Hikers urge caution after body of missing Ontario man found
“I certainly wouldn’t do it alone,” avid outdoorsman Robin Blais said
Blais is part of Regina Hikers, a group of people who have trekked hundreds of kilometers through the province’s parks, including Grasslands National Park.
“There’s cougars, especially on the western side. There would probably be coyotes and stuff like that and I’m not sure if there’s any wolves in that area, but I would be concerned about wildlife for sure,” Blais cautioned.
The national park is situated in the southern portion of the province, stretching from Val Marie, Sask. to the Montana border.
But it hasn’t been the parks serene pastures or roaming bison that have put it under the national spotlight.
An intensive six-day search discovered the body of 63-year-old Donald Stoliker just south of Grasslands. The Ontarian had been attempting to hike a roughly 80 km route in the park’s western section.
The provincial coroner is investigating the death, although RCMP have not deemed the death suspicious. Still, it’s a poignant reminder for hikers.
“Well there’s not many trees so there’s not much shade. There is some water in different locations, but it’s mostly dugouts and maybe the odd creek that might dry up from time to time,” Blais said.
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“People often times look upon Saskatchewan as this flat place between Winnipeg and Calgary when we have absolutely diverse landscapes,” Joe Milligan, a park interpretation specialist with the province’s Parks Division added.
So far 61 people have been declared “lost or missing” in the country’s national parks in 2018, three in Grasslands National Parks – although Parks Canada cautions the majority of these incidents involve “a situation such as a child being separated from his or her parents in a campground or visitors who arrived later than expected from their trip.” They also added all of those issues were resolved.
Stoliker’s disappearance was the first time a large scale search and rescue was conducted in Grasslands National Park, and is the first visitor fatality related to the park.
“Parks Canada is deeply saddened by this incident and would like to express sincere condolences to Mr. Stoliker`s family and friends at this difficult time. Parks Canada takes incidents like these very seriously. After every incident, Parks Canada evaluates and identifies areas where we could improve visitor safety,” Parks Canada said in an emailed statement.
Saskatchewan Parks recommend hikers bring multiple means of communications as well as a GPS when hiking, but above all they recommend a plan.
“Write out what you’re going to be doing when you plan to be back, write out information such as your vehicle license plate number, the type of vehicle, the colour of your tent, make sure it goes to a responsible person whether that’s a person at home or people in a park setting so they know where to look for you, a place last seen we like to call it,” Milligan said.
Backcountry campers in Grasslands National Park are required to purchase a backcountry use permit, provide emergency contact information and indicate their expected date of return. They’re also asked to check in with Parks Canada staff before leaving the park.
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