By Rob Ficiur
The prairie scenery in the County of Forty Mile and most of Cypress County spoils us with the amount of wildlife that roams our area. Having lived and driven in this area for 28 years it has become easy to take for granted some of the beauty that nature has to offer in the flat (sometimes rolling) prairie.
Moose – “new signs” – Only in the last decade have moose been a common sight in this area. When the County of Forty Mile first put up the Moose Crossing sign between Bow Island and Foremost a few years ago I wondered if the workers put up the wrong sign. Sure enough, moose sightings have now become common. There is nothing as majestic as watching a bull moose trotting at cruising speed at the top of the north Forty Mile coulee. When I saw this one morning, I knew at the speed the bull was travelling there was no time to get my camera from the back seat; it was one of those watch and remember moments.
In the last year, I have seen cow moose about five times. When I first starting seeing them, I would stop and watch even if I was so far away the moose was no bigger than a speck. Now that they are more of a common site, I look and keep driving.
Deer – Alberta, is somewhat unique in that we have both white tail and mule deer. When I first moved to Foremost, I was excited every time we saw a herd of deer; and fearful every time I saw them driving at night. Nowadays when I see a herd of deer, I rarely slow down.
Earlier this month my son and I came upon a herd of mule deer on a fence line. It is still amazing to watch mule deer run – which means they hop. Most of the herd jumped the fence and took off into the neighboring field. I knew they could jump the fence, but it was still amazing to watch. One straggler did not feel like jumping the fence so he ran along the fence line parallel to our road / trail. Any moment I knew – or I thought I knew – he would jump the fence. Instead, he turned left directly in front of our vehicle. Now he was on the left side of the road running full speed. As unpredictable as before, he darted across the road a second time and then disappeared down the fence line. The mule deer that seem so every day to observe, can still amaze.
Antelope – Growing up in the Lethbridge area, I cannot remember ever seeing antelope. They only live in this southeast corner of Alberta. Seeing antelope was a novelty when we moved here. Today I am far more likely to stop and observe antelope than deer. Usually when I stop the car, the antelope flee in the opposite direction. A close up look at Pronghorns (their technical name) is not easy from the road.
When we were driving, we spotted a trophy antelope with about four does. To my surprise when we pulled to the side of the road, the herd did not move. They kept grazing as if we were not there watching them. When one of the pronghorn does tried to run off, the buck swiftly and effectively chased it back to the herd. That was another of those memories caught in the brain, because there was no way to get it on film.
Elk – The day my son and I went out looking at pronghorns, my wife said she had never seen an elk in our area. As we drove (without her) in the truck we spotted two bull elk on the side of the road. When we stopped to observe them, the young males stood proudly so that we could get a good picture. An hour later as we drove back in the dark – far from where we spotted these two, the same bulls ran across the gravel road. Promptly they decide they didn’t’ like that side of the road and returned to where they were. I did get a couple of dark grainy pictures and a blurry video of them moving. The pictures are all poor quality – except to those who were there – what we see is not the blurry dark scenery – the pictures remind us of a memorable encounter with nature.
We need not be fans of all nature’s creatures. I find gophers annoying. A year ago when we were in Alaska, we had a tour of Mount Denali park. There we saw bears, caribou and doll sheep. A lady from New Jersey, on our tour, got all excited when the tour guide pointed out what I call a Big Gopher (not the technical name). I told her if she would like a pet Big Gopher come to our house and she can have all the gophers that call our yard their home.