When my sister Vera and Merv were here in June, we were always on the lookout for game on our loop through the Rockies. We were not disappointed.
“Are those deer in an enclosure?” The question was inevitable, since they are not native to Australia and raised only on farms there. We described how deer leap fences of any normal height, are free to come and go as they please, and are indeed wild animals. To her delight, Vera caught sight of one with two fawns.
“I saw a bear!” announced Vera as we travelled towards Golden. The black bear was munching grass and dandelions just below us, between Highway 1 and the railway line, undisturbed by our chatter and camera clicks. Another happy chappie was seen soon after.
As we turned off the highway towards Lake Louise, I glimpsed bear #3 across the highway on an intersecting road. Looping over, we observed a silvertip grizzly plucking flowers in a relatively small field. A wire fence separated the line of cars along the roadside from this massive creature. Photographers walked down to it, taking pictures as the grizzly munched its way away from us. By the time the bear started back towards the fence, a park ranger had arrived. This was good, as he waved people back up to their vehicles.
“That fellow could walk through the fence as if it wasn’t even there,” John told us.
Another unique critter was waiting for us as we descended from Moraine Lake. The sight of a porcupine chomping beside the road had the car screeching to a halt and reversing carefully. We could see this prickly fellow clearly, until Merv stepped out of the car. In a flash, it disappeared.
At the Hoodoos near Banff, Vera and Merv were, as usual, distracted from those eroded shapes by the colonies of wee critters living in the gritty earth; chipmunks, red squirrels, and Columbian ground squirrels scurried thither and yon, or sat watching the humans watch them. None of these live in Australia and are fascinating to all Aussies – including me.
Soon after we turned onto the Icefields Parkway, a dark-coloured grizzly ambled across the road and strode up the sloping bank beside us.
“Did you see its long, curving claws?” asked John. Yes, it was that close, but we were safely within our metal box and the grizzly was intent on its own mission.
On the steep hill near Columbia Icefields, a Rocky Mountain sheep and her lamb nibbled at sparse pickings near the road. When Mama placed herself between her offspring and Merv’s clicking camera, she appeared to have extra legs.
Rain showed no intention of stopping when we were in Jasper, so we were most surprised to see an elk lying on the grassy bank just above the road. As we reversed for a better look, she stayed put. Her calf, out of sight until now, stood up in the long grass, shook itself, and looked miserable! However, it waited until pictures were taken and Mom said it could sit down again, having done its duty for Jasper’s Chamber of Commerce.
Another “animal sighting” got our attention as well – but two black cubs up separate trees never moved, a lovely hoax. We hadn’t yet seen any moose, but had high hopes for the area west of Jasper along Highway 16 the following morning, weather much improved. Once again we were lucky. Mama moose posed patiently as we, and a busload of Aussie tourists, took photos.
All were well-satisfied at seeing so many animals. Every continent has an amazing array of wildlife; each sighting gives us a glimpse into their world.