Posts tagged “hunting

Afield with a fox on the hunt

langdon-fox-on-the-hunt-christopher-martin-5710

(Click on the image to open a larger version)

I found this Red fox last weekend in Langdon, Alberta.  She was hunting mice in a farm field. alongside the highway.  A couple of times she came relatively close to the fence.  I really liked this image from one of these nearby encounters.  I’m heading there this afternoon to see if I can find her, or one of the three Snowy owls I saw last Sunday, again.


More from the Banff wolf pack’s attack on the elk

Banff Wolf Pack Hunting - © Christopher Martin-1575

The story of the Banff wolf pack’s takedown of the elk last Sunday begins for me where Banff Avenue goes under the Trans-Canada Highway.  I had spent some time along the Vermilion Lakes, then the Bow Valley Parkway and was heading for the Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive.  At the stop sign I looked south for oncoming traffic and noticed movement up on the railway overpass.  Pulling off the road, I could see an elk from the shoulder up – the body blocked by the solid concrete side of the bridge.

Banff Wolf Pack Hunting an elk - © Christopher Martin-1462

The elk took a couple of paces, doubled back and then repeated that a couple of times.  It seemed unusual behaviour so I trained my telephoto lens on her to have a better look.  When I did, I couldn’t make out anything unusual – until a wolf’s head came into view when it leaped up and bit the elk’s neck!

Banff Wolf Pack Hunting - © Christopher Martin-1449

At that point, part of me was in amazement but the more important part got to work.  I ran up the small hill beside the bridge to get level with the animals.  As I did, I could see four wolves (although the pack has five members; I just don’t have one photograph with more than four but all five were likely there) surrounding the elk.  I did not see what led to the elk being on the bridge but suspect it was herded there by the wolves.

Banff Wolf Pack Hunting - © Christopher Martin-1603

Over the next seven minutes, the wolves alternated between attacking the animal and walling it in on the bridge.  Both the herding and the attacking suggested great intelligence and teamwork.

Banff Wolf Pack Hunting - © Christopher Martin-1605

The large male, likely the alpha, which primarily attacked the face and neck alternated initial lunges with the other wolves at the back.  Whoever went first would dodge and parry the increasingly weak counters by the elk while the others would bite viciously while her attention was distracted from them.

Banff Wolf Pack Hunting - © Christopher Martin-1493

When the elk would get closer to one of the ends of the bridge, the wolves would line up along the edge and force her back towards the middle.  During the struggle, she was pulled down twice and recovered her legs before being taken down for good by the alpha in a twisting move of immense power.

Banff Wolf Pack Hunting - © Christopher Martin-1608

The cold air, it was about -15°C at 10AM when I came across the attack, condensed the breath and the heat from the open wounds into steam that added to the poignancy of the scene.

Banff Wolf Pack Hunting - © Christopher Martin-1633

When the elk was down, the pack wasted no time in starting their feast.  They had about 45 minutes before the carcass was removed which gave the whole pack time to get at least one full meal down.

Banff Wolf Pack Hunting - © Christopher Martin-1760

Banff Wolf Pack Hunting - © Christopher Martin-1781

Parks Canada has said that the elk was removed due to the location beside the tracks in the middle of the bridge and the danger that would pose to the wolves and the other animals the kill would attract.  I fully agree with that and hope the carcass is taken to a location where the pack can find it again whenever that decision makes sense.  I had hoped they might move the carcass to another location immediately but there are a number of factors involved in making those decisions.  I respect the Parks Canada people that follow these wolves on a daily basis and believe they will continue to make those calls with the best outcome for the wildlife.  I certainly appreciate their work getting the trains slowed down for a period of time after the attack and giving the wolves a decent amount of time before the elk was moved.

Banff Wolf Pack Hunting - © Christopher Martin-1832

I will post a few more images a little later but wanted to share the story as I saw it now.


Wolf pack attack in the Banff National Park

Banff wolf pack hunting an elk - © Christopher Martin-1607
On the weekend I was able to watch an amazing encounter in the Banff National Park.  A pack of four wolves hunted and took down an elk on the outskirts of the Banff townsite.  The wolves had trapped the elk on a train overpass and wore the much larger animal down with continuous lunges and bites.  I will detail how the scene unfolded in an upcoming story but I wanted to share this image while I had a few minutes.  Watching this was a window into survival in nature and I came away in awe of the victors and their tenacity, intelligence and cooperation.  A shadow of sadness for the elk was a part of this story and I gave thanks for what that life lost meant to this pack.


Snowy owl on the hunt in Irricana

 

Spring Snowy Owls - © Christopher Martin-1653-2

This Snowy owl’s dive into the grass directly below was a great moment to watch.  The bird’s intense focus when it started tracking the prey from the perch on the fence through to the awesome descent to attack were welcome rewards given the time invested.  I found this Snowy on this fence post a little after 9 am and quickly set up my camera and lens across the field from her.  For the next 2 1/2 hours, she shuffled, scratched, preened, and dozed.  She seemed to have little interest in me, the field mice or in flying for most of that time.  She kept watch of everything going on around her but her talons may have been nailed to the wood!  I was hadn’t expected to wait that long but with her relaxed manner, I hoped when she did fly it would be in the direction she faced when I first stopped.  That direction was facing towards me and in the end she did do that.  I thought if she flew that way, I would have a few in flight opportunities but this dive was short in both time and distance.  I was happy to have captured a couple of frames before she disappeared into the grass.

Spring Snowy Owls - © Christopher Martin-1654-2

I waited for about 10 minutes for her to climb out of the tall grass and when she did it was heading away from me.  Given the time on the ground, I would wager that she did catch the prey and spent the time out of sight enjoying the meal.