Watchable Wildlife’s Wayne L. Millar offers a unique service for animal lovers and photographers.
As a recognized tour guide in Elk Island National Park for 17 years, Millar assists animal lovers, amateur photographers, international tourists and outdoors enthusiasts in observing nature and wildlife in the park.
“If it is a local person, I take them and show them how to see the park by themselves,” Millar says. “Because I’m not one of these people that are trying to get ten sales from the same individual. I’m happy to show them the park so they can do it themselves.”
An average Winter Wildlife tour around Elk Island National Park takes Millar and his guests approximately four hours. During this time there’s the possibility of seeing plains bison, deer, elk, coyote, moose, porcupines, and resident birds.
Millar supplies an array of food for the tour—ranging from ribs or steak to simple snacks—cooking on either open fire or a butane grill.
Respect for the land and animals is paramount in Millar’s eyes. He stresses that Elk Island is a park and not a zoo. Although he can’t make promises about the volume of wildlife each guest will encounter, he enjoys the experience of touring with his customers and seeing their varied reactions.
“Most people have never seen a bison,” Millar says. “Let alone one six yards away. Some people get excited, other people get really nervous.”
Many of his clients are from outside Edmonton and overseas, and range from businessmen to avid hunters.
Millar stresses common sense when approaching or photographing the wildlife.
“They’ll want to get out and maybe take a picture of an animal very close. I’ll say ‘fine, just stay on this side of the vehicle, don’t slam your door, close it quietly and shoot the photo over the vehicle.’”
For those interested in going to the park for their own excursion, he recommends phoning into the park to verify when it closes, and to be mindful of how dark it gets during the winter months. Bear in mind that Alberta loses four minutes of daylight every day from Jun. 22 to Dec. 21, and gains four minutes from Dec. 22 to Jun. 21, he says.
For dress, he recommends a warm winter jacket, waterproof footwear, mittens, and ear coverage—depending on the harshness of winter.
Prices range from $95 to $120 per person for the four-hour Winter Wildlife tour. If interested in a private tour, Millar asks for an additional $45 to cover costs for his “hobby business.”
Winter Wildlife Tour
Elk Island National Park, $95-$120