Keeping the Wild in Wildlife Series »» Coyotes


Wildlife photographers have a number of responsibilities — we already know the drill, but let’s keep photographing, documenting, observing and learning from the amazing animals we come across. We can in turn educate those around us through our own photography. Conservation, appreciation, avoiding human-wildlife conflict, the possibilities of education are endless. It’s a powerful tool … sometimes we all need a little reminding or nudge, myself included. Case in point:

This week an Edmonton woman and her 3 dogs found themselves surrounded by a pack of up to coyotes to no fault of her own, which led to an attack on one of the dogs; thankfully the woman is okay. I’ll let the linked article tell the story, but please read on for more information. I thought this was a really good time to briefly discuss human-coyote conflict, with the hopes someone will be reading with interest.

human-coyote conflict, coyote, canis latrans, Elk Island wildlife, Alberta wildlife, wild dog, opportunist, carnivore, canine

Coyote fast facts from Alberta ESRD

Habitat

  • The coyote is highly adaptable, and can be found in all terrestrial habitats in Alberta
  • Hares and mice are the most important prey species, but the carrion of livestock and other large mammals is often the most important winter food source in some areas
  • Coyotes seldom hunt in packs but occasionally several may gather at carcasses or other communal feeding sites

Diet

  • Coyotes primarily feed on rabbits, mice and squirrels
  • Blueberries and other fruits are also consumed

Behavioural 

  • Coyotes are highly curious, intelligent and adaptable
  • Coyotes are opportunists
  • Mating season occurs generally February or March

Bottom line — coyotes aren’t going anywhere, folks, and that’s the way it should be. Coyotes are NOT an animal to fear (no animals are). It’s our job and responsibility to learn how to adapt to changing conditions with respect to wildlife. With urban sprawl (or responsible growth, both interpretations up for debate), we continue to encroach into their backyards … their space. I’ve seen more dead coyotes on the road out here in the Stony / Spruce areas along highway 16A, 16 and 60 in the past 5 years than I have in the probably the previous 10 years. The continued, absurd development out by Spruce Grove is proof new developments and expanding city / county lines are not slowing down anytime soon. So what is a wild animal to do when their habitat is rapidly changing beneath their feet? I wish I had the answers, but I don’t. One thing I know we can do is to educate ourselves, our children and those around us on how to best anticipate potential human – wildlife conflict by being proactive rather than reactive.

Read on..

Elk Island National Park »» 101 Incredible Years


Today is another day to be celebrated for Elk Island National Park. Not only is today their 101st birthday of being a national park in Canada, they are once again demonstrating the importance of the work they do behind the scenes. Today 75 Elk Island Plains bison are heading to Montana’s American Prairies Reserve as part of their conservation and recovery strategies to have the Plains bison roam wild once again, back to their ancestral lands. Today’s send-off marks the third transfer of our bison to Montana, all in the name of conservation.

Plains bison cow-alberta wildlife

Bison herd-autumn flurries-Elk Island. Plains bison cow-calf feeding-alberta wildlide

wildlife environmental portrait, bison bison bison, Plains Bison, conservation, buffalo, ungulates, Alberta wildlife, herbivore, Elk Island National Park

I’ve spoken a number of times about the great work from the good folks at Elk Island. Their work is crucial to wildlife conservation and it is because of their beautiful trails and land, their abundant wildlife and most of all, their passion and desire for preserving our wild heritage, that Elk Island is easily one of my favourite places on earth and has been for many years. They do as they say, which is wildly important in the name and game of conservation. I’ve spent hundreds of hours here photographing, documenting, observing and most of all, enjoying all they have to offer!

Happy 101 years, Elk Island! I tip my Realtree camo hat to you and thank you for all the work you have done and continue to do. Your work continually inspires me to take better care of our wild world. Enjoy a handful of the photos I’ve taken over the years.

Check out this short documentary from the National Film Board of Canada on the history of Elk Island!

North American beaver-Alberta wildlife Canadian goose-albert wildlife

Read on..

Rolling Along and Roaming w/Bison »» Alberta Wildlife Photography


We all have photography lessons — sometimes we seek them out and other times, they are handed to us, whether we want them or not. My lesson of late has been what to do with your time and passion when you are unable to photograph the subjects you care most about in this world? As a few folks close to me have known, I was unable to shoot much of 2013, especially wildlife, because it required longer lenses, generally heavier gear, farther distances and varying weather conditions. To be blunt, I was unable to lift my gear or even take very many steps for many, many months. Trip after trip was cancelled; potential gigs / bids were cancelled, etc. It left me with the scary question, what do I do now? How can I consider myself a wildlife photographer, passionate about conservation, documenting our wild species and fading rural structures if I am not out there doing anything about it?

wildlife environmental portrait, bison bison bison, Plains Bison, conservation, buffalo, ungulates, Alberta wildlife, herbivore, Elk Island National Park, winterwildlife environmental portrait, bison bison bison, Plains Bison, conservation, buffalo, ungulates, Alberta wildlife, herbivore, Elk Island National Park, winter

These images are definitely not my best, but it’s what I could muster up for the brief time I was with these animals. Does this make me a failure? Go to sites like 500px.com and one might automatically assume so. I know I did so too many times, and the end result made me feel even worse. So I stopped doing so. What made me feel better was first of all, to be in the vicinity of wildlife to begin with, image or no image; camera or no camera. It’s extremely therapeutic and because I wasn’t able to do so very often, I would find myself turning to other resources I knew to stir my soul, and while hard at times to watch or read, I was always left inspired, educated and waiting until I could be out in the wild again.

My top go-to wildlife resources were as follows (I link y’all up below under my favourites):

  1. My library of wildlife and nature books. I have 28 wildlife books alone, and while it’s not a lot to some folks, these pages are filled with information about the biology and behaviour of our wild species. Stories of conservation triumph and failures, challenges, frustrations and more left me counting the seconds until I can be more involved in the field. These books are so crucial to my research and education of our wild world and I never tire of reading them.
  2. YouTube. There are a number of ethical wildlife enthusiasts and wildlife photographers and organizations who post either behind the scenes footage or the end results of their wildlife pursuits. Even the older videos are excellent.
  3. Conservation organizations. There are a number of orgs I follow, especially those in Canada and specifically, Alberta. The amount of data and passion these orgs have available to us are worth their weight in gold many times over.
  4. Local tv. Shows like Alberta Primetime have started to tackle more topics regarding the crisis our Alberta wildlife often face. It’s so wonderful to see this show do so and I only hope we see a lot more of this in the future.
  5. Wildlife photographers and filmmakers. Ah, ethical wildlife photographers bring much more to the table than just interesting and beautiful photography. They bring experience, a true, heartfelt passion and loads of education acquired in the field for the animals they document. If we’re lucky, they will share their passion with us with more than just the images and footage they make.
  6. My own inventory, much of it never shared (boo, I know), and my own memories, research and experiences. I never forget a wildlife shoot. Ever. So it’s always good while my memory is this sharp to go back and recall why I was out in the field to begin with, what I’ve learned, how I’ve both succeeded and failed. There’s much to be learned from this alone.

Read on..