Print Story i saw a bison! IN THE WILD!
easter weekend, we took a desert castle DreamHome reality tv show trip to jasper national park. but that's another story.

there are lots of pictures. but on megpye's macbook, not here with me on lappy.

today, megpye and i went to elk island national park and stalked the wildlife.

ryskie was supposed to come too, to make this another desert castle DreamHome reality tv show outing, but he was tuckered out from a tough week at work and so he opted to stay home at the desert castle.

elk island national park is really near edmonton. surprisingly so, it really seems like wilderness once inside the park gates.
this is also a strange feeling because the park was created only 100 years ago, from remnant herds of elk and imported herds of bison. it is all new growth, new wild lands.
most of the area had been previously stripped of it's wildlife and native inhabitants and cleared for European settlers and farming.

we arrived at the gate, and the guy there was super nice. he told us about a deal where you buy one year pass and it gets you into all of canada's national parks. we were surprised, we had thought we would need a pass for each park. that was interesting, i sense several more jasper, elk island and banff trips once we buy a year pass.

all up and down the roadway there were huge heaps of bison dung, and great wallows where the beasts rolled. we eagerly watched the poplar thickets and meadows, but saw none of the animals that had left their marks on the landscape.

we got even more excited as we drove over a texas gate* further into the park.
we saw a pair of woodpeckers just down the first trail we took. i consulted my new "nature guide to alberta" but it only had the familiar robin sized and smaller hairy and downy woodpeckers. these two were as big as crows. upon Internet investigation, i have identified them as pileated woodpeckers. alas, i fear my new book is not going to be able to live up to my expectations or fit my needs.

as we continued down the trail, we saw more and more bison poops, and more and more wallows. soon we were finding trees that the bison had used for years as scratching posts, and bits of dark brown woolly fur caught on bark and tree branches. it had just snowed on friday, so we were eagerly looking for fresh tracks. every so often we would see elk droppings and fresh rabbit and squirrel tracks.

soon we came to a place where the path forked, and a poplar had fallen over one side of the trail. all the human traffic since the snowfall went along the left fork. remembering the poem, we took the road less travelled by. i hoisted up my skirts and we daintily stomped over the tree trunk and proceeded to make fresh boot tracks in the clean snow. we are dressed of course, just like a megpye and misslake are usually attired in winter. several punkrock layers of woollens and denim, over other punkrock layers of t-shirts and hoodies, very long scarves. megpye has her greyed faded torn jeans held on by a conjunction of two studded belts (with buckles) and her jeans and leg warmers stuffed into the tops of her unlaced black garrisons. i've got green cable knit knee highs over wool tights, and a very long gothic tattered skirt that comes down over my doc martins and drags just so on the ground and pools around me when i stand still.
we come upon a new set of tracks. bison. at first we can't tell how old they are, then we look closer, i put my hand into the hoof print (it barely fits, what huge beasts!) and find that it is a fresh track, the bison has just been walking in its own old footfalls. we are hot on it's trail! we continue on, there is a place where the snow is all melted and we loose the tracks. i spot a rise with more snow and fresh tracks up ahead. i hurry toward the fresh trail, meg suddenly stops following right behind me and shouts "whoa!"

just off to the left is a large black shape in the thicket. it is distinctly bison shaped. it is much nearer than the recommended 300 metre safe wildlife distance. it is just down the grass from us, on the snowless area. the three of us stare frozen at one another, not sure what anyone is going to do next.
"that's a BISON!" i whisper
"it's bison shaped, but it's not moving." said megpye "so i wasn't positive."
i take a few steps back to where she is, away from the giant buffalo. we all let out the breaths we were holding. the bison turns away from us, revealing its unmistakable profile.
it was very awesome.
megpye took pictures, and then took my hand. i'm not very good at self control and not getting any closer. she holds my hand at galleries too, so i don't touch any of the artworks. she's a great friend.

we declared our tracking a success.
we wandered down other trails, and now over-confident in our amazing animal stalking skills we followed the animal paths and not the marked hiking trails. we found beautiful views, frozen beaver meadows, where we hopped from hummock of grass to hummock of grass following the foxes' tracks, and heaps and heaps of poops of various large mammals. we heard a gang of coyotes bark and yip and howl a little bit too close to us just before sundown. we didn't find any of the elk and deer we stalked. nor any more bison, but we were staying off of their paths, for fear of finding another one as close as the one we saw first.

we saw jays, ravens, crows, chickadees and red squirrels.
at 7, we headed back home.
it was a totally awesome day. i can't believe we hunted for and saw bison!

