Grey wolf on ridge above Bow Valley Parkway, Banff, Alberta, Canada

Grey wolf on ridge above Bow Valley Parkway, Banff, Alberta, Canada

Encouraged by my success from this past weekend, I returned to the mountains today hoping that my luck would continue.  I left Calgary at 3:45 am to attempt a sunrise at Morant’s Curve, outside of Lake Louise on the Bow Valley Parkway, with the plan of continuing on afterward to shoot bears and other wildlife.  Morant’s Curve was a bust thanks to low-lying clouds so I took the opportunity to prepare my gear and get an early start on the Icefields Parkway in search of wildlife.

While cruising the Icefields Parkway north of Saskatchewan Crossing, I spotted something cross the road and duck into the trees at the opposite end of a long straight stretch.  I took a landmark of where the animal appeared to enter the trees and slowed my progress until finally pulling even with the location.  Fully expecting the creature to be long gone by this point, I was shocked to find a very light colored wolf with a white radio collar staring back at me through 10 feet of brush.  The wolf began walking through the forest parallel to the road and realizing that I was not about to get any clean shots by pursuing, I carried on down the road a short ways to find a clearing.  I sat quietly hoping that my car would suffice as a blind and that the wolf would continue on its path but it apparently had other plans.  Figuring that the wolf may use the nearby river to avoid my presence, I continued to a nearby access point to the river.  Immediately upon stepping out of my vehicle, I realized that the wind was working against me as I was now upwind of the wolf but I continued to the riverbed nonetheless where I sat quietly in vain before reluctantly pressing on.

I covered many kilometers up and down the Icefields Parkway finding little of interest so I returned to Lake Louise to try my luck on the Bow Valley Parkway.  My plan of exploring mid-week was working out perfectly considering I was able to cruise the Parkway at slow speeds without having to worry about other park users; however, I also wasn’t finding any wildlife, until suddenly I rounded a corner to find myself staring at a large grey wolf.  I snatched my camera off the passenger seat and the wolf began up a nearby ridge.  As soon as the wolf begin its climb two black wolves came into view just up the road.  Since the black wolves were on my passenger side, so I concentrated on the grey wolf, shooting as it traversed the ridge.

As I shot the wolf on the ridge, one black wolf pursued the grey wolf uphill while the third wolf jumped over the guardrail and seemingly disappeared.  Soon I was sitting alone wondering what my next move should be when the black wolf that had disappeared over the guardrail suddenly reappeared and walked up to my open passenger-side window.  As calmly as possible, I raised my camera and managed a burst of five exposures before the wolf thought better of its surroundings and joined the others on the ridge.

I made my way down to a nearby field and positioned myself downwind, hoping that the wolves would continue their last known course and right past my lense but after a stream of vehicles pulling beside my vehicle wondering what I was looking at, I decided that the wolves were unlikely to make an encore appearance.  Unsure of what I had actually captured, if anything; I took a moment to review my shots.  I was pleased to see that what appeared to be several usable shots but that could not be verified until I got home.  I was particularly concerned about the portrait shots of the black wolf that approached my passenger side just feet away.  I had been using my 400mm lense, which is not purposed for such tight quarters, so I was afraid that the photos would be out of focus.

 

Scarred Wolf Portrait

Scarred Wolf Portrait

 

I continued to patrol the Bow Valley Parkway and Icefields Parkway into the evening.  I did locate one grizzly bear that was eating roots on a steep downhill bank that had already drawn a large crowd, so I watched from a distance until the bear inevitably moved on and the crowd dispersed.  I had an idea of which direction the bear had departed but never did manage to find the grizzly again.

In all, I covered 1,032 km in 15:19 of exhausting driving and finally arrived home at 8:25 pm but today’s wolf encounter was worth every moment!  I immediately uploaded today’s images and was happy to find that my wolf images were indeed usable and got to work preparing them for this post!  Upon reviewing the wolf portrait photo on my camera, I had noticed what appeared to be an eye injury or infection due to a large amount of matting and scabbing around its right eye.  Once on the large screen of my computer monitor, a very obvious cut can be seen on the upper and lower lid with a jagged scratch through the center of the eye.  I cleaned up the matting prior to posting because no one wants to see that but left the scars to uniquely identify this wolf.