Guardians of the park's health

La Mauricie National Park


In this series of three videos, follow the conservation team as it monitors the ecological integrity of La Mauricie National Park. The team keeps an eye on the health of the park. For example, it analyzes the water quality of the lakes and it monitors the wolf and owl populations.

Episode 1: Ecological integrity

Follow the conservation team as it monitors the ecological integrity of La Mauricie National Park.

January 22, 2022


La Mauricie National Park has three main ecosystems: the forest ecosystem, which covers 93% of the park’s territory. There are also 150 lakes and hundreds of kilometres of waterways that make up our aquatic ecosystems.

And we also have about 20 kilometres of wetlands in the area. Ecological integrity is the desired state for national parks. It is a state that is undisturbed by humans. The species present in the territory are those that were there naturally and the ecological processes, such as the water regime of the rivers and lakes, are natural.

This is truly a healthy state for the parks. Ecosystems are fine when they are in a state of integrity. When the data we collect on an ad hoc basis shows us ecosystems that are healthy, all we do is continue to monitor to ensure that the ecosystems remain in a state of very good quality.

On the other hand, if the ecosystem is fair or poor, or in a degraded state, integrity restoration programs will be initiated. For example, in La Mauricie National Park, the condition of the forests is considered poor because the forests are very old.

In fact, forest fires have been systematically extinguished for decades. Fire has not played its renewal role in the forest ecosystems. Some species, such as pines and oaks, are still dependent on fire for regeneration. These species are disappearing from the national park landscape.

This is why, 30 years ago a prescribed burning program was undertaken to ensure that the forests were renewed in line with the ecological role of fire. One of the ecological integrity measures that we are going to monitor is the moose and wolf situation. Wolves are at the top of the food chain in the forests of La Mauricie National Park.

It is desirable and very healthy for ecosystems to support wolf populations and there are various examples. In the absence of wolves, moose will over-graze the forests. They can really change the forest landscape of a territory.

This winter, we will monitor the number of packs and the number of individuals per pack present in the Mauricie region using photographic traps and tracking. We will also monitor the owls as a winter activity to ensure ecological integrity.

Nesting begins very early, in late winter and early spring. So, by using stations where we listen to the owls, we are able to establish a relative abundance of the different species. Another measure of ecological integrity that we will be working on this winter is water quality.

In winter, we are interested in the amount of oxygen in the water of the lakes. With several months of ice cover, there are places where oxygen becomes more and more scarce in the lakes.

The monitoring allows us to measure whether the oxygen level in the water still allows the aquatic fauna to thrive. As water is the physical habitat of our aquatic species, it is crucial that the water quality be good in order to support healthy ecosystems.

Episode 2: Water quality

Discover how and why the conservation team analyzes the water quality of the lakes in La Mauricie National Park.

January 22, 2022


My role for the water quality monitoring project is to do the bathymetry of the lakes using sonar and GPS data. Once the data is collected in the field, a map is created that the team can use to find the deepest point and go directly to the site. Approximately 10 to 12 lakes are monitored each year and this monitoring is repeated approximately every five years. The purpose of this project is really to look at the water quality and at the same time the fish habitat or the habitat of the species that live in the lake.

The purpose of creating a profile is to find the deepest point of the lake. Once we find it, we will drill through the ice and measure the thickness of the ice. After that, we’ll lower the probe. We want to have a very specific zone, which is 5 mg per litre, which is the zone where fish, especially brook trout, start to experience more stress.

So, 3 metres, we’re at a temperature of 4.35. Percentage of oxygen, 8.6. Milligrams per litre, 0.98. It’s all well and good to see us riding around on a skidoo, but we are carrying equipment for a reason. It is mainly because there is no real road in the northern section, with the projects. These are mostly canoe portages.

So during the summer transport the material ourselves by seaplane or helicopter. So we take advantage of the winter to transport equipment left and right, the boats, the motors. This year, we will be hauling lumber to build a weir that will create an impassable barrier for fish that are lower in the river system. This way we can concentrate on the complete study of the fish in this area.

Episode 3: On the trail of wolves

Follow the conservation team of La Mauricie National Park on the trail of wolves. During winter, it monitors their populations to measure the ecological integrity of the park.

January 22, 2022


It will take all day to do the tracking. We’ll leave for the western sector. We start on Wapizagonke Lake. We’ll do basin 2, basin 3 and basin 4 and then we’ll get to Anticagamac Lake. As for the eastern sector, it’s really the road.

Then we enter Soumire, Giron, Dubon, and Dauphinais lakes, then the Lac des Cinq up to the Lac des Cinq camp. It’s a big day! We’re back at the truck by 4 p.m. if all went well. When tracking wolves, it’s really important to do it 24 hours after a snowfall.

Basically, the first reason is to erase old tracks that would distort our data. The second reason is to give the wolves time to move. Wolves are a species that moves quite quickly.

If we are able to detect the presence of wolves in the eastern sector and then in the western sector in the same day, we can affirm that there are two wolf packs in La Mauricie National Park. Here we can see a wolf track.

It started at Brodeur Creek, and then you can see that they are heading toward Modène Lake. The wolves travel in single file and we can see that one wolf left and then re-entered the trail. We can see that, probably at the end of the day yesterday (the tracks had time to freeze in the slush, it provides good clues), five wolves passed by. There’s urine, wolf droppings, and moose hair in all of this. After they get out of the lake, you can see that they made a yarding area, to get back to the woods where there is more snow. It’s extremely interesting and we have all of this in our beautiful La Mauricie National Park.

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