*i am fascinated by texas gates. they are breaks in fences that allow people and cars and things to pass but prevent cattle and other hoofed animals from passing through. they are pits or ditches covered in pipes that run across the road. i wonder how they were invented. who figured out that cows and things won't cross such a grate? why can't they walk across a grate? was it invented in texas? i came across some in the netherlands, last winter and i wondered if they were a new invention or if they were old. when did they get invented, in the new or old world? how did they come to be called texas gates? i mentioned it to the dutch guys i was friendly with, but they were all city boys, and growing up in delft and utrecht didn't know anything about it. they had never heard of texas gates. in fact, there was a general idea that the herd of highland cattle enclosed in the local texas gates were bison, but they were just regular fluffy cows.

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i saw a bison! IN THE WILD! | 29 comments (29 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
woah, they have a name! by R343L (2.00 / 0) #1 Sun Apr 06, 2008 at 07:28:11 PM EST
Going to high school in Arizona, I saw a lot of "texas gates" as you call them -- for some reason there is a lot of ranching on public land in Arizona. But I never knew they had any other name than "cattle guards".

My ex and I drove back through Yellowstone after visiting his grandparents about two years ago. At one point we entered this valley (high up of course) and ... just tons of bison. There was no way you could maintain a 300 meter distance ... they were often within 50 meters of the road. I guess one could just not stop to take pictures, but that would be no fun. :) Rangers were even stopped -- and not making everyone move along thankfully.

"There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet." -- Eliot

that's the interpersonal distance. by misslake (2.00 / 0) #2 Sun Apr 06, 2008 at 07:33:55 PM EST
it's fine in a car, but they advise people out hiking to stay 300 metres away from large, potentially stampeedy, and much faster than you  bison.

[ Parent ]
300 meters is a pretty reasonable by MohammedNiyalSayeed (2.00 / 0) #10 Mon Apr 07, 2008 at 05:09:26 AM EST

"Interpersonal distance", I must say. Down here, I'm lucky to get friggin' five feet. Hrmm, Canada, I'm eyeing you now...

You can build the most elegant fountain in the world, but eventually a winged rat will be using it as a drinking bowl.
[ Parent ]
we've got a lot of space. by misslake (4.00 / 1) #12 Mon Apr 07, 2008 at 09:48:19 AM EST
as the song goes, canada is really large.

especially out here. this isn't even saskatchewan, and i am regualrly horrified by how much space i can see everywhere, and how much space things take up. it's all great sprawing fields and houses.

[ Parent ]
+1, Worms by MostlyHarmless (2.00 / 0) #28 Mon Apr 07, 2008 at 07:02:06 PM EST
[Mostly Harmless]
[ Parent ]
In UKia, they are known as cattle grids. by Herring (4.00 / 3) #5 Sun Apr 06, 2008 at 11:13:50 PM EST
Which is a boring name, but there you go.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky
[ Parent ]
And also... by Vulch (4.00 / 3) #6 Mon Apr 07, 2008 at 12:20:07 AM EST

They have escape ramps for hedgehogs.

[ Parent ]
i need more fours to give you. by misslake (4.00 / 2) #13 Mon Apr 07, 2008 at 09:50:26 AM EST
this is very important hedgehog related info.
i must get back across the pond to ukia again. i have yet to see hedgehogs.

[ Parent ]
Speaking of hedgehogs, by komet (2.00 / 0) #16 Mon Apr 07, 2008 at 10:17:02 AM EST
Link. I was shocked.

<ni> komet: You are functionally illiterate as regards trashy erotica.
[ Parent ]
When it gets warmer by Vulch (2.00 / 0) #21 Mon Apr 07, 2008 at 10:46:47 AM EST

No signs of the hedgehogs round here having come out of hibernation, although I suspect they have by now, but I'll lurk with camera when it starts being warm enough to sit outside in the evenings.

[ Parent ]
Please for me to be included... by littlestar (4.00 / 1) #27 Mon Apr 07, 2008 at 06:34:15 PM EST
I need to know about the hedgehogs. They are my friends. I want to see the hedgehogs on the hedgehog ramps!!

[ Parent ]
Also in Colorado by ana (4.00 / 1) #7 Mon Apr 07, 2008 at 02:17:26 AM EST
for as long as I can remember, so at least from the early 60s. We also called them cattle guards.

There's a variation on the theme: stripes painted across the road, to look like the contraption with pipes. I dunno if their success depends on having cows who've seen the real thing or not.

"And this ... is a piece of Synergy." --Kellnerin

[ Parent ]
big animals are awesome by MillMan (4.00 / 2) #3 Sun Apr 06, 2008 at 09:00:14 PM EST
squirrels though...can't be beat.

When I'm imprisoned as an enemy combatant, will you blog about it?

Originally known as "cow leg-breakers" by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #4 Sun Apr 06, 2008 at 10:45:39 PM EST
The ranching industry gave way to social pressures in the 1970s and renamed them to the more humanitarian-sounding "cattle guards".

