Mammals of Canada

We had various different encounters with Elk, and every time it felt wild. Elk are massive creatures, specially the males with his incredible antlers. It would be no fun to find an aggressive male charging towards you. They really look like kings, with their antlers as their crowns.

For the first encounter, we found a male ruminating in a grassland, seemingly undisturbed by our presence. It just laid off there for minutes while we took pictures. After we continued walking in search of a herd, we returned just to find out that the male had stood up and walked towards our shuttle. We could see the male in all splendor. That same day, we spotted a herd of Elk down the road to Banff. It could actually be called a Harem, as a single adult male controlled about nine females. His dominance could be seen as he guarded the females at all time, calling at them and even physically pushing them in the direction he wanted to go.

For the last encounter, we saw a few juvenile males grazing in a field. They called at each other a number of times, with another male responding deep within the forest. We even saw them battle with their antlers for a bit, though not aggressively. Rutting season ended long ago, and these juveniles had no females to contend for. But the most impressive experience may have been hearing the male calling from deep inside the forest. They could be kilometers away, and you can still hear them. It serves to defend his territory, alerting potential intruders, and to entice females for mating.

Moose was definitely the species we did not expect to see, so it was a nice surprise to spot two individuals, mother and calf, peacefully grazing along a plain by the side of the road. We stopped nearby and approached to take a few pictures. Suddenly, the calf charged towards us, most likely out of curiosity, but still that was dangerous. An enraged mother would have attacked us if she felt her calf was not safe with us. Luckily, it just was playful behavior, and they returned to graze and mind their own business. After a few minutes, they crosses the small stream and disappeared into the deep forest. There were no signs of the male, nevertheless this was one of the luckiest days for the group.

During the trip, we had chance encounters with other animals. Big Horn Sheep was the most anticipated one. The male’s enormous horns are fascinating and scary at the same time. Smaller animals like the Red Squirrel, Red-tailed Chipmunk, White-tailed Jackrabbit and American Pika were also a delight to observe in their natural habitat.