Colossus walks

Wood bison in profile. Northern British Columbia. Taken by Steven Mackay
Wood bison in profile. Northern British Columbia.
Taken by Steven Mackay

The Wood Bison is enormous. It’s a subspecies of the American bison, which gringos from Europe called buffalo. They are rather widespread in Alberta and the Northwest Territories, but not so much in British Columbia. Unfortunately, a large portion of the population are killed each year in collisions with cars. Not surprised, as this guy was spotted walking down the road- the white at the bottom is the partition between the road and the gravel side.

What you learn from several days in rural B.C. is that driving at night is a horrible idea. Besides the windy roads and frequent rain, there is also forest fire smoke reducing visibility, and severalĀ huge animals wandering about that you do not want to get in an accident with. Besides bison, there are stone sheep, caribou, moose, and both black and Grizzly bears. For various reasons, they all tend to congregate on or near roads.

As a tourist you often have the luxury of traveling in the day and hunkering in for the night. Those that by necessity travel during the night have much danger to consider.

An adult male moose grazes in a pond, west of Muncho Lake, British Columbia. Photo by Steven Mackay
An adult male moose grazes in a pond, west of Muncho Lake, British Columbia.
Photo by Steven Mackay

Moose are big dudes. This male was full-size and very intimidating when he wanted to be. This was taken with a very long lens- he is in the rear of a lake next to the Alaska Highway. The travelers next to us said he had been in the same place the day before. With a look like that, he was clearly too powerful to worry about humans with cameras.

Compared to most modern freeways, the Alaska Highway is still very much in wild country. If not purely wild, it is wild-adjacent. Even though now it is a modern, fully-paved artery for business and tourism, no effort is needed to see vast wilderness and very little to see iconic animals of the Canadian West.

Animals and oil refineries

A beaver on Hwy 77, northern British Columbia. Photo by Steven Mackay
A beaver on Hwy 77, northern British Columbia.
Photo by Steven Mackay

After hundreds of miles of signs telling us of possible wildlife, we finally saw some yesterday and today. The beaver was spotted just short of the British Columbia-Northwest Territories border on Hwy 77. The bears were seen around Prophet River, going north to Fort Nelson, B.C.

Though mostly associated with Alberta, northern and eastern British Columbia are heavily impacted by the oil and gas trade. Fort Nelson, where we are staying tonight, is a boomtown of sorts. Though there is plenty of forest, it is filled with service roads. Often the trees are a thin layer disguising wells or, in a pretty obvious case, a pipeline.

Because the oil infrastructure doesn’t require a lot of personnel after it’s set up and running, B.C. and Alberta have are unusual in that there are still very few large towns, but these small settlements are surrounded with billions of dollars of technology.

A black bear, spotted near Prophet River, B.C. Photo by Andrew Mackay
A black bear, spotted near Prophet River, B.C.
Photo by Andrew Mackay