Update on the cattle at West Bragg

-CBC reporter Sarah Lawrynuik interviews Peter Tucker from GBCTA-

Update Sep 5: Here’s the web story from CBC Plenty of poop on freshly paved parking lot irks outdoor enthusiasts 

CBC reporter Sarah Lawrynuik was at the West Bragg Creek parking lot today, doing interviews regarding the cattle situation in the West Bragg Creek parking lot. For some background, see my previous update Disgusting, repulsive situation at West Bragg Creek.

CBC reporter Sarah Lawrynuik, Eric Lloyd, Peter Tucker

I was expecting to see something on tonight’s news, but it didn’t materialize. I believe the CBC was unable to track down the rancher who has the grazing allotment, and they like to get both sides of the story, so hopefully we’ll see something tomorrow.

Cows gathering around the picnic tables near the trails centre at West Bragg Creek

I had the pleasure of meeting two of the men who were instrumental in creating the West Bragg Creek multi-use trail system, Eric Lloyd and Peter Tucker. Peter is one of the interviewees and he was giving some excellent insight into the situation. I learned a lot that I wasn’t aware of. 

This week, I’m also expecting to hear from the MLA for Bragg Creek, Cameron Westhead, who said he was going to look into the situation.

This article in the Calgary Herald about grazing leases will make you cringe Financial watchdog “flabbergasted” at foregone grazing lease dollars.

Cattle and E Coli

Dr. David Cebuliak, one of the volunteers at WBC, who also happens to be a clinical lecturer, emergency medicine, faculty of medicine, at U of C, has sent me two scientific papers that highlight the significant public health risk posed by E Coli 0157.

Cebuliak says “E Coli 0157 can be acquired from direct contact with Cows and their feces ( ie not necessarily from ingestion of contaminated food). The most important risk is development of Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome ( HUS)- a significant cause of acute kidney injury in children and increasingly in adults. It can be fatal especially for children.

The view from Ranger Summit bike trail

As highlighted in these papers, a parking lot or field with significant amounts of cow manure present is a risk to public health that we need to work with Government to mitigate.”

On another note, I’ve been enjoying the biking on the wonderful trails at West Bragg Creek. I’ve biked quite a few of them, and still have many to check out. I was diligent about avoiding all the fresh manure on the trails so that I wouldn’t drag it home on my bike tires. I observed a 3-year-old boy joyfully playing “candy-on-a-stick” with dried out cowpies. 


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  1. Hello Bob,
    I heard you had some flack from a crowd that has no concern with Cows in the West Bragg Creek parking lot! I totally resonate with your concerns. The cows can be a danger to the families that come to WBC to hike and for people who mountain bike. A cow/bike collision would not be a pretty picture!

    Cow pies, lead to hay and brome grass growing in and around the trails. They are like rope to ski through and lead to a mono-culture crop of non-native cattle feed that completely eliminates the wildflowers. The wild forest eco-system and the wild flowers that grow there are part of a hiker’s enjoyment.

    These native flowers are also important for the pollinator insects that feed birds, fish and other insect predators. So if you love fishing, birding or wildflowers and don’t like mosquitoes, the Cows are best on the acreage.
    Yours Julie*

  2. I was there Saturday and rode boundary, snagmore, sugar daddy, strange brew. Saw some cows. I find seeing them sort of entertaining. Saw some cow patties. Not that many. Saw more horse shit. The horses are pretty much guaranteed to go on the trails. Saw exactly the same number of cows right on the trail as bears on the trail….1 of each.

    I didn’t see much mess in the parking lot. Same cow pie in one corner as was there last week so leads me to believe there was no cleanup. Just found it wasn’t that bad and maybe quite a bit of hyperbole is being applied. Don’t get me wrong I have lots of issues with how these leases work…..and maybe the cows needn’t be right in the parking lot but I find it far from a ‘repulsive’ situation.

    I actually came to respond to a rant by a rancher but maybe he thought better of it and deleted. Certainly wasn’t going to sway any votes his way I wouldn’t think.

  3. Sadly that article on grazing leases is over 2 years old. What has substantially changed in that time? I suspect if some of the suggested changes were made to bring leases in line with Sask and BC many leases would just be ‘let go’. A lot of problems and maybe this specific one would just go away. It would be nice if our MLA Cam Westhead made an effort at a prompt response on this.

  4. It’s good to hear an escalation on this issue in the mainstream media. Well done to WBC stewards and others that appropriately raised it. This occurrence only highlights the tip of an iceberg on public lands conflicts in the eastern slopes from the Bow to the Crowsnest and highlights an inadequate land use policy for the region and inconsistent enactment of the patchwork of legislation. Hoping for a cooperative resolution.

    • Hi Jeremy, I like your comment above. As an interpretive hiking guide, more and more I am guiding clients through hay fields that used to be full of wildflowers. Don’t get me wrong, I love beef and have realized that the only way not to be a hypocrite is to cut down on my beef consumption. But seeing Calypso Orchids, and dwarf dogwood is also part of my joy!
      All the best,
      Julie Walker

  5. I was pulling into the parking lot last night when I heard the story about this situation on CBC radio. As I was coming out on Bragging Rights on my bike later that evening (now dusk), I came around a corner and just about slammed into a cow straddling the trail. Luckily it wasn’t a bull, but the cow was just as stunned as I was, and if it decided to act aggressively, I would have had limited options to get out of the situation.

