When I posted photos from my recent trip up the Alaska Highway, a friend commented it looked as if I’d been on safari. Whenever I travel to northeastern British Columbia, I’m blessed with the opportunity to view wildlife, either during my hikes or along the road. The following are some of the animals I encountered over 10 days this past summer, and a large part of the reason I keep going back. I still need a shot of that bull moose with the large rack!
This mule deer was grazing in a field of red clover near Charlie Lake, just outside Fort St. John. Mule deer are probably the most common sight close to the towns and in the farm fields along the Highway, though skittish and easily frightened by noise. The photo was taken in early July when your likely to see does with fawns far more adorable than Bambi. No fawns this time, though I heard Lake Point Golf and Country Club has a resident doe with a set of twins.
I disturbed this ruffed grouse and his mates when I entered the bush along a hiking trail just outside Tumbler Ridge, sending the lot into the trees. He made his displeasure at the disturbance known by the ruffled neck feathers, taut body and piercing cries. He even looks as if he’s frowning!
This lovely little red fox wandered up to my car and sat down by the driver’s side door after I stopped to let it cross the road. He or she had the same look on its face as my old dog, waiting patiently for a treat. It was clear the fox had been socialized to expect food from humans, most likely by hikers that frequent the trails near Tumbler Ridge. It was so docile, I considered getting out to see if it had learned how to give a paw! Instead, I took a few photos and, when it realized I had no food to offer – I don’t feed wildlife – it wandered off towards its original destination.
Black bear are a frequent sight and can be encountered grazing along the highway apron or in open alpine meadows near hiking trails, not only in the north, but throughout most of British Columbia. I saw five over a period of two days driving the Alaska Highway and a mom with twin cubs in Tumbler Ridge. This one was just north of the Liard River Hot Springs.
This pair of stone sheep were strolling down the highway by Muncho Lake. Their colours blend well with the rock face, asphalt and gravel, making them hard to see from a distance and probably causing more fender benders on the Highway as RV drivers slam on the brakes at the sight of them along the highway. If you’re heading that way, slow down through Summit and Muncho Lake, keep your eyes peeled and don’t brake unless absolutely necessary. There are multiple pull-outs along that stretch of road where you can stop safely and take pictures.
It was rush hour on the Alaska Highway. Just after 8:00 am, I came across a herd of wood bison strolling along the highway. Being the first day of school, I was reminded of parents walking their kids to class, single file on the side of the road, facing on-coming traffic (featured photo). This shot was taken from a pull-out along the highway as the herd passed. These two were about 8 feet from the car and moving closer when the picture was taken, ultimately passing just inches from my bumper. The little one gave me a bored glance at the sound of the shutter, a look similar to one stars give the paparazzi when they’ve had enough.
I caught this caribou sipping from a puddle at a roadside pull-out. He seemed a little too lean for the time of year, all the other animals I’d seen well fattened from the summer forage. Concerned, I sent a couple of photos to the Ministry of Environment who are doing research into the health of boreal caribou in Northeastern BC. I’m told the caribou in the area tend to be on the leaner side and he’s not so thin as to be concerned. Reassuring. The animals are considered a threatened species with declining numbers in northeastern BC, so I was very fortunate to come across this male.
I initially drove past this guy, lying by the side of the highway, head on the grass, watching the cars go by. It was 3 degrees and raining and I’d already gotten shots of black bears. Except this was no black bear. There weren’t any pull-outs or rest areas nearby so I had to drive a couple of kilometers down the road before I could turn around. I don’t recommend stopping on the highway, but he was in the ditch on a long straightaway that would give other drivers lots of opportunity to see us both. I didn’t plan to linger. Unlike the other wildlife, which gave me a quick glance to determine if I was a threat before ignoring me completely, the bear’s gaze never left me as I took photos from my car. I wasn’t about to get out.
Yukon Red Squirrel
Maybe he’s not as intimidating or as impressive as a bear or a bison, but this energetic little squirrel spent two days tearing around my campsite in Whitehorse, picking up spruce cones and depositing them in a pile at the base of a tree. I managed to catch him in a moment of pause while he took a snack break. It was brief seconds before he finished the cone in his little paws and was back to work. Industrious and extremely vocal (he made a very good alarm clock) I enjoyed watching him chase other squirrels from his territory while going about his fall foraging. I wish I had half the little guy’s energy!
I know how fortunate I was to get the shots I did, particularly since I’m not a professional photographer and relied on luck to find my subjects. While there is no guarantee you’ll see all the wildlife I encountered during my time in Tumbler Ridge and along the Alaska Highway, the odds are good you’ll see at least one. Maybe even that bull moose with the huge rack! If you do, I’d love to see the photo!