A few weeks ago, Ava, a Filipino blog reader wondered what elk was after I mentioned we were going to have elk for our Christmas meal.
So after plumbing into our well of digital photo archives, I resurfaced with some wonderful photos: I just could not write a blog post that featured a dish of meat against these magnificent animals.
It is not a contradiction for me since I do eat meat several times per month – very lean meat and seafood. We buy directly from farmers who raise elk and deer for meat. They are there at the Calgary Farmers’ Market, along with the bison ranchers. We only have this meat several times annually since it is not cheap but in Alberta, the quality is excellent and it is locally raised.
These blog photos were taken in the Canadian national parks where these animals are protected wildlife. Our photos were taken in the national parks of Banff and Jasper. Hunting is illegal and for a good reason. As more tourists pile into the parks, roads and trails built for human travel, the wildlife are increasingly pushed further away from their natural feeding and grazing areas. Several million visitors visit these parks annually year round. These parks are rock-stars that give Canada the world-wide fame for its many million hectares of remote, awe-inspiring mountain wilderness and wildlife.
Woodland Caribou Herds –Recovery of Endangered Species
Most recently the Canadian federal government authority, Parks Canada that is responsible for federal, protected wildlife and national park areas across Canada, have
raised the numbers of the endangered species, the woodland caribou in the Albertan Rocky Mountains. Some caribou will be returned to their natural habitat starting this year. (Sorry, we don’t have any personal photos.)
Secondly, starting in 2013, Parks Canada will shut down the Bow Valley Parkway highway annually from Banff to Lake Louise, at night during March to July to prevent car traffic. This quieter highway is parallel to the busy Trans-Canada Highway. This effort will be enforced and allow the wildlife to move down from the mountains to graze freely in their natural feeding areas and migrate about undistributed.
Hungry After Every Snowy Mountain Winter
In March 2001, we saw a lot of deer and some elk when we drove along the Parkway. The snow along the road had melted off and the naked mountain sides had not fully bloomed with their tender spring green tree buds. Many of these animals looked thin after long, snowy mountain winter and were scrounging around for food near the roadside in the forested areas.
This is Nature’s typical cycle of animals either re-emerging after winter hibernation or subsisting on their fat during long cold winters in the northern hemispheres when temperatures drop well below freezing and there is less plant life for food.
These animals might be deemed as reindeer by romantics, but they are not. The First Nations people in this part of Canada, didn’t domesticate them for pulling loads. They are wildlife and if encountered as a cyclist or hiker, is to learn not to startle them and distance yourself quickly. In the 1990’s, wild elk ventured often into Banff town site which caused problems in some attacks on humans, feeding on gardens and damaging trees. Regular elk visitors were referred by locals as “townies”. Now the elk tend to stay away from the urban areas which is a good thing for both the animals and humans. They are never to be fed by humans.
I have some more photos which have not been digitized. There is another personal photo treasure: another magnificent brown elk munching on a pink flower bud in its mouth. One day later and soon!
Parks Canada. Elk in Banff National Park.
Parks Canada. Species At Risk: Woodland Caribou. Nov. 2011. Photos of caribou for you to see the differences from elk and mule deer.