Welcome to Parks Canada Heroes!

Four Parks handlers Left to Right: Dale Portman, Scott Ward, God Peyto and Alfie Burstrom, who was the first avalanche dog handler in Canada. His first dog was Ginger, but featured in this photo is Bosco

Ned’s Wish is honored to welcome Parks Canada dogs to our pack.

Did you know that the National Parks Police Dog Program has been in existence for over 50 years.

A feasibility assessment began in 1969 and the parks K9 program was approved in 1970. The parks K9 program officially started in January 1971 when Jasper park warden Alfie Burstrom and his German Shepherd/coyote-cross dog named Ginger completed training with the RCMP at the Innisfail training centre. Alfie was also the first certified avalanche dog handler in North America.

Ginger and Alfie Burstrom proved the value of the national park dog program when they found 2 avalanche victims in February 1972 on Jasper’s Mt. Edith Cavell. A trained dog on an avalanche deposit can cover the area 30 to 50 times faster than a probe line of trained searchers. The first two RCMP dog teams subsequently received their avalanche validations in the winter of 1972/1973. Two more national park dog teams were certified by the RCMP training centre in the fall of 1973.

Parks Warden Scott Ward and his Second PSD K9 SMOKEY after graduating with other RCMP Dog Handlers

The national parks and the RCMP have had a long history of working together with the K9 teams. The RCMP have provided suitable dogs and training, while the national parks mountain rescue specialists have provided avalanche rescue and mountain travel skills training to RCMP K9 teams.

To date there have only been 12 parks dog handlers, some with multiple K9 partners over the years, in Canada’s national parks. The teams have been instrumental in finding lost souls, recovering avalanche victims, tracking criminals, detecting illicit drugs and finding human remains. National parks K9 teams over the years have been rarer than grizzly bears on the landscape, and some would even say approaching “endangered species” status. Their numbers may have been small, but their impact over the past five-plus decades has been beyond huge.

Featured here are three Park Warden handlers with their K9 partners from left to right: Scott Ward & Smokey, Dale Portman & Sam, and Gord Payto & Saxton

Reference note:
National Park Dog Handlers: Alfie Burstrom, Earl Skjonsberg, Jack Woledge, Gord Peyto, Dale Portman, Scott Ward, Roger Baird, Paul Oshefsky, Will Devlin, Mike Henderson, Darian Sillence, Logan Bennett

Retired Park Warden Scott Ward and his first PSD K9 GYPSY