Jasper National Park is one of the great places in the world to photograph elk – particularly bull elk with massive racks.
Unfortunately, Jasper also has a highway – and railway line – that cut across the wild protected area.
Though efforts have been made to reduce speeding on the highways, the reality is that so long as it is a highway, with the accompanying highway speed limit, animals will be killed.
In Banff, brilliant efforts have been made to curb car-related wildlife mortality through an extensive fencing program that includes specially designed overpasses and underpasses to ensure that critical connectivity isn’y compromised.
But Jasper has yet to be the beneficiary of this technology and until it comes into play, animals who cross – and, of course, feed – on the highway will be in jeopardy.
For years, my family and I have enjoyed photographing the ‘two amigos’ – the two biggest elk any of us have ever seen.
Known for hanging out – always as a pair – alongside Highway 16, east of the Jasper townsite, Jill immediately fell in love with these majestic creatures when she encountered them on her first visit to the park.
Seeing the two bull elk was a yearly tradition, as was documenting their lives through photography.
On our last morning in Jasper – two years ago today – Jill and I were stopped to photograph a black bear sow and cubs. A man who had seen me the day before photographing the ‘two amigos’ approached to tell me the devastating news.
One of the massive elk was struck and killed by a semi-trailer during the early morning hours.
I suppose, in reality, its fate was sealed when it chose to live alongside Highway 16. But with fewer and fewer spaces to roam, these elk chose this spot and defied the odds for years. Until that fateful morning.
Elk are hardly endangered, but when wildlife can’t be safe within the protected areas that supposedly exist for their safety, you have to wonder where they can roam wild and free.
It’s not in Jasper.
Today, the once proud, graceful ‘two amigos’ have become the one solitary amigo – still wandering the side of Highway 16 with his massive antlers, but, for the first time in my lifetime, by himself.
And it makes you wonder. How long until the life of the last amigo is cut short by the front-end of a vehicle driving at a justifiable highway speed through the national park?