In Search of Elk
As the winter started setting in we were pretty much stuck inside. For people so much into biodiversity, winter pulls down the curtain for natural world activity. Though we should say nature does not shut the doors completely rather there are animals which are so well adapted to winter that they roam around like nothing has changed. As the cold winds start blowing in October, the leaves start shedding their colour and give a wonderful show but as November comes even this show of leaf colours comes to a grinding halt. Still nature has its own way of providing colors and we were given that in the form of rainbow right through our window. The Leafless trees only added to the charm of the colors in display.
We were getting ourselves ready for December as it brings snow and after the winter truly sets in, we have visitors from further North who migrate and come down here. As the Arctic Tundra freezes, the ducks which breed there start to migrate south. While majority of them are going further south some brave ones are not afraid of the cold and they stay around Lake Erie. But this is again in December only and November was really testing us! One fine cold day we decided to see some big mammals as a change from the summer of birding. We thought of Moose, the largest deer of the world but that was like 9 hours drive from the place we live. So the next choice was Elk. Elk are deer which are similar in size to the Indian Sambhar deer. They were once exterminated all across the eastern forests by extensive hunting. A program of reintroduction into the wild was done a few years ago and there seemed to be a wild population. This place was like 6 hours drive from our place. So we decided to give it a go. Whenever we travel, the first thing we do is that we plan in such a manner that we reach the place early in the morning and the same was done here too. After starting midnight at 12.00 am, we drove and drove and reached the place early morning. It was cold like freezing and area was frost bitten. We decided to stick to our vehicle as we could use the heater and then dove all around that areas and finally got a glimpse of Elk but at a distance.
So we tried a different road and by this time the sun was slowly peeking, giving us a clearer view of the surrounding. We looked at a distant lonely house and admired its lonely beauty. Will it be a pleasant experience or will the location be depressing for the person in the house.
Just as we were immersed in the sight of the house, couple of elk crossed the road and gracefully roamed in the adjoining fields. We quickly grabbed our cameras and started clicking but before we could get a picture we wanted, we saw a larger group of Elk was on the other side of the hill. We got down from the vehicles and started clicking in the freezing cold. While we were doing this, the Elk seemed to be staring at us and was on super alert. Well then, they have to be, after all they were eliminated from the area by humans hunting them.
After a brief state of high alert they seemed to settle down and gave us time to click a few more. We had one and only issue with this! We could not see any stags around. The males usually roam around separate from the females and so we decided to go on in search for them in a different location. While roaming the forest roads, we found hunters with their guns preparing to enter the forest. After seeing this, we decided not to enter forest by foot. We had faced racism related issues a lot and we did not want to roam where people with guns roamed around. After around half an hour of searching, we found the stag but only for a brief period.
After the stag we saw the time and it was only 8 am but we had a nice couple of hours roaming around majestic animals. We decided to call it a day and started our return journey. We reached back by 2 pm and to this day for such a long travel, it was the shortest stint we have done. Less than a day’s work but pleasant memories for the entire life!!