Communing with Nature: 9 Animals You Can Find in Prince Albert National Park

Photographing the incredible wildlife in Prince Albert National Park has given amateur photographer Duane Larson of Prince Albert, Sask., a new lease on life.

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Prince Albert National ParkPhoto: Duane Larson

Inside Prince Albert National Park

I enjoy exploring all areas of Saskatchewan, but the area I love best is Prince Albert National Park. Located in north central Saskatchewan and less than an hour away from my hometown of Prince Albert, Prince Albert National Park has become my weekend getaway.

They say that everything in life happens for a reason, and I tend to agree with that. During the early months of 2012, I underwent major heart surgery and it changed my life forever. I spent the next several months walking and hiking the trails in and around the Prince Albert area to rebuild my inner strength, and it was during this time that I discovered my love for nature and the outdoors. I saw things differently than I once did. It was like I was seeing the world for the first time.

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ElkPhoto: Duane Larson

1. Elk

As the year went on, I craved new places to explore and wanted to see more of the beautiful boreal forest, so I branched out and started travelling to Prince Albert National Park a couple of times a week. During these visits, I have had several incredible wildlife encounters including: a friendly grey jay landing on my hand, a curious fox following me as I hiked, and running into several elk on one of the trails. The only problem was that I never had a camera with me to capture those amazing moments.

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Grey jayPhoto: Duane Larson

2. Grey Jay

Later that year, I picked up my first camera along with some great photography advice from my brother and some close friends.

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Black bearPhoto: Duane Larson

3. Black Bear

The camera purchase was the beginning of the next chapter of my life. I instantly fell in love with taking photos and I could hardly bear to put my camera down. As soon as the weekend came around, I packed up and was ready to head back out and explore new areas of the park. I thought after awhile this feeling would wear off, but instead it has become my passion.

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Pileated woodpeckerPhoto: Duane Larson

4. Pileated Woodpecker

In the years since my surgery, I have spent almost every weekend out at the park hiking and taking photos along the way. Spending time in the park in solitude is energizing for me, but there is also something special about discovering a new plant or animal with my family.

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CoyotePhoto: Duane Larson

5. Coyote

At first I photographed everything from sunrise and sunsets to beautiful landscape views, but my favourite thing to photograph is the wildlife that calls Prince Albert National Park home.

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Pine martenPhoto: Duane Larson

6. Pine Marten

Have you ever seen a pine marten spying on you from the branches of a nearby tree? An elusive and elegant Canada lynx watching you from the surrounding forest? Or perhaps a curious northern river otter peeking out from under the docks? These are just a few of the amazing animals that live in the national park that I love to photograph.

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OtterPhoto: Duane Larson

7. Otter

Hiking and exploring is a great experience at any time of the day, but the early morning hours are my favourite. During the summer months if you spot someone hiking or driving around at 4 a.m., it's probably me. During these quieter times, I see the most wildlife around the park. I could sit for hours watching the otters play.

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FoxPhoto: Duane Larson

8. Fox

One of the most memorable experiences I've had in the park began in 2013, when I was out shooting photos and met a curious fox with a scar on his right ear. I encountered this same fox again in 2014, while he was walking down the road, and then again in 2015, while he was sitting under a tree. Seeing him three years in a row was a pretty unique experience. I searched those areas in 2016, hoping to find him again, but Prince Albert National Park is a big area and I haven't seen him again—not yet anyway. I am hoping we will have another chance encounter.

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White-tailed deerPhoto: Duane Larson

9. White-Tailed Deer

The time I've spent on the trails has provided so much more than great photographs and wildlife encounters. It has allowed me to heal, learn a new hobby and reconnect with nature. For these experiences, I am incredibly grateful and celebrated more than Canada's 150th anniversary last summer. If you're in need of a wonderful family getaway, then make Prince Albert National Park your destination this year.

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Originally Published in Our Canada