Wolves!

So, after a crazy few weeks centered around a “relocation” of the Statham crew across town, I finally managed to get away for a day into the hills of Southern Alberta with the camera. My gratitude to my accepting wife as she was strapped with a very busy personal schedule on Sunday AND all three of our young kids, but I think she saw I was close to my breaking point and not only accepted me going, she urged me to go!

It was an early departure as I was hoping to be in the back-country for near first light, hoping primarily to see some of the bears that have made their appearance recently in the mountains, maybe even some cubs… The morning started out well in that before I had even made it half way to my ultimate destination, I had seen hundreds of deer, 3 moose, numerous coyotes and some elk, though all too early in the morning for any real semblance of shooting light. However, hopefully a sign of the day to come…

Shortly after sunrise, I came across a fairly cooperative herd of elk, made up largely of cows who must be getting very close to calving by now as well as a few nervous bulls still holding on to their antlers – Perhaps the cows were more “cooperative” as a result of the upcoming events and their interest in conserving energy! Regardless – a couple of them were quite content to let me move around slowly trying to get the most out of the early morning light and overcast conditions.

Bedded... (click to enlarge)

Bedded… (click to enlarge)

I moved further south and made my way along the highway slowly, scouting for those elusive dark brown or black critters rumored to be wandering the hills… I caught a quick glimpse of something back in the brush that caught my eye, but on closer inspection appeared to be nothing other than a fire-scared stump, so I drove on. But my mind wouldn’t let that dark shape go, so about 3 miles later I turned around to go have another look – What if it had actually been a bear? I guess I would never know if I had kept going, but my mind wasn’t going to let it go that easy… As I rounded a corner, there it was, right on the side of the road, and my first reaction was “That is the darkest coyote I have ever seen”. Within a millisecond tho’ the realization of the moment kicked in, as did the adrenaline… The big, gorgeous black wolf slowly wandered back into the brush off the right side of the road, so I turned off the truck and got out to see if I could catch a glimpse of it in the trees. I was devastated that it seemed to have slipped away cleanly and I hadn’t manged to get a single image of the event. Suddenly tho’ I had the feeling I was the one being watched, and I looked back out along the road, and there it was, just looking back at me looking for it! Now, a few things were working against me here – First, it was still very early, and it was overcast, so the light was really poor. Second, my camera really doesn’t like the high ISO settings needed to get useable images in such light… And lastly, the adrenaline now coursing thru my system had my hands trembling as I raised the camera to my eye.

End result – a soft, noisy image of a spectacular wolf that stood looking at me for a total of about 15 seconds before turning and trotting along the road and disappearing back into the trees. I managed to catch a quick glimpse of a second, larger and somewhat lighter member of this pack shortly afterwards as it crossed the road  about 80 yards in front of me, but couldn’t get a shot of the fleeting encounter.  I made my way back and forth over the next while, both in the truck and outside of it, hoping they would stay in the area and afford me more time with them, but they had disappeared back into the shadows of the forest… Walking the area that they had been in showed lots of sign that this was a well-used spot in recent times – Lots of scat, both old and new, as well as the cleaned and crushed remains of an elk skeleton, is enough evidence for me to plan a return trip – hopefully sooner than later!

Magnificent... (click to enlarge)

Magnificent… (click to enlarge)

What an amazing encounter…

The remainder of the day was gravy after those few minutes first thing in the morning… Though I never did see the bears I had originally set out after, the wolves more than made up for that disappointment. Not long after seeing the wolves, I was able to watch a big, beautiful coyote hunting for mice, though the target of this hunt managed to escape successfully despite the coyote’s best efforts – good for the mouse I guess! There were Bighorn sheep, swans and numerous other waterfowl, Pileated woodpeckers, Great Horned owls, and large numbers of mountain bluebirds and tree swallows… A great day to be in the mountains and foothills of Southwestern Alberta – I love where I live!

Got ya! (click to enlarge)

Got ya! (click to enlarge)

Hope everyone is having a great week!

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~ by Kerry Statham on May 1, 2013.

2 Responses to “Wolves!”

  1. That’s my idea of pretty amazing day! A wolf is a special prize.

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