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We all love moose, right? Although the number of moose in Algonquin Park can change frequently from year to year, it’s estimated that 2500-4500 moose call Algonquin Park their home. We share the park with many permanent wildlife residents…lets help give them a chance!


As travelling begins again, now that Ontario enters phase one of the re-opening plan, we’ve seen an increase of traffic driving through Algonquin. According to the Ontario Road Safety Annual Report, the number of animals struck on Ontario roads has increased by 47% from 1999 to 2014. According to another study, that number becomes even more staggering, with approximately 14,000 wildlife-vehicle collisions happening per year in Ontario.



We’ve put together some safety tips below:


1. Drive more cautiously. It’s common for us to drive in a state of “auto pilot” without paying attention of our surroundings. Be alert and play the “what if” game while driving through the park. “What if there’s a moose standing on the road over this hill?” “What if there’s a moose and a calf crossing around this corner?” Animals are active 24 hours a day. Being aware at all times will help your chances of avoiding an unfortunate wildlife collision. 
2. Drive the speed limit. The speed limit through Algonquin Park is 80km per hour. However, it’s common to see cars and trucks reaching speeds over 100km per hour. Instead, take the time to enjoy the beauty that surrounds you. Keep your attention on high alert and keep scanning the roadsides for any signs of wildlife.


3. Dawn and dusk are often the most dangerous for wildlife collisions. Drive with extra caution during these times of day. Drive with your high beams on when it gets dark, but also be courteous of oncoming traffic while doing so. Remember too switch to low beams while traffic is approaching to avoid blinding the other driver. Please don’t drive behind someone with your high beams on as it’ll be more distracting for the driver ahead of you. Large animal collisions spike in May-June and again in the autumn months during mating season. 


4. Ask others in your vehicle to scan the roadsides, too. Ask everyone to put down their electronic devices and enjoy the drive together. It’s exciting to come across a moose while driving as long as you have time to slow down and enjoy the moment. 


5. If you come across a moose (or any wildlife) in the park, and want to enjoy a few moments of watching their behaviour, please safely pull over onto the shoulder. Remember this is a highway and many large vehicles pass through Algonquin Park daily. Make sure your vehicle is safely off of the main highway and your wheels are over the shoulder white line. Turn your 4 way hazard lights on to warn other drivers to slow down.



6. Remember that wildlife can be very unpredictable. Sometimes honking your horn can spook the animal and cause it to run back onto the highway. It’s recommended to put your hazard lights on, slow down and observe the behaviour of the animal while passing by slowly. Be aware of traffic behind you, too as we’ve seen accidents occur while slowing down too fast and not pulling over safely. 


7. When there’s one animal, there might be more! Often times we’ll see a moose on one side of the road, and occasionally there’s another one or two on the other side of the highway attempting to cross. Remember to always be alert on both sides, even if you only see one. 


9. In the event of a collision, pull over safely. Try to catch your breath and remain calm. Do not approach the injured animal as it can be dangerous. Be sure to put your four way hazard lights on to warn of other drivers. 


10. It’s a good idea to report the location of your collision even if your car hasn’t been damaged, as this helps officials monitor any injured animals or recover animals that may have been fatally hit. In the case of an emergency and/or wildlife collision, contact the nearest Algonquin Park office 613-637-2828 or call: Ontario Provincial Police 1-888-310-1122 



All photos by Jesse & Susan - Instagram @followmenorth  


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In April we were approached by a journalist for the Toronto Star asking to help write a story about wildlife photography. We were happy to accept and we were thrilled to see our interview was given almost a full page in the travel section of Saturday’s newspaper! 


Many of you have sent us emails, instagram/facebook messages saying that you saw the article and sending us positive feedback. We thank you for taking the few minutes to read and we hope there’s a few positive takeaways. 


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Two years ago today, I somehow convinced this beautiful woman to meet up with me at my cottage and we’ll celebrate Algonquin’s Birthday together with a little hike, and get to know each other more.


We’ve been speaking online for a couple months prior, but we hadn’t had the chance to actually meet in person. During that time we realized that we had similar passions of photography and the great outdoors. So of course Algonquin was the perfect place to meet for our first time!


