The JRR Wildlife Report

Have you seen any interesting wildlife in and around the Retreat lately? Send us your photos and a few details about when and where you spotted your bird or critter and we’ll post it here for everyone to enjoy.

Wild Horses at top of our entry road on Mar 29 2018. Thanks Gary and Sarah for the Photo!


May's pups now teenagers? Crittercam, October 2016

May’s pups now teenagers? Crittercam, October 2016


Coyote hunting, October 2016

Coyote hunting, October 2016


Coyote pups near fish pond, June 2016

Coyote pups near fish pond, June 2016


Black bear in the retreat, May 2016

Black bear in the retreat, May 2016


Muscrat in the fish pond, May 2016

Muskrat in the fish pond, May 2016


Sandhill Cranes courting, May 2016

Sandhill Cranes courting, Twp Rd 344 NE of JRR, May 2016


Moose resting on Lot 12, Apr 2016

Moose resting on Lot 12, Apr 2016


Wolf caught on crittercam, Feb 2016

Wolf caught on crittercam, Jan 2016



Mink under bridge, Oct 2015

Mink under bridge, Oct 2015


Moose caught on crittercam, Oct 2015

Moose caught on crittercam, Oct 2015


What IS that, anyway? Pine Marten caught on crittercam, south edge of JRR, Oct 2015

What IS that, anyway? Pine Marten caught on crittercam, Oct 2015


Great grey owl, James River Road, Oct 2015

Great grey owl, James River Road, Oct 2015

Are you Bear smart?

We’re fortunate at James River to share the Retreat and the surrounding area with an abundance of wildlife. And the first long weekend of “summer” at JRR also marks the beginning of Bear Awareness Week, a good time to remind ourselves that bears – now well out of hibernation and possibly protecting young cubs – are occasional visitors that command a healthy dose of respect.

Lucky for us, there’s a local not-for-profit organization called Mountain View Bear Smart that provides a wealth of information on staying Bear Smart wherever you are in Alberta as well as a weekly Bear Activity Report for a wide area including our neck of the woods.

Mountain View Bear Smart is also hosting a Family Fun Day Saturday, May 16 10:30AM to 3:00PM at Elkton Valley Campground. The program for the day will include displays on bear and cougar biology and safety; information on identifying black bear, grizzly bear, cougar, wolf and coyote signs; crafts for the kids and a free hot dog lunch.

For more about this event, including directions to the Elkton Valley Campground, visit the group’s website. And while you’re there, consider supporting the work of this volunteer group with a donation or the purchase of a membership.

Rare moose spotted

Cabin owners and visitors to the James River Retreat regularly enjoy a variety of wildlife sightings but our newest neighbours have reported a wildlife encounter that is decidedly odd.

Hang out at JRR long enough and, if you’re lucky, sooner or later you’re going to see a moose. These gentle giants are frequent visitors to the Retreat, especially during the last 2 or 3 winters. In fact, we recently received a photo of two young moose wading through deep snow outside a JRR cabin window.

Submitted by Judy and Ken

Two juvenile moose, Winter 2015

But Donna and Brad Grandview over on Lot 41 are relative newcomers and had never seen a moose in the wild before this spring. When they came face to face to face with their very first live moose, it stopped them in their tracks.

“We came around a corner and saw this thing standing in our neighbour’s driveway, just a few feet away from us” reported Brad. She went on to describe how it shuffled back and forth a few times “as if it was getting ready to take off”. It took a second for it to sink in just what was so unusual about this particular moose and why it wasn’t likely going anywhere soon. “I couldn’t believe it” said Donna “so I grabbed my phone and took this photo.” No wonder it just stood and shuffled: it couldn’t make up its mind which direction to head.


Pushmi-pullyu moose, Spring 2015

It’s not the first outrageous springtime animal sighting at James River Retreat (see giant Easter Bunny below) but it could be the weirdest.

Giant Easter Bunny looms over JRR, Easter 2005

Giant Easter Bunny looms over JRR, Easter 2005

Crittercam Mania

Camera traps, wildlife cameras, game cameras. All names for a potentially addictive, four-season outdoor toy: a motion- or heat-activated camera able to snap photos of wildlife with relatively little human interference. A search for “wildlife cameras” online yields an overwhelming variety of cameras at a range of prices for anyone curious about what the local wildlife gets up to when we’re not around. They’ve been a fixture at some James River cabins for years now, including one legendary setup, since dismantled, that allowed the camera owner to remotely view wildlife on his lot even when he was stuck at home in Calgary.

Below is a sampling of our favourites from various locations around the Retreat over the years. As you can see, the two-legged creatures of James River can be a curious lot while the four-legged creatures remain somewhat more aloof. If that leaves you wanting more, check out this recent article from the Calgary Herald. It gives a shoutout to the Crittercams of James River but also features some truly spectacular wildlife photos gathered on another quarter section an hour to the south of us. On second thought, maybe it’s better if we don’t always know what’s out there wandering the trails!


Hans critter


Canine or Feline: can you tell the difference?

This article originally ran in the Summer 2005 issue of the James River News, a newsletter produced by the JRR Condo Association from 2005-2009. 

The James River Retreat is home to a wonderful variety of wildlife, human and otherwise.  Sightings over the years include black bears, beavers, coyotes, red foxes, deer, moose, elk, wolves and even a domestic black cat that, from a distance, had us stumped for a time. Not all animals at James River like to be seen and the fresh mud along the river bank is a great place to look for signs of our more furtive neighbours.

We recently came across the track pictured below a short distance upriver from the bridge.  We immediately set about trying to figure out what animal left it behind.  It’s trickier than you might think. The size of the track – slightly less than 10cm long – seemed right for a large dog, large coyote or small wolf.  But members of the dog family usually leave claw marks, especially in soft mud like this. Members of the cat family have retractable claws that rarely register in the tracks they leave behind.  Could this track have been left by a cougar, lynx or bobcat?

We went to a favourite website – Beartracker’s Animal Tracks Den – to help us solve the mystery.  This website contains a wealth of information on animal tracks of all kinds and features an article on how to tell the difference between feline and canine tracks.  We think this track was made by a cat – perhaps a small cougar – and there are three things we looked at that helped us to decide:

cougar tracks

  1. No obvious claw marks
  2. Two front toes are not lined up – one sits further forward
  3. Imaginary lines drawn along the ridges between the two pairs of outside toes intersect in the middle of the heel pad rather than at the top of it.

Looks like we may have a new neighbour, folks.  Check out the tracking website some time and see if you agree.  Maybe one day if we’re lucky, we’ll be able to add “cougar” to our list of animal sightings.  From a safe distance, of course!

There have been multiple cougar sightings nearby and inside the Retreat since this article first appeared, including the one pictured below. The youngster was photographed by Liz and Bob Moore on the riverbank below their place last summer.

 Photo: Liz and Bob Moore

For more information on safe recreation in cougar country and signs that a cougar is in the area, visit Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development’s webpage Recreation in Cougar Country or download Alberta Park’s Preventing Conflict with Wildlife: Cougars.