As Brian and I headed back to Swan Hills, we turned the corner and saw this fella chilling on the trail! The forest to either side of the trail, having been harvested in the last decade or so, had young trees growing tightly together, making it difficult for the moose to make his escape. We signaled our intent to continue on the path by revving the ATVs and moving slowly toward him. We gave him the time and space he needed to move down the trail and find a safe place to enter the woods. If we had just chased him, he would have become stressed and could decide to charge us. Moose are an underestimated hazard in the field. They are not carnivores, so it’s easy to think they will not be aggressive. In reality, they are one of the “biggest” wildlife hazards out there, both in size and temperament. Today was a good day for all three of us though.
The bugs are particularly unpleasant in the northern parts of the province this year. We use bug nets and insect repellent to try to avoid getting bit and feeding them (and to retain some level of sanity!) But there is no way to escape them out there!
During an archaeological survey or excavation when animals bones are found, we look for signs that they were somehow modified or processed by humans. Animals were not only a source for food, but their skin, fur, and bones had many other uses. We might find cut marks from a knife made during butchering, or the bone itself might be shaped into a tool such as an awl. If the animal seems to have been killed or somehow used by humans we can classify it as an artifact.
However, not every animal bone that we find is an artifact. Sometimes during a survey, a test pit might have an animal bone in it. If no other artifacts were found in the area and the bone shows no signs of human use, then we cannot call it an artifact. Nature does takes its course without human interference. The animal remains pictured here serve as a reminder of that. These remains, likely of a wolf, found in the summer of 2014 will eventually be buried over time.
While doing helicopter work near Zama City in 2014 we spotted a herd of bison. We were very surprised to find out that these impressive animals are not uncommon in the area. These Wood Bison are part of the Hay-Zama herd. What is exceptional about this heard as of 2015, there is no evidence of tuberculosis or bovine brucellosis. These diseases have been found in other wild herds in Alberta.
If you are ever lucky enough to see these creatures in the wild, please remember that they are wild animals and can be extremely dangerous. We have heard anecdotal stories of people in the area honking their horn to encourage a slow bison to move off of the road, and the bison not taking too kindly to it.
When working east of Nordegg in 2014 Vince found this little fawn. The spots on the fawn are for camouflage, to help him blend into his environment. These spots will last for the first 90-120 days of his life and will fade when he grows his warmer winter coat.
Can you see them? I almost didn’t! These spruce grouse chicks were hanging out on a trail we were walking on near Wabasca-Desmarais, Alberta, nested in the woody debris on the trail. The only reason we stopped was because we saw the mother hen making short flights down the trail and making a lot of noise. Often, the grouse mothers will fake an injury and make a lot of noise to draw predators away from their chicks. Luckily for her, we weren’t hungry that day!
It’s that time of year again! The bears are waking up and the field workers are heading into bear territory. One of our archaeological field crews encountered this little guy in 2013 and found that he was a little less scared of them than the average bear.
Usually bears are skittish and will leave the area as soon as they know humans are around, especially if you have a noisy ATV running but this bear was a bit curious and stuck around long enough for a photo shoot. The crew scared him away and didn’t have another encounter. Remember to review your bear awareness training before heading into the bush for work or play!