Tag Archive: alberta

Despite my many years living in Alberta’s wilderness, I would have considered it a rare privilege to actually have encountered a grizzly bear in the wild. Black bears I have encountered many.

Grizzlies, so near, yet invisible

My first meeting up close with a grizzly had been in a wildlife park during our many travels through the United States and most of its national parks. In the Black Hills of South Dakota, on our way to Mt. Rushmore. [ https://www.bearcountryusa.com/ ]

This was in the summer of 1976, the year of America’s Bi-Centennial celebrations. I had just graduated in December of 1975 from Syracuse University, New York State. And taken the time off to travel extensively that summer with my little boy, eight years old, in our old square back VW van – a really old model. I called it our ‘Hobomobile’, as it served also as our home for many weeks. By Fall of that year we went up north into Canada, before the cold set in. Shortly after we arrived in Alberta in 1976, I got myself work. Then from January 1977 until into the 1990s working in Alberta’s oil industry.

Talking about grizzly bears : –

From 1978 on until the year 2002 I mostly lived by myself – after also my son left for the USA in 1990 do do his graduate studies in Alabama – in the Foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta. Surrounded by wild life. Because all those many years I had horses, I also had large pieces of land. Mostly wilderness, treed. After nine years in the Kananaskis country south west of Calgary, during the 1980s, several times with a group of other riders and the horses, we made overnight trips for several days to Two Jack Lake, Lake Minnewanka, Banff National Park area. Because this is so high up, this is also prime Grizzly bear country. For several days we camped out in large Army tents, the entire compound surrounded by electrified barb wire, against bear visits.

[ https://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/grizzly-bear-ly-misses-hiker-after-charge-forcing-closures-in-banff-national-park ][ https://globalnews.ca/news/4255044/hiker-charged-grizzly-lake-minnewanka-banff/ ]

During those years I also had 160 acres of bare land far outside West of Cochrane, (north up Forestry Trunk Road, north of the (today Ghost River Dam area)). [ https://www.cottageclub.ca/history ]. This was so far out, surrounded by miles of Crown land, that there were no real neighbours. I made very many rides with my horses alone in this wilderness area high up in the Rocky Mountain Foothills, but never once came face to face with a grizzly bear. They are there, they can hear you, they can smell you. I can see traces of them. Besides that rarely would any bear or wolf or any wild animals attack a human, when going out alone in those areas, always make some noise, make yourself heard. This 160 acres by the way was close to the Stoney Indian Reserve. [ http://www.rockymountainnakoda.com/our-lands ]. My most precious book: These Mountains are our Sacred Places. The Story of the Stoney People. 1977. By Chief John Snow, of the Wesley Band.

Back to grizzly bears.

From 1994 until the year 2000 my land with my home and horses on 80 acres was even more remote, north west of Cochrane, Alberta, a wilderness where the nearest little town was Water Valley, Alberta. [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_Valley,_Alberta ]

Surrounded by hundreds of acres of Crown land. Often during those years I had to visit a saw mill somewhere in the middle of nowhere to pick up my rails for making my horse fences. There were no roads. This could only be done by a heavy 4×4 truck.

One day I drove in to see that guy who operated the mill. On my way in, a couple of guys in a truck came out, white as sheets in their faces. I thought they saw a ghost. They told me that there is a grizzly bear who had taken down a cow and still in there, feeding.

I drove on, passing by some yellow Dept. Forestry tape – WARNING BEAR – then on to the sawmill. No one there. Pretty eerie. Again the bear nearby, but not visible.

That’s as much as goes for grizzly bears. They are there, but cannot be seen. If you run into one unexpected, though, you better be careful !

Since 2002 residing in British Columbia, where Grizzlies and their sub-species – the Pacific Rain Forest white Spirit Bear – can hopefully be seen by sailing up the BC coast north Vancouver Island. Which I did in 2014, stopping various times during the sailing thru the Johnson strait. One of my videos during a storm [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIVhEkGRiN8 ] . Grizzlies hunting for salmon – we did not see. [ https://renataveritashistory.com/2014/10/25/adventure-sailing-trip-northern-vancouver-island/ ].

NOTES. Links to earlier articles on grizzly bear hunt.

