From February 7th-14th only, join Jill and Simon for a one-of-a-kind journey into Canada’s prairies to learn about and document one of North America’s most remarkable creatures.
“I’m quite literally vibrating”, Simon said. “We are going to see something exceptional. I don’t know what it’s going to be, but it’s going to be amazing. I just know it.”
To be clear, Simon is usually a pessimistic soul when it comes to believing we’ll find animals and here he was calling the shot, Babe Ruth style.
Two minutes later, we both see a dark spot lingering near the side of the road. It was still quite far away, and around a bend, so we assumed it was the hump of a moose, hidden behind a snow bank, licking salt on its belly. But a second after we declare “MOOSE!” (to the eternal excitement of Jill’s sister Candace, whose long running dream has been to see the awkward ungulate up close and personal) we start to see legs and realize it absolutely not a moose.
What could it be? In this area? At this time of year?
Wolf? A black wolf? Maybe…
After the wolverine, a fisher might rank as the second most elusive creature to find and photograph in the Canadian wild. So when we found one this past winter, we were caught off guard. Like literally caught off guard. We had just returned from a prolonged backcountry snowshoe
Easily the best encounter we had in 2017, as far as documenting cool behaviour goes, was the chance to observe a fox family move its den. The circumstances were a little troubling: The family had taken up residence in an abandoned building and the kits used the entire structure as their playground. However, when we arrived one early morning, we noticed numerous broken bottles and came to realize that some people had used the space for a large party the night before (even though they were likely aware of the fox family in residence).
Cross foxes are a unique part-melanistic colour phase of the red fox that produces a silvery-black cross colouring of the normally red fur. The cross fox isn’t that rare – the further north you go, the more common it becomes and it’s certainly even more common that the relatively rare full-melanistic colour phase, commonly referred to as a silver fox. Spotting a cross fox, however, isn’t that easy and it was Jill’s first encounter and the best chance Simon has had to actually capture an image.
Like many of you, we’re sure that you’ve spotted many porcupines after dark. But in daylight? That’s a much tougher task. Up until 2017, we’ve continuously failed to document this nocturnal creature, but the year began with the chance to snag a couple of pour quality images of the animal sleeping in a tree. But when we visited Grasslands National Park in April, we couldn’t believe our luck to stumble upon (literally) a porcupine walking around the area near where we were camping.
River otters are not endangered or rare, but they are extremely hard to find in Canada’s mountain parks. Many locals, in fact, don’t even know they exist and those that do can count their encounters on one hand. Thus to have spotted three otters as they traversed from one habitat to another was not only unique, but incredibly lucky. To have an encounter that lasted for hours and enabled us to watch the mustelids without altering their behaviour was something beyond special – it was a gift that we’ll be forever grateful to have received.
Yes, this is an awful photograph. And, no, the encounter was hardly spectacular. After a week of driving a 10km stretch of road at 10km/hour from before dawn to after dusk, we were at least happy that we could confirm that, indeed, we saw a lynx. Despite the disappointment of not netting a quality image, it was a first for us and any time you see a cat, it registers as a unique moment.
The burrowing owl is one of Canada’s more endangered species and sightings are indeed very rare. We have been very fortunate to have had one brief encounter with the tiny, grassland-dwelling owl, but 2017 offered a second, much better opportunity to actually capture respectful images. While camping in Grasslands National Park in April, the burrowing owls return for the summer during our stay and, over two days, we were briefly able to watch as a mating pair hunted prairie dogs in the shared space both animals reside.