An Edmonton-area photographer captured a dramatic predator vs. prey chase while on a backcountry canoe and camping trip in northeastern Alberta this past weekend.
David Smith, 39, was on the trip at Lakeland Provincial Park with some friends and their kids when he witnessed a gray wolf chase a white-tailed deer into the water.
He said they could hear wolves howling around 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. Saturday. About an hour and a half later as the group was having breakfast, they heard a big splash about 15 metres from the campsite. He didn’t know what it was at first.
“I grabbed my DSLR camera and zoomed in, only to realize it was a wolf chasing/swimming after a buck,” explained the Sherwood Park-based photographer.
He quickly snapped several photos as the deer struggled to keep away from the hungry wolf.
“[The] wolf slowly caught up with him and bit the deer in the hind,” Smith said.
He isn’t sure if the wolf got kicked by the buck, spooked by the humans nearby, or just realized his predicament — but after one or two minutes the wolf gave up the chase and turned around, while the buck continued swimming to the peninsula the group was camping on.
“Not sure if he had injuries but our campsite was between him and the wolf/wolves, so there was no way they could get him without cutting through where we were.”
The group heard more wolves howling the following morning and canoed around the peninsula to try to spot the deer, but they didn’t see any of the animals.
“It wasn’t a very large piece of land he came up on, so we thought he must be lying low or tried to swim back.”
Smith, who is originally from the U.K. but came to Canada in 2009, said the chase wasn’t a moment many people would have the luck of seeing, let alone documenting.
Smith is a member of ILEP Photography: a group of “not-so-extreme, extreme photographers” who use their passion as an excuse to get outdoors. Smith mainly takes landscapes and astrophotography — making this an exciting and nerve-wracking experience.
“I’m just a hobbyist that brings my camera just in case, and I guess it paid off.”
Lakeland Provincial Park is about 225 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, near Lac La Biche.