    I got lucky, but someone’s going to get hurt. You just can’t mix hundreds of people focused on other things with a herd of animals, and not expect bad things to happen.

    The horses are a problem too. Aside from dodging horse manure scattered all over the trails, the real issue is that they destroy purpose-built mountain biking trails and make what were intended to be safe trails into a rutted mess. Snakes n’ Ladders (a purpose-built mountain biking trail) was a liability to ride earlier this season when horse riders trashed the trails by using them when the ground was soft. I encountered a couple of horses going down one of the steeper parts of Snakes n’ Ladders, and because one of their horses was skiddish around bikes, the horseman asked me to haul myself and my bike down into the woods so they could get by and continue trashing the trail.

    It’s at the point now where I think twice about whether to use the area for mountain biking. Trail hazards are always a part of mountain biking. However, its unreasonably dangerous to amplify the hazards because of a herd of cattle grazing on trails used by hundreds of mountain bikers a day, or because horse riders want equal access to purpose-built mountain bike trails when there are plenty of other horse appropriate trail options in the area.

    It’s long past due the time for the province to recognize that free-for-all access for cows and horses to a busy parking lot and purpose-built mountain biking trails is creating unreasonable danger that’s going to result in injury and/or fewer people using the area.

    • I have been involved with the Greater Bragg Creek Trails Association since 2009, when we were developing the West Bragg Creek All-Seasons Trail Plan. I suggest you read the Trail plan. There are no purpose built mountain bike trails at West Bragg Creek. They are multi-user trails that are meant to be used by hikers, mountain bikers, trail runners, dog walkers, equestrians and snowshoers/fat bikers in the winter. Just because a lot of mountain bikers use these trails, it does not mean that these are just mountain bike trails. You should also know that equestrians have donated more than $50,000 towards building and maintaining these trails.
      However, this does not excuse anyone on horseback or on a bike from damaging any trail by riding when the ground is wet.
      The cattle grazers, on the other hand, have never contributed anything to the trails…other than manure.

    • The cows and other wildlife are present in the park. There are many obstacles including hikers, children, dogs, other mountain bikers, trees, roots, rocks and mud you have to negotiate as you/we fly down the hills especially Bragging Rights.
      I’ve read the arguments. I still don’t think this is a issue to loose sleep over.

      • Jeremy, agreed. This is a multi-use area, and as some have pointed out, some folks or groups have contributed $$ to support it, while others may have not. I hope we don’t measure entrance fee or right to use by how much we have paid. But we are all Albertans (or most of us :)) so I say respect the other users as best we can, and under any circumstances if riding or hiking at dusk, be a little more careful.

  6. I am surprised to see such disgust at an aspect of Canadian outdoor recreation and work that I see quite a bit on other trails off highway 66. I was recently hiking Fullerton loop and saw many new cowpies, and was greeted by a quiet black heifer right at the top of that trail. Sorry it doesnt look as nice as when it is on a dirt trail, but we share these multi-use areas with many other people, including those who run their cattle through here.
    I have only come across fresh cowpies and many cows a few times in the 5 years or so I have been hiking out here, so I would say if it offends you, wait a week and all the cowchips will be dry, and you will be good to go again.
    As somebody lse already posted, dont eat the dirt, or the cowpies, but really, dont be afraid of them, for goodness sake!

    • The issue here is not as much that the cows are roaming the woods, but that they overtake a provincial PRA (Parking lot/Day use) on a daily basis. This is where the public is expected to park, picnic, etc. I don’t think it’s reasonable to completely evict them from the 20+ square KM in the area, but keeping them out of a PRA/Day use area is a logical and sensible step. FYI the PRA extends about 500m around the parking lot. Would this behaviour be allowed in the immediate area of the Canmore Nordic Center? I think not.

    • Asking people to arrange their lives around the cows schedule is unrealistic at best. Most folks are busy and don’t have time to watch the shit get dry. The summer is short and weather unpredictable. We are fortunate enough when we can get out to play. There is no need to throw additionally a cow dung in our sprockets. No one is eating dirt on purpose. Mountain bikes have no fenders and some mud from tires gets on rider face. E-coli is biological health hazard.
      The cowboy does not own the land and cows are no sacred cows. It is time to end the shit show and at least do not extend grazing permit for this area. Let the democracy prevail.

  7. Settle down.
    I love the trails at West Bragg. I cross country ski, snow shoe and mountain bike. I was hiking the trails today, and I enjoy Skier Bob’s posts.
    As far as I can see, this is not an issue to get upset over.
    In fact, I like to see the horses and cattle and so does my wife (I just asked her).
    I’m not a scientist, but I understand E. coli 0157 is commonly found in soil, so if you eat mud when you come off your mountain bike, you are just as likely to be exposed to the bacteria.

    • Despite growing up on a farm with cattle, I don’t like parking in cow manure. I think it’s shameful for the taxpayers of Alberta to spend $2.5 million on paving the parking lot, only to have it overrun by cattle and their excrement.

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