NWT government green-lights Wood Buffalo snakations

Red-sided garter snakes in Wood Buffalo National Park
Red-sided garter snakes in Wood Buffalo National Park. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

The NWT government says residents snaking across the border to watch wildlife in Wood Buffalo National Park this spring don’t need to isolate on their return.

This week, Parks Canada issued guidance for people heading to the park to see red-sided garter snakes, which emerge around this time of year to find food and mate. The snakes form mating balls and are considered a big local attraction.

However, the Karstland Trail that offers prime snake-viewing is on the Alberta side of the border.

After Cabin Radio publicized the forthcoming snake spectacle, several residents wrote to question whether the NWT’s travel and isolation restrictions would allow cross-border trips by NWT residents purely for the purpose of watching lustful snakes. One resident said they had previously contacted Protect NWT and been denied permission to head to the Alberta portions of the national park for camping or day trips.



Contacted by Cabin Radio, a spokesperson for the NWT government said residents had permission to head over to the park and back.

A checkpoint at the border, outside the town of Fort Smith, is already used to issue locals with passes allowing them isolation-free transit to and from nearby destinations on either side. The portions of Alberta accessible by road from Fort Smith are considered sufficiently detached from the remainder of Alberta that little to no threat exists of Covid-19 entering the NWT from that direction.

The checkpoint is not staffed at night, meaning there is no real border protection of consequence.

“NWT residents are able to cross the border into Wood Buffalo National Park to see snakes at Karstland Trail for day trips and do not need to file a self-isolation plan or self-isolate upon return,” Dawn Ostrem, a communications manager for the NWT government’s Covid-19 Secretariat, said by email.

Ostrem said more information about access to the park for NWT residents and isolation requirements would be available “in the coming days,” but did not suggest the territory’s policy was likely to change.