One of the best places to see Canada’s wild animals is the Yukon Wildlife Preserve. Zora Regulić marvels at the beastly experience, which covers everything from lazing lynx to weird-looking mountain goats.
There he is, patiently waiting for the paparazzi, moving his head from side-to-side, striking a pose so we can get his best angle. The perfect modeI.
I had no idea moose were so photogenic.
I’m at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve not far from Whitehorse, Yukon’s capital city. The preserve is a 700 acre, not-for-profit conservation facility that helps injured or orphaned northern Canadian wildlife recuperate and then eventually return to their natural habitat.
The moose are in a vast wetland enclosure and this enormous fellow is lying down, unperturbed by the ogling travellers, looking very relaxed, his long legs tucked underneath his body. He is much bigger than I imagined; standing, he must be enormous. Bull moose stand up to 2.1 metres at the shoulder, add to that their antlers, which can grow as large as 1.8 metres, in width and you have yourself a pretty impressive animal.
Onwards we go, driven in the comfort of the Arctic Range Adventures minibus (there is an option to walk around the 5km one-way circuit, or bring your own bicycles and ride around, but no private cars are permitted). Bison are grazing on the grasslands – small brown dots far in the distance. Mule deer with their big ears (hence the name) gaze at us from the safety of their enclosure. Next is the small herd of musk oxen, so close we are almost nose to nose, wonderfully furry fellows with horns that resemble Pippi Longstocking’s plaits.
I spy some elk behind the tall wire fence. Scattered on the viewing deck are quite a few sets of enormous antlers. Not knowing much (okay, not knowing anything) about elk, I thought, these poor animals didn’t survive their injuries, only to be informed that, no, elk shed their antlers each year. What a mammoth effort it is to grow and carry that weight on your head for a whole year – their antlers can be up to 18kg in weight and 1.2m high. It must be a relief when they drop off, just like it is when I take off my Mardi Gras headpiece after a parade.
The land that the reserve is on was purchased by the late Danny Nolan in the 1960s. By all accounts Danny led a colourful life of adventure and daring, and along with his wife Uli created a wildlife sanctuary. The Yukon government bought the property from the Nolans in 2004 and it continues to do the conservation work the Nolans started back in the 1960s.
We drive around the park, stopping at each animal enclosure: Dall sheep with their magnificent curved horns, Lynx lazing about in the sunshine. The arctic fox is wearing a brown summer suit, racing around like an executive about to miss a meeting. When winter comes, the brown suit will be replaced with a white one, perfect camouflage from predators in the snow. All the while, skittering around the reserve at every stop are very cute and very busy ground squirrels, popping their heads up and down in the long grass, checking left and right to see if there is any danger present.
The caribou are resting, and I guess carrying those heavy antlers around they may need to power nap more often than I do. The mountain goats were one of my favourites, their faces like a character from sci-fi film. Surely George Lucas spent time in Northern Canada and was inspired by the wildlife for some of his movie characters.
The preserve is well worth visiting to see first-hand animals you may not get to see in the wild. The conservation work being done here has a very high success rate of rehabilitated animals being released back in to the wild. As it says on its website, “It is everybody’s responsibility to respect and protect our wildlife.” TTW
Zora Regulic travelled to the Yukon courtesy of Teds Cameras, Travel Yukon, Olympus and Adventure World Travel. More at Arctic Range Adventures , Yukon Wildlife preserve , Photos © Zora Regulic. Lynx © Arctic Range Adventures.