“Aren’t you afraid of wild animals?” one of our hosts asks. We are sitting around the table in the evening. “There are wolves out there” she tells us. “We really hope to see a wolf” we say with a big smile.
Every day we see many tracks of wild animals on the snow, but we never see the animals. We see many tracks of moose, hare, foxes, otters, squirrels, coyotes and wolves. Just like us, the animals like to follow the prepared snow-scooter trails, which are a lot easier to walk on because the snow is hard and packed. Sometimes we follow wolf tracks for a couple of hours. We can see the places where they’ve stopped, marked their territory and where they’ve left the trail for a while. But that’s as close as we get.
People tell us that it is very hard to see wild animals during the winter because most of them stay in the same place. They don’t want to use a lot of energy because it is much harder to find food. During the first winter months the snowpack will built up so the deer and moose can reach branches higher in the trees. Towards spring, finding food becomes even harder because the snow will melt and they already ate the lower branches. Winter means hunger for animals. The population of wild animals is often determined by the length of the winter. This also determines how many animals can be hunted the next fall, a popular activity in Canada.
For us every moose, deer, bear or lynx is a rare sight and a beautiful individual. For the people here those animals are abundant and hunting them is a sport. We still have to adapt to this idea and listen to the motivations of the people. We agree that going deep into nature and track an animal is interesting, but we prefer shooting a picture and not a bullet. We also learn that permits are very limited for most of the animals. For example, in Quebec they can shoot one moose for every two hunters. Most of the hunters we spoke to don’t shoot a moose every year, simply because they don’t see them, or the one they see isn’t big enough. If they shoot one, they will use all the meat, often sharing it with the whole family.
But there is also a lot of trapping, which is legal in Quebec. For example wolf, lynx, black bear and beaver aren’t endangered here so trapping is allowed. We talked to some trappers and most of them won’t eat the meat of these animals, but they do it for the fur. It isn’t allowed to export the fur outside of Quebec, because of international regulations, but they can sell it inside the province. Although we have respect for the craftsmanship that these trappers practise, it is impossible to accept it in our mind. We explain to them that there were some sights of wolves in the Netherlands and we even gave those wolfs names. We also tell them that there are about 50 bears in the whole Pyrenees.
We still have lots of days left on the skis, and hope to see at least one wild animal, even a small, white hare would be great.