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Sometimes an image or a story suddenly flashes across the internet. A friend will e-mail you a link or a photo that is amazing or cool or just tickles your funny bone. Sometimes they're true, sometimes they're hoaxes, sometimes they're a mixture. Here are a couple of cases where Banff National Park has "gone viral".
The story: A visiting couple sets up their camera on self-timer to take a picture of them on the shore of a mountain lake. But a ground squirrel pops up into the foreground of the photo as the camera goes off, and steals the scene!
True or false? True! Columbian ground squirrels, like the one seen in the photo taken on the shore of Lake Minnewanka, are everywhere in Banff, and are not too shy about having their pictures taken. In fact, the media-savvy Banff Crasher Squirrel now has his own Facebook page and Youtube video (courtesy of the nice folks at Banff Lake Louise). The LOLcat people have put him on a t-shirt, and he received a 2009 Urly award from the editors of Urlesque.com for the Best Photobomb/Photoshop Trend of the Year
The story: A photo is enclosed which claims to show the actual turn-off from Banff to the Trans-Canada highway to Calgary. You can see three overpass bridges in the photo; the one in the foreground is covered with elk crossing over the on-ramp below. The claim is that this photo shows a crossing built expressly for elk to prevent highway accidents. "It didn't take the animals long to learn that this was their very own bridge!"
True or false? Both. When the section of the Trans-Canada going through Banff National Park was expanded to four lanes from two lanes, a number of measures were taken to reduce animal fatalities. The most prominent of these was a 2.4m (8 ft) fence on both sides of the highway, to keep wildlife off the road. However, the wildlife needed to have their own ways to cross the highway safely, so a system of highway underpasses was included in the plan. After monitoring showed that some species of animals (particularly predators) were reluctant to use the underpasses, two very natural looking overpasses were built. However, the photo does not show either of these overpasses. Instead, the elk are using a train bridge to cross the highway. This bridge was constructed with enough space for two sets of tracks, but only one set of tracks has been laid, leaving a free "lane" that the elk use to access the grassy meadow on the other side. Snopes link (includes photo). Parks Canada images of wildlife crossings. 10 Quick Facts on the Banff NP wildlife crossings.