[ http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/grizzly-bears-overhunted-in-b-c-say-researchers-1.2417306 ] .

otherwise. [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/grizzly-bear-kill-limits-being-broken-across-bc-study-says/article15301716/ ]


Surviving Alberta Winter

Twenty seven years I spent in Alberta, north west of Calgary in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains as well as south west in the Kananaskis country [ http://www.kananaskis.com/ ]. Despite the cold winters, Alberta for me is still the most beautiful of Canada’s provinces. The landscape east of Calgary coming from Saskatchewan is rather flat and undulating, towards the mighty Rockies wide open skies and those wonderful mountains are a sight to behold. It is easy to imagine that the temperature during already cold winters is always at least ten degrees colder outside the cities. North west of Cochrane (which is the next town west from Calgary) I had snow up to five feet at times. The same when we lived almost ten years in Bragg Creek, a small hamlet south west of Calgary [ http://www.braggcreek.ca/ ], the snow was so high that I had to pull my old Dodge truck with my car over the acreage across the snow using my lariat, in order to be able to go to work in Calgary. Every morning up at 6 AM, driving down town to Calgary. When a blizzard hit the city, it had been impossible to drive home after work. I tried once, took me 3 hours slowly for twenty km. No heating in my car either.
When working up north on contracts, I needed to drive every weekend between Millarville [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millarville ] from my large acreage to downtown Edmonton. Friday after work down and Sunday night back. Many times during that winter I was the only driver coming out of Edmonton and driving south. We called this – highway No. 2 – the ‘killer highway’ because of the many accidents occurring during iced up winter roads. I counted at times at least fifty vehicles upside down and inside out in the ditches. Driving slowly, I made it. My ranch near Millarville was steep uphill, a quarter of a mile to the house, walking and leaving the car in front of my gate. Once my front door was frozen, I had to break in else to face freezing to death.
How did we survive ? As the saying goes: “There is no such thing as a cold winter, only bad clothing.” We wore arctic clothing and heavily padded overalls – like worn in the oil fields. Long underwear of course and heavy gloves and high padded boots. I had been in Fort McMurray as well working temporary for Suncor oil company in 1987. In winter. [ http://www.suncor.com/default.aspx ]. Lucky for all of us contractors, it did not last long, as one of their buildings blew up and all contractors had to leave. Today, living by the Pacific Coast, and warmer climes, I could not take that cold anymore.

Annie Get Your Gun

When going on a trip meeting diverse people if often happens that the stories turn to guns. This being an ‘iffy’ subject, it is usually not wise to talk too much about my own gun stories in the presence of the ladies.
As long as I remember, following post-WWII, we were confronted by situations having to protect ourselves, not only because of the presence of American Army GI ‘s everywhere in Germany. Frankfurt – a hot place then – dangerous. I needed to spend one week a month on a post-grad IT course. Everybody had to carry some protection – be it only a little Walther UP1 tear gas pistol.**
[** Story about the tear gas pistol: In the 1970’s in Germany it happened that a very angry taxpayer went into the Federal Tax Department office, pulling out his tear gas pistol, shooting at close range into the tax inspector’s face, injuring his eyes. Law came into place, to make those guns illegal. Also, because owners of such devices modified them for shooting.]

Another gun story – [ Its ‘journey’ around the world started in The Netherlands. In the approx. 1960s. The little hand gun, a Browning caliber 7.65mm European model, here the .32 ACP [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.32_ACP ] belonged to my husband who spent years in the Indonesian war theater Koninklijke Marines Java/Indonesia long before I met him. That gun followed me around the world, ending up here. The RCMP got this gun 1980’s, it’s somewhere. ]
Years in Alberta will teach anybody in the country a bit about the long rifle. We all had them. Hunting moose and deer in winter, and shooting grouse in fall for Thanksgiving. Shotgun, hunting rifle, 22 and more. [That was all legal at that time, in conjunction with an FAC = Firearms Acquisition Certificate, and a wildlife license for hunting.] In between the periods of the Canadian Gun registry program [ http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cfp-pcaf/online_en-ligne/reg_enr-eng.htm ] . I still believe that the Province of Alberta brought down that (terribly expensive) gun registry program.
My long rifles from Alberta ending up on the coast here, and all legally sold to a gunsmith in the Highlands. Myself, am collecting antiques and collectors items now, wherever I travel. My favorites from the Franklin Mint Collectors Society: Exact re-creations of the Wyatt Earp .44 Smith & Wesson Revolver; and General Custer’s Colt .36 Model 1861 Navy Revolver. Both of these modified, so that they cannot chamber ammo.
Present regulations [ http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cfp-pcaf/form-formulaire/index-eng.htm ].


