I’ve been a little quite lately as my job shifts around and I (ahem) quit when my contract finished. I’m taking a long break from teaching to see if I still love it and want to return, or find a new passion. In the meantime I’m hunting for something else – new and different – and totally unrelated to teaching or being in a school.
We’ve been doing stuff for us and trying to enjoy ourselves. Work has taken a lot out of us this past year and what better way to enjoy a day than at Omega Park. Located just over an hour from Ottawa in Montebello, Quebec, it has the best of both worlds – encountering wildlife and having them in an environment where they can roam (no small enclosures here). Although there are fences in the carnivorous areas, they are there more to keep you in your area than the wildlife away from you.
We had gone a few years ago on a lovely summer’s day, but going in winter is entirely different. With there being less crowds and better temperatures, the wildlife is up and about and interested in you. A coyote was more than content to listen to us talk to him for 20 mins. With fewer visitors we could take our time and drive as slow as we wanted, stop as often as we wanted, and hang out to our hearts content.
We saw elk at various stages with their antlers (some recently were lost while others were in their full glory), very young boars who were probably only a few weeks old, and two bears playing around with each other. The young elk had quickly learnt what to do for a carrot – stand in front of your car until they saw something orange. We were very fortunate to see two males duking it out, probably playing around as it didn’t look very stressful and they were friendly with each other afterwards. The moose is also very fond of his caretaker, following her around as she laid branches in his enclosure, much like a puppy. Luckily for him, he has a goat to keep him company.
Before you venture too far, you must stop at the Park House to stock up on some carrots (Don’t worry, they are reasonably priced). I recommend 4-6 bags. We got 4 bags and near the end we were rationing them. Another tip: break the carrots in half or thirds. This will make your carrots last longer and the elk don’t seem to notice. And one last piece of advice: charge your camera battery. I thought I was good and it ran out of juice before venturing to see the bears.
As we drove around we had the Omega Park station playing on the radio listening to information on the park and the animals in its care. When you finally leave, and you will have to leave at some point, unfortunately, you’ll find you’ll be hard pressed to pick a favourite moment. Is it the beautiful orange of the fox’s coat? Or the elk stuck who his head right in the window? Or rounding a bend and seeing a majestic elk standing in the middle of the path? Or checking your rearview mirror and seeing one watching you drive away? Or seeing two mock-fighting? The coyote hanging out with us? The bears having fun on the frozen ice? Seeing the striations on the large rack of antlers? Seeing the mother boar nursing her young off to the side? Can we come back again?