Note from Kerri: For this post, I am happy to once again have my niece Sam as a guest author. Inspired by our trip to SE Alberta in August, Sam was happy to accompany me on a recent trip to Waterton.
Her account of our adventure is below, followed by a short message from my friend Carol Tracey in honour of World Animal Day, which is today – October 4, 2021.
In addition to some recent photos related to Sam’s story, I have decorated this post with some of my favorite animal photos in celebration of this special day. Enjoy, and I wish you all a happy World Animal Day!
The day started off cool, the sun barely risen over the horizon, and two wildlife junkies made their way to the small town of Waterton early in the morning. The trip started off slow – we kept our eyes peeled for animals roaming the fields but found only various prairie birds in trees.
We listened to the music on my ‘Villain Playlist’ as we wound our way up Chief Mountain Road – our first stop before Waterton – to search for bears up in the hills. Once again, we only saw a few small birds.
American Pika, photographed in Kananaskis, 2018.
Barred Owl, photographed in Kananaskis, October 2019.
We decided it was time to make our way into the town site of Waterton to continue our search.
Red Rock Canyon Road, notorious for bear and other wildlife sightings, was the first route we chose for our journey..
This was the first time we had been on the road since it was closed due to a massive wildfire in 2017.
We were excited to make our way through the roller-coaster-like road, and kept a keen eye on the surrounding landscape. You never know when you might spot a bear!
Our first drive through was quiet – every so often, we’d take a minute to look around through trees, but still came up empty handed bear-wise.
Then, we decided to drive up to Cameron lake. As we drove, we looked around for bears and other animals through the tall, magnificent mountains.
Still no bears! Upon our arrival at the beautiful Cameron lake, Kiwi went out to attempt to spot animals in the bushes and trees. The wind came in sudden gusts, and Kiwi came back looking blown away and disheveled.
We still haven’t seen any animals, other than birds.
With high hopes of at least seeing deer or Bighorn sheep, we ventured on. The long trip up the mountain was beautiful – the wind slowed down as we stopped at a resting point.
We got out of the car, and while Kiwi went to the washroom, I stretched my legs and admired the beautiful scenery of the mountains in the warm sun. Walking to the end of the narrow deck on the giant lake, we stood at the edge, examining the water for fish.
The mountains were absolutely stunning in the sun, and after a minute, we headed back to the car. Driving down the road was amazing, as the shadows of the clouds moved swiftly along the mountains.
We made our way into the town, in search of something to eat for lunch.
As we drove into town, we were surprised to see several chicken-like, brown birds run across the road. Curious, we drove closer and discovered they were Dusky Grouse!
Northern Saw-whet Owl, photographed in Calgary, 2021.
Dusky Grouse, photographed in Waterton, September 2021.
Being the first interesting animal sighting of the day, we pulled over and got some close-up pictures of the adorable animals.
Our encounter was cut a bit short when they ran away towards another house.
Deciding it was time for lunch, we stopped at Subway and parked beside a lake to enjoy our food. The wind was picking up a little bit, causing the lake in front of us to ripple and wave.
When we finished our food, we decided to head back up Red Rock Canyon road, and were rewarded almost instantly. We saw about three or four cars pulled to the side of the road.
“Are they seeing a bear?” Was the first thought in my mind.
Multiple people were pulling out their phones and cameras. Following their gaze, I spotted a large, dark shape wandering in the field, pausing once or twice to notice the people snapping pictures from a distance.
I couldn’t see the bear well enough to get good photos – the only camera I had was my phone.
Instead, I marveled at the beauty of the animal from afar.
Black Bear, photographed in Waterton, September 2021.
That was our first bear encounter today, and my first bear encounter ever – we were both so excited!
Our luck improved, as just a couple minutes later, we saw a car on the opposite side of the road and someone peeking through their sunroof with a camera. We circled back and kept our eyes peeled.
“I wonder what she’s looking at. Is it another bear?” I said aloud. As soon as Kiwi was about to respond, I cut her off by letting out a loud gasp.
Author note: Before I continue, just know that me, Kiwi, and all the other people viewing the bears were in their cars, and only had their windows/sunroofs open to take pictures.
I spotted a small, black head among some ferns, barely visible from my angle. Kiwi parked the car and immediately pulled out her camera.
I grabbed my phone and snapped some photos – almost instantly after I got a picture of the young black bear, the mama bear came through some plants with another baby following!
We were in the perfect spot for viewing the animals!! I feel that I got a photo made of gold. At one point, the mama bear stood up on her hind legs, to sniff the air, and turn in the direction of the cars.
Kiwi didn’t have time to get a picture, but I got a couple of the beautiful bear looking in our direction. After another couple of minutes, the mama and both the babies wandered towards the cars
Black Bear mom and two cubs, photographed in Waterton, September 2021. By Sam Forsyth.
I got scared, thinking they would come right up to the car, but instead, they went through a large pipe leading under the road to the other side. We saw them for another minute before they disappeared on the mountain slope.
We decided to drive the road one more time before heading home.
We did one more drive up Chief Mountain Road, looking for interesting animals. With no luck in that spot, we drove back down, and Kiwi got some beautiful pictures of the scenery.
This was an incredible adventure!
Author note: This adventure was amazing!! I’ve never encountered bears in the wild, and in my first experience, I saw four!!! I can’t thank Kiwi enough for letting me be a part of this amazing trip! I hope to continue writing blogs for her, with the adventures we go on together. Please, keep in mind, that bears aren’t blood thirsty killers, they are just enjoying the areas that we, humans, travel to.
Pine Marten, photographed in Banff, 2015.
Hounoring World Animal Day
By Carol Tracey
While our world is aching with so much sadness and conflict, World Animal Day is a time to pause and reflect on the vast number of species with whom we share this resplendent planet and the many who are in desperate need of our compassion
October 4 was chosen as World Animal Day because it honours the Feast Day of Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of all animals. It is important to remember and acknowledge World Animal Day considering the crises vast numbers of species are encountering, and which also highlights the myriad directions in which animals’ lives are intertwined with ours
2020 finalized the Decade that the UN had declared in recognition of the vital importance of Biodiversity, and so Chief Seattle’s famous statement is now more important than ever: “What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of the spirit”
Wolf, photographed in Kananaskis, June 2021.
Until next time, continue loving life and everything wild 🙂