Since then we’ve become the best partners, always loving and encouraging each other while we continue growing as our best selves. We’re now living together next to Algonquin Park with Indy (aka Indiana Bones) and couldn’t be happier!


We’ve combined our camera bags, joined forces as Follow Me North, and love guiding other photographers and outdoor enthusiasts into Algonquin!




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The past couple of months we’ve been exploring our own backyard and getting outdoors as much as possible. 


One morning as we were enjoying a coffee on our back deck, a Barred Owl appeared from the depths of the forrest and perched on a tree very close by! 


Of course we weren’t expecting that, and decided to run into the house to get the camera! And of course my battery was almost dead, and the memory card was nearly full...I may have cursed a little in my mind at this point as we actually teach other photographers on our workshops to “always be prepared!” 


Has this happened to you before? Have you missed the shot because your camera was turned off, or you had the wrong settings dialled in, or no memory card or dead battery? I think you’ll always remember the one that got away...and it’ll haunt you! 



After switching my battery and memory card, I came back outside and now the Barred owl started slowly venturing in to the forest. However we were lucky enough to follow him throughout the forest with our long lenses.  


The light was perfect as it was early morning and the sun was starting to awaken our surroundings. He found a cluster of trees and stayed within the same area for about 15 minutes. It was almost as like he was posing and playing for us.


It was a special moment to witness and even more awakening than our coffee! 

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We unwrapped a magical gift in Algonquin Park this Christmas….a Lynx!


Numerous biologists and naturalists believe that wild cats, such as the Canadian Lynx or “Ghosts of the North Woods,”  are absent from Algonquin. Historically, Lynx have been found throughout Canada’s boreal forest, which in Ontario typically means north of Algonquin. However, our recent encounter has accompanied similar sightings noted as early as 2017.


It’s no secret that Lynx feed on small to medium-sized mammals, but it’s important to note that the health of their population is dependant upon the mating patterns and abundance of snowshoe hares - to which their diet primarily consists. These two species are closely tied as their predator-prey cycle repeats every 10 years - allowing the Lynx to reduce the snowshoe hare population, resulting in increased competition amongst Lynx for food sources until their inevitable decline. This repetitive population cycle has long been studied and determined by the Hudson’s Bay Company’s fur trapping records dating back to the 1800’s. 


Although the last peak in snowshoe hares was documented in 2007, there wasn’t a single reported sighting of a Lynx in Algonquin Park for more than 100 years according to Algonquin’s The Raven Newsletter in 2018 (Vol. 59, No. 2) - until 2017, when a Lynx was spotted on Opeongo Road, in Madawaska River and later, in Hailstorm Creek. To say we were blessed this holiday season is an understatement!


Luckily, Jesse and I always drive with our cameras on and ready - so when the Lynx wandered onto Highway 60, we were ready - sort of. 



Our meeting happened at 7:52 a.m., just after sunrise. As we turned a sharp corner, initially anticipating a wolf - we edged closer and we were shocked to realize our new friend was in fact - the ever-elusive Lynx. Jesse slowed the car and I shot through our salted windshield as the Lynx attempted to carve a path up an icy rock wall beside the highway. The Lynx slipped during his first assent, running back onto the highway before attempting a second time. By this time, he managed to ledge himself halfway up the wall, and took a breath before scaling up a tree that was growing out of the ice - taking one last look at us, camouflaged by thick brush, before strutting off.


The first image above was my first click of the camera. The lighting was poor, our car was moving and the Lynx was on the prowl - but, we’re happy to have captured a flash of this perfect Winter morning! The whole scene lasted less than 60 seconds before the Lynx vanished into the frosted forest.


A Christmas to remember. 


FYI, please respect that exact wildlife locations will not be for the wildlife first.


Instagram @followmenorth

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Short answer: 


Canon 5d Mark IV and Canon 5d Mark III 


This is probably one of our most popular questions asked online, usually in a comment under one of our photos that we just uploaded on social media.  


As professional photographers we’re asked this question a lot. Along with...what is the best lens? Or, what are your settings? I’m assuming people might be asking this question if they’re looking for a new camera perhaps? 


