During the trip through the Jasper National Park last month, we found an elk feasting in a vibrant meadow on one of the evenings. This bull’s antlers were one of the most impressive I have seen on a young elk. The summer seemed to be moving along well for this beautiful creature judging by the growing rack and the shiny coat.
We’re up in Banff for a few days and staying at the Douglas Fir Resort (nice place with an excellent waterslide for the kids) on Tunnel Mountain. We drove past a few elk (wapiti) cows near the lodge yesterday which served as good foreshadowing for this morning.
I went down to the Vermilion Lakes for a sunrise shoot and when I was out on the lake edge I noticed this bull elk laying down on the hill above me along the wildlife fence that runs along the highway corridor to prevent wildlife collisions. I carried on with my landscape shooting for almost an hour and when I returned to my car saw the bull had only moved a few meters along the ridge. I changed to a telephoto lens and climbed up the mountainside a fair distance away from him. I stayed in sight so he knew where I was and headed up the opposite direction from where his grazing was taking him along the ridge. I wasn’t sure if the elk would stick around or trot around the rocks. I was wading through some deep snow so it took a few minutes to get up but he hadn’t wandered away. I set up my tripod and then photographed the beautiful animal for about half an hour before I headed back down. He was eating the whole time and was not bothered by me (a true advantage of longer lenses) so his head was down low most of the time. He did raise his head up a few times, once in response to a train whistle, and I took a couple of those images. Really a great encounter – too bad a little sunlight couldn’t break through the morning cloudbank to bring some warm illumination to that coat – but no complaints.
Elk are members of the deer family which, in North America, includes moose, whitetails and mule deer. In sheer size, they aren’t the largest but as you can see with this buck their antlers can be incredible. This fellow is young and skinny. I think the winter has been hard on many animals this year with the cold and the deep snow burning a lot of calories that are hard to come by. A very good reason to look forward to spring.
The deck off of our bedroom looks over the path that runs the length of Redwood Meadows towards the Elbow River. A couple of days ago, I was looking out of the windows towards the water and I saw a large bump in a clearing in the trees just across the trail. I ran out of the house with my 300mm lens to grab my tripod from my car and then walked up the rise. I thought it was a moose and I was really excited to see a young cow laying down in the snow. She seemed to be relaxing in the last sunshine of the afternoon. With the long lens, I was able to stay a good distance from the moose and she was not upset having me nearby. When their ears lay back and they keep their eyes pinned on you then you need to back away and possibly leave. I try to keep that from happening so that they stay comfortable and I can spend some time with them.
After a few images, she stopped nuzzling in the snow and got up to nibble on the twigs and branches. With her slowly walking westwards, I headed further down the path to the trail that leads down to the river. My thought being that if the moose kept moving west, she would come to this path which would allow for unobstructed photographs with the opening in the forest.
Leaving the moose behind, I lost track of her for a few minutes. I thought she might have headed through the forest north directly to the river but then I heard some rustling and soon saw her among the trees near the path. Here she was munching on foliage and watching me. I had set up in the middle of the path as I wanted her to see me and then choose whether to come closer or remain in the forest. With moose, I prefer to make sure they know where I am as they can become stressed if you disappear then suddenly appear or create noise nearby (per the shutter on a camera). She moved parallel to me and then crossed the small clearing and dined on the branches skirting the edge of the path.
Heading down the path, I thought she was going to the river but then she headed east, backtracking into the forest. At that point, I thought she was gone for the day. Evening was coming in quickly so I headed on to the river to see what the sunset might look like. The last one I shot there in December was beautiful so it is always worth checking. There wasn’t too much color to the west so I headed up one of the dried up channels of the river and was very happy to see my new friend once more. She had toured through the woods and then headed to this arm of the river to continue grazing.
I didn’t follow her this time as she trekked through the snow, heading up another path to my house. At the top of the trail, I looked for her and this is the last image I made with her heading north into a stand of trees towards the main part of the river. Possibly to cross into the undeveloped forest there or to continue her eastward trek between the Elbow and our small community.
Moose are not a rarity around Bragg Creek, but this was the first time that I have seen a moose directly in Redwood Meadows. A very special encounter with a beautiful animal.