A Little About Wood Bison

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The wood bison is considered by most a subspecies of the American plains bison, but some argue that they are a distinctly separate subspecies.  The two bison are somewhat different in appearance.  The wood bison is larger and has a slightly different body type then that of the plains .

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The herd of wood bison I saw along the Alaska Highway was from the Norquist herd.  Here is a little history about them:

  • In the early 1800’s over 168,000 wood bison inhabited the forests of North West North America.
  • In the early 1900’s wood bison populations declined sharply due to over hunting.
  • In 1906 The last wood bison was shot in Northern British Columbia.
  • In 1959 an isolated northern population of about 200 relatively pure Wood Bison was confirmed.                                    (all other wood bison at that time were hybridized with American buffalo)
  • In 1985 wood bison were (and still are) classed as “Threatened” under the Species At Risk Act.
  • In 1995 49 wood bison were reintroduced to Nodquist area in British Columbia.
  • In 2007 the Nordquist herd population numbered about 100 animals.
  • In 2010 the roadside count was 108 animals.
  • Today it’s believed that the Nordquist group consists of three herds with a total population of approximately 200 animals.  There are several other groups which are reaching a target population of about 500.

The Nordquist herd territory can be seen in the map below:

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The yellow line is the Liard Highway which branches off the Alaskan Highway at Fort Nelson.

 

I was happy to see these beasties along the Alaska and Liard Highways….

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But….

IMG_3751Nickel and Eureka were even happier….

Day 30 The Northern Rockies

 East end of the Alaska Highway

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I had no idea what to expect on this leg of our journey.  I didn’t have a detailed map of this portion of the  Alaska Highway or the Northwest Territories/British Columbia borders and I wasn’t sure how far I would want to travel.  Would I drive all the way to YellowKnife, NWT or turn around and head home? To my surprise and joy, the rugged northern most range of the Canadian Rockies soon loomed ahead of us.   This range is made of  towering rock and scree mountains surrounded by crystal clear rivers and lakes. With the promise of great scenery and opportunity to see new types of wildlife, was spurred on.

Our first stop was a beautiful pebble beach

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Nickel

The air was humid and cool and the water was icy cold.

Nickel was getting cold, although she didn’t want to give up, and the other two were devouring chews that I’d given them.


 

The girls were drawn to a large rock pile next to the lake.  As I approached,  I realized it was the grave of somebody’s beloved dog. It was a beautiful place and I imagined that someone traveling with their ancient dog was forced to leave him/her in this peaceful resting place.

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grave


During our break we took a quick hike  The trail signage promised a vista of the surrounding mountains and the possibility of spying some of the resident Stone’s sheep.  This is a rather isolated population of mountain sheep that are a darker subspecies of Dall Sheep… the sheep I hoped to see on the Dempster Highway.  Both types are very shy and difficult to spot.

This photo wasn’t taken by me… it’s from newswatch.nathional geographic.com

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Photo by Paul Colangelo

 

IMG_3853  We didn’t manage to see any… LOL.

Due to our recent experience with the porcupine I decided to hobble the dogs during the hike.  I do this occasionally on hikes or in camp as it allows the dogs the freedom to  go where they want while preventing them from running (also know as chasing wildlife).   I didn’t do this in previous bear territory for the obvious reasons.

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I use their leash and it has a slip knot so I can easily pull it loose.

The poodles didn’t like the restriction at first but were soon they trotting happily along.  It was a nice break for me since I didn’t have to keep a keen eye out for game.

Only thing we found was…..

Scat

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Scat of the day.

 You can see that it consists mostly of sheep hair… I guess it’s the closest I’ll come to spotting a sheep.


 

 There were plenty of signs for wildlife so I was still hoping to see some… particularly that elusive caribou.  So far on the trip the signs kept promising but never delivering.

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Day 29 Porcupine Poke Party

I struggled in my decision about where to go next.   I thought about going to Haines Alaska via the Alaskan Highway west, to head south to Atlin or simply start heading directly home.  I was getting a little tired of hanging out with so many people and the lure of the North West Territories was calling to me like a Siren.  So, eastward we went… we’ll see how far north we get in the NWT.

East across the Alaskan Highway back and forth into and out of British Columbia and the Yukon we traveled on this windy road.

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Graffiti at Rest Stop

New territory!  We’re no longer back tracking the portion of highway we took in the beginning of the trip.  The junction of the Alaska Highway and Watson Lake is far behind us and the terrain is changing from the rather boring flat coniferous forest to rugged mountains and gorgeous blue rivers.  The exquisite turquoise color of these rivers is due to copper oxide leached from the surrounding mountains.  The water was crystal clear.


 

We set up camp next to the river but also next to what turns out to be a bridge with an interesting history.IMG_3810-1 (dragged) IMG_3821-1 (dragged)

 

Little did I know it’s connection to Washington State (where I reside).  It was build in 1941 with steel salvaged from the famous (and infamous) Galloping Gerdie… the Tacoma Narrows bridge.  I’m happy to report that this bridge is sway free.

 Gerdie then

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CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT GERDIE

Liard today

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We spent the evening exploring the river’s edge and looking for interesting rocks.  Poodles had fun chasing chipmunks.

It was the next morning that the fun began…

Someone please tell TinTin, Nickel and Eureka that

THIS

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is NOT THIS

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We woke up to a beautiful morning after a torrential down pour during the night.  The river had significantly risen and I was grateful that we were on a high solid bank.  It seems that a little creature had taken refuge under the camper and had a big surprise waiting for us.  I let the dogs out for a morning potting and soon heard them scurry around the camper.

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I assumed they were after a chippy.  I then heard a very peculiar whelp, growl and bark.  I’ve never seen my dogs fight but It sounded like maybe TinTin and Nickel had gotten into a scuffle.  I jumped out to see what was going on and saw the three dogs circling a small cluster of trees next to the camper and their noses were filled with quills.  I grabbed Eureka and Nickel by the scruffs of their necks and pulled them away (I didn’t have collars on them since we had just gotten up and I take them off at night).  TinTin was still lunging madly at the porcupine…. apparently she was just as intolerant of a porcupine fighting back as she is any dog.

I don’t know how I did it, but I got all three dogs away.  They were desperately pawing at their faces with both front paws and I knew that I needed to get the quills out before they pushed them further in.  I don’t know how many 100’s of miles I was from a town, but I knew that I couldn’t have three thrashing dogs in the truck while I tried to find a vet.  I got out my very well stocked first aid kit and began to dig for supplies.  I gave each dog a Tramadol to relax them and found a pair of forceps.  The three dogs were very very lucky that they had few quills and they were NOT in eyes, nostrils, tongues or throats.  I removed about 30-40 from each dog.  Needless to say I didn’t take any pictures but I found this one on-line to illustrate what it looked like.

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As I searched for pictures, I came across some horrendous photos of dog-porcupine encounters.  I’m not even going to post the worst ones… they were just too disturbing.

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I’m happy to report that this dog survived this with no eye problems… pretty amazing.

After removing the quills I shaved their noses to make sure I got every last quill.  They were then put on antibiotics.

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That was too much excitement for the morning.  I packed up and we hit the road, headed for the Northern Canadian Rockies.

FN Forest District