Alberta Wilderness Stories

During the many years living in Alberta’s wilderness outside of the big cities of Calgary and Edmonton, along the foothills of the Rocky Mountains NW of Calgary, I have encountered situations which to most city dwellers may seem frightening.
During the years I worked on my 80-acre ranch with my horses, building barns and rail fences. Adjacent to my acreage was crown land, miles of it, leased out as grazing land to the big ranchers for their cows. Somewhere in the midst of all that wilderness – grass and many trees – was that saw mill. I often went to the saw mill to get rough cut lumber, using my 3/4 ton 4-wheel drive Dodge truck. There were no roads, only rough rutted trails. One day driving in there, a smaller truck came out towards me, two men sitting in it, cheesy-white in their faces, obviously scared of something they encountered in the vicinity of that saw mill. Indeed – when I came closer I saw the yellow warning tapes from Alberta Wildlife around a larger area (grizzly bear), right close to the saw mill. I drove on to see the saw mill guy. He was not around. Obviously because of the grizzly bear warning. Later I read up on this in one of the local papers. A grizzly had taken down a cow. Scary ? well, not really. Just always be careful and do not aggravate such large wild animals without first announcing your presence. In that case, though, being a big bear feeding, an even more careful approach is needed.
[More stories, next time around.]

Cougars on Vancouver Island

The American cougar (or mountain lion, puma, or mountain cat) is a fairly large cat, weight of a male up to 100kg, a female up to 60kg. This animal’s range is rather large, from North America, Canada West down to Mexico and the most southern ranges of South America. Making it one of the smartest predatory big cats, who are not on the brink of extinction. They can live in cold, snow, and in hot climates. Mostly prefer rocky areas, where they can hide and stalk while the prey is roaming on a lower plain.

Attacks encountered and witnessed when in Alberta, Kananaskis Country West of Calgary. We went riding in the Foothills. And a cougar does what it does best, ambush and jump from the top of a rock or cliff. Jumped on the horse, that of course bolted away in terror, threw the lady rider (lucky she was) and seriously injured that horse. I saw it, its skin was shredded. I did a lot of solo riding (twenty seven years) in the Foothills of Alberta. Always look up in addition to look ahead and down for signs of cougar or grizzly bear. On my 80-acre ranch in the Alberta Rockies I had cougars on my land. Maybe I had been lucky. Went around them, when finding a deer kill site. Retreat and get out of there.

Why many cougars on Vancouver Island ? Because it is an island, because it is rocky (volcanic rock), high rocks. I love these cats. But also realize they can be close anywhere where I cycle on the trails outside the city. Usually the cougar does not attack a person, but can and may when opportunity knocks or because of inexperience (especially young cougars), or when confronted. Vancouver Island cougars are a bit different. Less area, more conflict with people, and they cannot leave this island ? Not quite true – a cougar can swim [ http://o.canada.com/2013/07/24/swimming-cougar-vancouver-island/ ].

More than two thirds of North American fatalities occurred on Vancouver Island. Incidences here include: young cougars wandering into the Victoria Empress Hotel (tourists terrified – animals terrified). One lady told me she went swimming in the surrounding ocean, on her return to the beach, that big yellow cat was there looking at her. There is lots of deer (the cougars’ staple prey), but sometimes they take pets, and they can be dangerous to children.

When walking alone in the wilderness, chances of running into a cougar are real, pointless to run. This will trigger their stalk-and-hunt instinct. Somebody told me, take a long stick with you, makes you look taller. Doubtless I could stand up to an attack. Usually, cougars are shy and keep away from humans, but also are not easily scared away by humans. The latest most recent attack off Northern Vancouver Island, bizarre and unique, because the animal got killed. [ http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/woman-critically-injured-after-cougar-attack-in-clayoquot-sound/article14188088/ ]

Yet, statistically speaking cougar attacks are rare compared with human against human attacks. Those lovely big tawny cats are just fighting back for lost territory and loss of prey species.cougars[Any commercial ads/video’s following this post originate solely from the Word Press organization. I distance myself from any such advertised products. The Editor.”]