The more friends I made in the city, the more I realized that many people are completely unaware of the wildlife that lives just a few km from the city limits (if not within them).
For example, did you know there are wild cougars, black bears, and elk just 30km from Regina?
That's right, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
There are literally hundreds of wildlife species inhabiting Saskatchewan's urban and rural areas. You just need a little patience and a keen eye to spot them!
The Elusive Ones
As a child, one of our family friends was a pest control manager for the Gov't of Sask. Through him, we found out about a cougar very close to our home had been attacking horses and cattle. As far I know, they never did locate the animal but the attacks eventually stopped as it likely noticed the increased human presence.
Just a few years ago, my mother and I heard the cougar crying to its cubs for a few weeks (follow that link to hear the scariest sound you can hear at night). A few weeks later a neighbour was walking his grandchild and saw the cat up in a pine tree in their yard! We've heard about sightings off them as far south as Bracken, Sask, in the middle of the bare plains and as close to Regina as along HWY 1 near Belle Plain. In April of 2010, there was even a report of a cougar being spotted in the Wascana Creek area of Regina! This brings into question the cat's other name "mountain lion" as there clearly are no mountains here. But that doesn't mean you can't find them, all you need is the patience to wait about 10 years to spot on these incredibly intelligent animals.
There are also Wild Boar throughout the province! You can follow the Facebook Page, Canadian Wild Pig Research Project - CWPRG, to learn more about their movement and locations. It is so important that you NEVER approach any wild animal, but especially a wild boar. They are often highly aggressive and have sharp tusks and teeth hinged on powerful jaws.
Know when Animals are Most Active
Most animals have adapted to be more active during times where there is less human activity. This also tends to fall during times of less light. Aim to get up early and enjoy the sunsets. You're far more likely to see animals during these times of the day.
You can also use weather phenomenon to your advantage. Often times, ungulates will be more active immediately preceding the arrival of a low-pressure system, and immediately following a storm (especially in the evening). Take this as an opportunity to find sit in your car or under some sort of cover and await the animals emerging to take in the last of the sun or enjoy some now washed vegetation.
Dangers of Observing Wildlife on Private and Public Lands
Being aware of your surroundings will not only help you see wildlife, but also avoid dangerous situations.
When animals are rutting (the breeding season) they are also far more active. Coyotes are pairing up throughout February, the Whitetail are going crazy in November, and the Elk are bugling and collecting cows in September, but most importantly, Moose are rutting throughout October and November. There are few things more dangerous than a rutting moose, something I am all too familiar with.
If you ever find yourself face to face with a rutting moose, calmly leave the area. If it charges, run and find cover - from personal experience, you have a split second to get out of the way but they're not very quick at changing direction when in a rutting charge. Try to get a tree or vehicle between you and the moose. If you have a chance to get away, go. Get into a house, a vehicle, or a culvert (also good for tornados, not so good for flash-floods) and get out of the area or wait until the animal leaves if you can't drive away.
Sometimes the moose aren't even charging at you! I am admittedly terrified of moose. Only a few years ago I found myself in the path of two fighting bulls and had to dive into a willow tree to get out of their way. I could feel the heat from their bodies and smell them they were so close. I happened to have hit my video button as I ran away and hid behind a tree. I'll be uploading the video soon where you can see just how hard they are to spot in the trees!
The end of the fall also marks a point in time where everything is stocking up on food. Black bears will be far more prominent in October and April and May when they're actively looking for food. In the spring, the black bear sows are also usually towing around cubs. This is not an animal you want to approach or startle with young. They will be defensive or worse.
Lastly, it's also important to remember that hunters are out from Late August or September to early December. Respect their rights and try not to disrupt them. You can use the Saskatchewan Hunter and Trappers Guide to find out when seasons are closed so as to limit your disruption of hunts and potentially put yourself in danger. If you plan on going out during an active hunting season, wear bright orange headgear and tops to make sure you're visible to others utilizing Saskatchewan's resources.
Also, beware of livestock. Many times of public property are available for producers to use for grazing activities. You need to respect these activities by avoiding the area if there are cattle, ensuring gates stay closed, and fences stay in-tact.
Note: The use of our resources for many activities is a shared right. If you disagree with an activity such as hunting or ranching, do so in a respectful manner. Consider that there are thousands of protected acres of publicly accessible land funded by the sale of hunting and angling licenses in Saskatchewan, and ranchers are the reason many grassland areas have been preserved in this province. Intentionally disruption of legal grazing, hunting, fishing, and trapping activities is illegal.
Where to find Wildlife near Regina
If you're looking for a great place close to Regina to see some wildlife, check out Fairy Hill Conservancy Area. This area covers the southern edge of the Qu'Appelle Valley, making for great cover for plenty of wildlife. You'll also spot Mule Deer, Whitetail Deer, Elk, Moose, Black Bears, Grouse, and a myriad of birds, amphibians and even weasels like mink!
Keep an eye out if you're coming from Regina, often times the elk will run across the highway not far from the conservancy area!
Black bears have also been known to hang out in the Qu'Appelle Valley not far from Regina. A neighbour has photos of one running across a field not far from our homes and we've heard of and seen plenty near our home in Esterhazy. These are far easier to see as they don't blend in very well and are far less timid near humans. You can drive the scenic route through the Qu'Appelle Valley in the early morning and throughout the evenings to see much of the wildlife mentioned thus far.
Travel throughout Saskatchewan
Other great drives full of Saskatchewan wildlife include the Cypress Hills Grand Tour and Grasslands Tour. Both feature some incredible landscapes and include both public (parks and wildlife land) and private land along the way.
To be honest though? As long as you're willing to venture off the main highways, you'll find plenty of spectacular scenes and wildlife throughout the province. One of my favourites is still the drive up the HWY 106 through Smeaton, Narrow Hills Provincial Park, into the Canadian Shield and past absolutely mind-blowing topography. Here you'll see Lynx, Elk, Beaver, Coyotes, Whitetail Deer, Black Bears, Otters, and more!
Never approach wild animals. No matter if it's a fawn hiding in the grass or an injured large animal, always keep your distance. If you find an animal in distress, contact a Conservation Officer in the area and they will direct you on the next steps if required.
The use of our resources for many activities is a shared right. If you disagree with an activity such as hunting, do so in a respectful manner. Consider that there are thousands of protected acres of publicly accessible land funded by the sale of hunting and angling licenses in Saskatchewan. These lands are accessible to anyone for authorized activities such as hunting, bird-watching, hiking, photography, and more!