These answers will only get you so far unfortunately. A lot depends on what you’re shooting, the subject, the lighting, your surroundings, your skill level etc.  


Long answer: 


You can put two professional photographers side by side, with the exact same gear, shooting the same subject, and they can both walk away with extremely different images.  


Many of the amazing photos that you see go a lot deeper than the just the camera being used. Many photographers will also use some sort of post processing software to edit their photos. Lightroom and Photoshop are a favourite of many photographers. Even iPhone photographers can achieve some amazing editing affects by using editing apps such as Snapseed.


I read a statement from a photographer many years ago that stuck with me:  “When people ask me what camera I used to capture an image that they like, it unfortunately connects the image solely with the instrument being used to capture it, ignoring any artistic purpose and trivializing my efforts in the process” 


It’s true. Learning your current camera to its fullest extent will likely benefit you greater than buying a more expensive camera without learning the key fundamentals.  Remember that a more expensive camera won’t necessarily achieve the results you’re looking for.


I’d suggest looking into joining your local camera club, or seek out professional photographers that may offer some one-on-one photography education. There’s also a lot of online tutorials that’ll benefit you, or even check into local college courses.  


My best advice for moving forward with photography is getting out and shoot, shoot, shoot! Find a shooting buddy. Challenge each other and then watch your skills grow over time. Remember that photography is a life long journey and we’re always learning something new. Most importantly keep it fun!  


Remember if you ever need some one-on-one photography or Lightroom editing training that we’re here to help!


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Spring is here and that means it’s Bear O’clock! 


Next to the Moose, the Black Bear is the largest mammal in Algonquin Park. Black bears are on a restrictive schedule during the Spring as they remain fairly sedentary for roughly two weeks after emerging from their dens - however, after this time they cover a lot of ground - and fast!



It’s estimated that there are over 2,000 bears in Algonquin, which is about one for every three to four square kilometres. Despite the size of the population, Black Bears are reclusive and tend to avoid contact with people unless, through human carelessness, they begin to associate humans with food. This knowledge becomes particularly important when planning outdoor excursions or camping within Algonquin Park. 


Studies have shown that in the Spring, black bears move the most at twilight and before dawn, moderately during the day and the least at night. If you find fresh scat during your hike in the morning or mid-day, chances are in the last two hours of the evening the bear will return to that same location. 


Our friends Mike and Ella McIntosh of Bear With Us note, bears will travel more than 100km to a known food source, such as berry patches or beech trees. Bears will learn where other food sources are and seek them out. Unfortunately, this often means they can revisit your backyard or campsite once they have determined that food can be found there. The majority of bear problems occur as a result of improperly stored household garbage. Bears quickly learn to associate human residences and tents with a readily available food source.  


Black bears are omnivores, however, plant matter makes up 95% of their diet. In the early Spring, bears feed heavily on grasses and beechnuts. As leaves appear on the hardwoods in early June, bears begin to feed on aspen leaves and by mid-summer their attention turns to berries and seeds. That said, in the wild, once black bears find a steady supply of live meat they may turn away from grass and carrion - and if you happen to find calving sites for moose or deer during your travels, black bears won’t be far behind. 


Bears use the same routes for food year-after-year and these laneways often encompass ridge tops, valley bottoms, game trails and closed roads. Bear fur on a tree trunk is a visual giveaway that you’re hiking along one of these paths. 


Black Bears use all five major habitats in Algonquin Park; deciduous forests, coniferous forests, spruce bogs, beaver ponds and lakes and rivers. Chances are - you will notice signs of bear activity or come across a bear on your travels. So what can you do to ensure your safety and the safety of the bears in the Park while visiting? 



When camping in bear country, which includes Algonquin Park, remember the these cardinal rules:


1. Never feed or approach a bear.


2. Store food so bears cannot access it; in a bear resistant location or container (i.e. hang containers at least 4 metres above the ground and 3 metres from tree limbs or trunks that can support a bear’s weight.


