Doug is one of the Interpretive Wildlife Guides here at the Preserve. An avid angler and hunter he has a broad knowledge of Yukon’s wilderness and the creatures that live here. With a focus on the young visitors to the Preserve, Doug takes the extra time to help our guests to better appreciate the many wonders of the animal kingdom here in the Yukon.

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