Amazing Wildlife Outside of National and Provincial Parks
I'm a die-hard Sasky home-body. I love my province, and although I've been to some pretty spectacular countries, explored the mountains, and even the Eastern shorelines, Saskatchewan is the only place that consistently makes me go "WOOWWW" with eyes wide open.
The map below shows some of the places you'll regularly see me taking photos, with the circled bit being my home-range.
I love to fringe parks and show that wildlife exists outside of them! This is something I'm very passionate about. Although our parks are desperately important, so is our commitment to making sure there are enough private landowners practicing good conservation, and that organizations and governments continue to place high-value on undisturbed grasslands and forest. These are the homes of the truly wild animals of Saskatchewan.
Saying all that, would you believe the above photo was taken just a 2-minute drive from our family cabin? This wasn't some spectacular movement through the famed PA NP, but rather a happen encounter with hundreds of elk while a friend and I were whitetail hunting.
Doing a little multi-tasking (driving a boat, fishing, and taking photos), I managed to snap a photo of these adorable birds in the Canadian Shield of Saskatchewan! So many people are unaware that Saskatchewan has huge spans of exposed stone covered by an incredible forest. The best part is that it's like driving to Calgary! So instead of shopping for the weekend or participating in the hectic Stampede, take a drive north. You won't regret it (unless you don't fill up for gas - you'll regret that).
I'd like to introduce you to my friend, the great grey owl. This is the craziest thing about wildlife outside of parks. They're typically truly wild and so much harder to get photos of. However, after a lot of time spent with this beauty, we soon became very comfortable with each other. She later let me follow her as she hunted, introduced me to her friends, and continued to visit throughout the year before seemingly disappearing, as these incredible birds often do.
Sometimes I feel as if I'm living in a dream. The above photo was taken about 20 feet above the ground in a corner of our family's property. When we acquired the property, my mom couldn't get over the fact that "all these trees are ours!" This was especially funny since we used to boast about the 400-ish trees on our acreage near Regina. It definitely has brought a new appreciation to the power of nature, and you better believe us bald-prairie people are always trying to make it easier for more trees to grow.
So next time you think about wildlife, remember that their home is so much larger than those tiny pockets of protected land. Keep your eyes open and you'll soon realize that a lot of incredible creatures can be found only minutes from your home.
Side note for aspiring wildlife and nature photographers:
Something I see too often is the issue of land-ownership, land-access, and trespassing. People believe that they have the right to enter any land they can. Regardless of your origins, relationships, or beliefs, this is incredibly dangerous and irresponsible.
Here's the issue (besides it being illegal): Landowners know the animals, the plants, the landscape, and the obstacles within their property. They work so incredibly hard to improve it for the wildlife or for farming and when someone trespasses, they drive over trees and crops, endanger themselves, and have even endangered landowners and users.
Just remember: if you ask permission before entering private land, you're keeping everyone safe. I promise you if someone says no, there's a reason and you need to respect that.
With that in mind, there are so many places that can be explored! Looking to get off the beaten trail? start with some regional parks! They're typically far less busy and full of hidden gems! You're likely to meet locals there who can guide you on new places to explore!