Cows and Wildlife

Closing a gate after crossing a pasture in August 2021.

It’s World Habitat Day today, and that made me think about an observation I’ve been ruminating on for several months. When I’m not at my desk, I’m often outside, and in the warmer months, I spend a lot of time riding my horse down backroads and through bush trails. I live in the Parkland-Boreal transition zone of northwestern Saskatchewan, which means the landscape varies from open fields to poplar groves to boreal forest, complete with muskeg and black spruce. Some of the land I ride through is public forest land, some is privately owned recreational land (but open to some users with permission) and some of it is owned or managed by local ranchers. 

Despite using bear bells or otherwise making noise, I see a lot of wildlife when I’m riding. And I may be preaching to the converted here, but many of those wild animals are in pastures or hay fields. This year, I have seen elk, white-tailed deer, coyotes, sandhill cranes, a porcupine, ruffed grouse, ducks, geese and too many other birds to list while riding through pastures or hay fields. In other years, I’ve also encountered black bears, moose, badgers and mule deer, just to name a few of the larger species. In the spring, frogs sing from the pasture wetlands, only falling silent as I pass with my horse.  

My friends and I sometimes camp in bush pastures (with permission). It’s ideal, as the grazing cattle keep the undergrowth from getting too thick and being a fire hazard, but there are still plenty of trees.  There’s also plenty of wildlife, as my friends verified when they left their camper in the pasture for a couple of weeks, and set up a trail camera to see what happened. As you can see, lots happened. They moved their camper after seeing this footage.

Thanks to Chris for letting me share these videos. They're good reminders that this land is home to not only cattle for part of the year, but many wild animals. 

So to all the farmers and ranchers who keep these places wild, thank you, and happy World Habitat Day.  

About the author

Editor

Lisa Guenther

Lisa Guenther is the editor of Canadian Cattlemen. You can follow her on Twitter @LtoG.