Also, my father was killed by a bison, you insensitive clod.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

so they won't cross them because they slip through by misslake (4.00 / 1) #15 Mon Apr 07, 2008 at 10:07:00 AM EST
and break their legs?
i don't think the ones we saw weren't spaced far apart enough for bison to fall through, their hooves were nearly as big as my hand, and the grates were easy for me to walk across, and even in my big boots my feet are only one and a half times the size of my hand. i'd have to go back and measure the bison tracks and the spaces between them.

cows are notoriously poor problem solvers and bad critical thinkers, do some cows have to fall through and break their legs before the herd knows not to try and walk there?

and what about the big game animals that are being 'protected' by them up here? i'd think the risk of critically endangered woodland caribou breaking their woolly little legs, or the loss of more monetarily valuable animals big horned sheeps and elk might make a leg-breaking gate unsuitable.
though i suppose a couple broken legs vs. damage to cars on the highway might make them an acceptable option.

[ Parent ]
Oh boy. by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #20 Mon Apr 07, 2008 at 10:44:16 AM EST
cows are notoriously poor problem solvers and bad critical thinkers

That is dangerously close to being sigged.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
so are you going to back up by misslake (4.00 / 1) #23 Mon Apr 07, 2008 at 03:12:33 PM EST
or respoind to your leg breaking assertion? is that how the texas gates really work?
do the cows need to break their legs before they learn not to cross them?

sorry about your father's ungulate related death.

[ Parent ]
Well, only *one* cow needs to do it. by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #24 Mon Apr 07, 2008 at 03:24:38 PM EST
They're not great at critical thinking, but they have really advanced social networks.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
Kind of like MySpace. by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #25 Mon Apr 07, 2008 at 04:04:40 PM EST

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
MooSpace? by LilFlightTest (4.00 / 1) #29 Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 06:46:04 PM EST

if de-virgination results in me being able to birth hammerhead sharks, SIGN ME UP!!! --misslake
[ Parent ]
Sorry honey. by greyrat (4.00 / 1) #8 Mon Apr 07, 2008 at 03:11:45 AM EST
See these black dots? Bison. In the wild. About twenty minutes from my house. Come by any time and we can go see them. I like the irony of a towncluster of buildings named Tyson being nearby. Mmmmmm... Tasty, tasty bison...

NEAT!!! by misslake (4.00 / 2) #17 Mon Apr 07, 2008 at 10:22:26 AM EST
... you are in dnger of having me and megpye take you up on that offer.

[ Parent ]
Hey. I'm always up for escorting a couple by greyrat (2.00 / 0) #18 Mon Apr 07, 2008 at 10:33:53 AM EST
of cute, decked out Candidian (well, any nationality, really) women around.

It's called Lone Elk Park, so there's elk there too (I've seen them) And there's a large and beautiful arboretum a few miles away, suitable for long peaceful walks.

[ Parent ]
The arboretum in my other comment by greyrat (2.00 / 0) #19 Mon Apr 07, 2008 at 10:43:59 AM EST
is here. And as an added bonus, if you want to play, Six Flags is between the bison and the arboretum, right here.

[ Parent ]
Texas gates by anonimouse (4.00 / 1) #9 Mon Apr 07, 2008 at 03:39:43 AM EST
...are simply called cattle grids in UKia. I have noticed that some sheep have worked out how to defeat them....

..trying to work out how a vagina full of centipedes will be minty fresh...

Girls come and go but a mortgage is for 25 years -- JtL
This diary improved my morning by iGrrrl (2.00 / 0) #11 Mon Apr 07, 2008 at 06:22:47 AM EST
nothing more to say.

"Beautiful wine, talking of scattered everythings"
(and thanks to Scrymarch)

Don't know about you . . . by slozo (2.00 / 0) #14 Mon Apr 07, 2008 at 10:04:26 AM EST
.. . but this diary gives me a total case of the deja vu. Glad you saw some bison and stayed clear of the patties . . .

This diary made me happy. by toxicfur (4.00 / 2) #22 Mon Apr 07, 2008 at 02:02:09 PM EST
I really need to find some nature around here, of the non-suburban variety. I spent the day planting things and wondering when it would get warm enough to plant other things, and loving every minute of it.
To Rollins lesbians are like cuddly pandas: cute, exotic, forest-dwelling, dangerous when riled and unable to produce offspring without assistance.-CRwM
Animals!! by littlestar (4.00 / 2) #26 Mon Apr 07, 2008 at 06:28:57 PM EST
How amazing! I have had similar divine animal moments hiking in Algonquin with my brother. It is such an awesome feeling to be allowed to be a part of their world for a fleeting moment.

i saw a bison! IN THE WILD! | 29 comments (29 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback