I cannot think of a better way to spend a lovely fall day than walking through 3 kms of enclosures, known as Salmonier Nature Park, that are set up to help rehabilitate injured animals. The forests of Newfoundland and Labrador have a plethora of animals. There are several bio domes and zoos through the country, but only a handful of nature reserve parks accessible to the general public. I am very fortunate to live less than an hour’s drive from this one.
Once you arrive at the park, you will find ample parking. As you enter the newly renovated interpretation center, you can spend some your time reading about the animals that are native to the province as you explore the displays. The helpful staff are available to answer any of your questions.
The best part is when you start to head out onto the boardwalk. As you begin the 3 kms, you will enjoy the easy walking a fully developed boardwalk while you navigate around the park. This trail is fully accessible with ramps.
As you walk around the park, there are gates that you will have to open to enter into a new enclosure. There is usually an information display letting you know what animal lives there and this will give you an opportunity to read more about the animal in the area. Some are easy to find, while others are the master of disguise.
The thrill of being able to view these animals from a vantage point that you would never get in the wild cannot be described in words. The animals are safely kept behind a fence protecting all parties. The grounds keepers are amazing at maintaining the trail and taking care of the animals. They are always around the park tending to the animals.
How did all of these animals get there? Unfortunately, all of the animals were found either injured or abandoned. The goal of the park is to get the animals healed and back into nature as soon as possible. Most of young, abandoned animals never learn the skills required to live in the wild. Unfortunately, that means that some are unable to return. Those often become permanent residents, like this snowy owl.
Each exhibit has a unique setting that matches the wilderness habitat for the animal living there. The animals feel like they are still in the wild with very little interaction with humans. Even though on average 40,000 people visit the park annually, the humans never directly interact with the animals unless it is a special educational program.
Another role of the park is to assist with endangered species have been identified at risk At the park, the species is given a chance to regrow their population. There has been a program set up like this for the Newfoundland Marten. Because of this intervention, the population is slowly recovering. Unfortunately, the elusive creature hid from my lens! Hopefully, I’ll get to see one on my next visit.
Every time you visit, you will see different things. I have a habit of going around the trail twice! It is always a treat to see new animals on the second time around. As a photographer, it is a great challenge to capture photos of these animals in the wild. This park enables me to do just that without having to sit for hours waiting for that perfect shot.
The boardwalk will weave you in and out of different enclosures. As you enter a new one, you get excited as you search the area in hopes of see its habitant.
Be prepared to stay a while! You may find yourself admiring an animal for a longer than you expected.
While I visited the park, I was lucky enough to see the Caribou males facing off in a friendly rut (main image above). They were competing for dominance and control of the females in the herd. To see these animals butt heads and to hear the clashing of their antlers, is something this photo cannot portray.
As you meander along the water reservoirs, a few Canada Geese might just swim by. You never know what you will see and that is the best part.
Mr. Moose was very curious. He was down on the edge closest to the trail. Seeing him that close and hearing his breathing, made my heart skip a beat. After all, he is quite the large mammal standing close to 6 feet and weighing on average 900 pounds. The moose population is very healthy in the province. So you might even get to see one along the outer edges of the trail in its natural home!
The raptors are fully enclosed in a more defining cage. They are given enough room for flying. Most of those are there solely for rehabilitation. In fact, over 90% of the injured animals received are birds. I was able to observe a Great Horned Owl and a Goshawk there during my last visit.
The highlight of my visit had to be the Canada Lynx. To see this one perched on top of its house absorbing the sun after it was feed, was definitely something that I was not expecting. Seeing this animal in the wild is rare, very rare. They have been studied by many and observed by few.
The park is a great place to visit and wander around. If you take you camera, you will see far more than just animals to photograph. The light changes through the day creating very nice images.
As the seasons change, you can also take time to admire the colorful foliage.
In life, every day is a chance to explore and discover new things. Exploring this park should be on your list if you visit the province! Please remember that you are part of the animals’ home and obey all of the posted rules. If you want to learn more, please visit Salmonier Nature Park