Caribou in the mist

Caribou in the mist

Submitted by: Liv

2006 was a year of transitions for me. I was in the process of moving from Ontario to Edmonton. I’d just finished my Master’s and was about to plunge into the murky pool of PhD studies. I’d studied caribou in Ontario, and knew that I wanted to continue studying that species. I was between worlds – I’d just left my old world, but my new one had not yet started.

I had a chance to attend a caribou conference in Jasper National Park in early May of 2006. There were presentations, of course, but a lot of it was a chance for the small circle of dedicated caribou researchers in Canada to catch up (as opposed to just reading each other’s papers!).

At the end of the conference, we all boarded a bus to go on a field trip to Medicine Lake. I’m told that Medicine Lake got its name because it’s magical – it often dries up and then fills up again. We were all in high spirits, laughing and reminiscing as the bus bounced down the gravel road.

When we got to Medicine Lake, an eerie mist hung over the muddy flats. The wall of mountains around us loomed like frozen giants. A few of us peered through binoculars, not entirely sure what we were looking for, or what we would find. Then someone shouted “Caribou!”

Like a group of school children we bunched together, taking turns with the binoculars, trying to spot the four blurry figures meandering across the far side of the lake. I fumbled for my camera and zoomed in as close as I could. I could see them! My heart raced. Four stately bulls walked proudly together. If they knew we were there, they didn’t seem to care. They were too busy going about the important business of being caribou. Their white manes stood out against the monochromatic background and their steps were purposeful. Soon, they melted into the trees.

Over a decade has passed since I saw those caribou. I know how lucky I was to see them, for very few caribou remain in Jasper National Park. I hope they’ll be there next time I go to Medicine Lake.