Living in the Canadian Rockies is wonderful if you love close encounters with wildlife.
Canmore is a special place to live, but you can never forget you are smack dab in the middle of a wildlife corridor. My youngest child’s school does wildlife drills, as it seems to be a bit of a pass-through for cougars. In the five years we’ve been here, they’ve only been called in once off the school yard (without incident as the cougar was a few blocks away) but you can never be too careful.
I have to say, that although my kids sometimes find wildlife sightings common now, seeing any wildlife is still one of the things that thrills me about living here — even if it’s just a chirpy little Columbian Ground Squirrel.
The local wildlife is the inspiration behind my newest linocut mini prints. I’ve created a series of Mountain Animal Note Cards, featuring an elk, a bear, a beaver and a moose. Here are a couple photos of our sightings of these animals, along with the hand-printed linocut note cards.
“You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
We have bears around Canmore — I have personally seen a few — but you are almost guaranteed to see a bear if you travel to Jasper, Alberta.
This little black bear was feeding beside the road the takes you to Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park, one of our favorite spots in the Rockies. The gathering crowd — and a few eager tourists trying to get a little close with cameras — had the park warden blow off a sound gun to send the bear into the bushes. All part of managing encounters of wildlife and people in the park.
For my mountain animals series, I have chosen a rich brown ink (burnt sienna mixed with a little black). It seemed to suit every animal.
“If you’re an animal, you want to have a beaver as a friend, because they have some kick-butt houses. “
― Mitch Hedberg, Comedian
Beavers are more likely to be spotted at twilight when they are busy tending to their dams or lodges. The wooden structures are protection from predators but also provide easy access to food in the winter. We have seen beavers building in various places around the Bow Valley, but I have never gotten a good photo of one. Mostly just a nose poking out of the water.
This beaver reminds me a little bit of the beaver that decorates our Canadian nickel. Of course, this little guy is chewing on a stick.
“Hunters will tell you that a moose is a wily and ferocious forest creature. Nonsense. A moose is a cow drawn by a three-year-old.”
― Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
Moose seem to be a little elusive, but there are a couple places in the Rockies where they like to hang out. Moose Meadows, just in front of Mount Engadine Lodge, in the Spray Valley, is one of those places. (I did a series of moose cards and art for them to sell in their gift shop). And, wouldn’t you know, when I was once at the Lodge dropping off artwork, I came across a moose feeding next to Mount Engadine’s sign. Of course, my camera was at home. I won’t even post the photo taken with my iPhone. But, it was certainly great to see the moose!
“Elk are also called wapiti, a Native American word that means ‘light-colored deer.’ A bull elk’s antlers may reach four feet above its head, so that the animal towers nine feet tall.”
― National Geographic
Elk are a fairly common sight in Canmore and Banff, but still exciting to see one — or a herd! They hang out year-round in the valley, and the only caution is not to get too close. They look pretty docile, but they are HUGE. They are also quite dangerous at certain times of the year. Just recently, a local green space was closed due to a “defensive elk protecting a calf”. Although this photo looks like I got close, it’s thanks to a telephoto lens! I am a chicken when it comes to wildlife larger than me!
My artwork elk is sitting in the grass, like the elk at the top of this blog. Sitting or standing, they are elegant creatures.
Here is the whole set of animal note cards together. They are printed on a cream-coloured stock with a deckled bottom. They can be used flat as stationery, or folded into a little card. I will be packaging these in sets of four, with matching envelopes, just in time for my next Open Studio Tour event on June 14 & 15 with the Artists of Elk Run. Maybe I will see you there?