3. Drain dish water away from your camp site.


4. Never cook, eat or store any food, cooking equipment or toiletries in your tent. 


5. If you are sleeping in a tent, try not to sleep in clothes you have worn while cooking.


6. Fishing tackle and bait, clothes worn while cooking, garbage, toiletries and all snacks should be stored in a bear-resistant container and away from your campsite.


7. Clean fish away from your campsite. 


8. All odours attract bears. Pack all food, including dog food, with special care. Double or triple bagged food will reduce smells. Consider choosing meals that require minimal preparation.


9. Avoid strong fragrances that may cause a bear to be curious; put any food you are carrying in sealed containers in your pack.


10. If you are out with your dog, control it. Hike with your dog on a leash at all times. Uncontrolled, untrained dogs may actually lead a bear to you.


11. Keep a clean campsite and pack out all garbage.


12. Make noise as you move through wooded areas, especially in areas where background noise is high, such as near streams and waterfalls. Singing, whistling or talking will alert bears to your presence, giving them a chance to avoid you.


13. Consider bringing a whistle, air horn, bear spray or even a garbage bag to make noise in the event you encounter a bear on your campsite or in the outback. A good tip is to always carry a garbage bag with you - swinging, swooshing and shaking this will often spook the bear from coming closer - this noise is uncommon to them in the wild. If you bring bear spray, know how to use it - spraying the repellent in 2-3 second bursts within 5 metres of a bear. Keeping in mind too, bear spray only has a shelf life of 4 years, so keep your pack up to date.


14. When hiking, be aware of your surroundings - don’t wear headphones and keep a watchful eye out for signs of bear activity (i.e. tracks, claw marks on trees, flipped-over rocks or fresh bear droppings).


15. If you encounter a bear that obviously knows you are there, raise your arms to let the bear know you are a human. Make yourself look as big as possible. Speak in a firm, but non-threatening voice while looking at the bear and backing away. 


16. Watch the bear to gauge its reaction to you. Generally, the noisier the bear is, the less dangerous it is, providing you don’t approach the bear. If a bear huffs, pops its jaw or stomps its paws on the ground, it wants you to back away and give it space.


17. If a bear closely approaches you, drop any food you may be carrying and continue backing up


18. If a bear keeps advancing and is getting close, be aggressive and continue to stand your ground. Use bear spray and anything else to threaten or distract the bear; bears will often first test to see if it is safe to approach you.



Having a bear revisit your property again and again? It might be because you have a bird feeder! During the months that bears hibernate, having a bird feeder can be a great source of nutrients for birds, however, once late April/May hits these feeders can be a target for the black bear. If this sounds like you - strongly consider removing your bird feeder between May - November. A good rule of thumb is to stop feeding birds when the grass turns green and start again with the first snowfall. 


Did you know…you’re more likely to die of cardiovascular disease, transportation accidents, drowning, hypothermia, West Nile virus, wasp stings or snake bites than you are being mauled by a black bear. The statistics nationwide show bear attacks make up a whopping 2% of reported fatalities - rest assured if you treat this gentle giant with respect and give it the space it requires, we can coexist peacefully. 


So what happens if you’ve followed all of the above tips and you encounter an injured, distressed or unresponsive black bear or bear cub in Ontario? You can contact our friends below:


The Bear With Us Team was founded by Mike McIntosh in 1992 with the cooperation of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR), and is joined now by his wife, Ella. Since the organization's inception, Bear With Us has assisted over 530 orphaned and injured bears in preparation to release them back to their original habitat. Bear With Us is a permanent home to a select few bears that cannot return to the wild. 


"I have always valued the natural environment and wildlife which I started photographing as a youngster,” Mike recalls. "Fascinated by wildlife and their behaviour, I became curious about perceived dangerous “predators” and human misunderstanding of these amazing creatures. I am especially intrigued by bears given their high intelligence and unique cognitive abilities.”


To speak to the Bear With Us mission statement, Mike describes his work with adult wild black bears being the result of human activity. "This includes hunting, automobile and other injuries,” he said. "We assist orphan cubs until old enough to be returned to the wild. We work with people recreating in bear country and home owners regarding perceived nuisance bears. This work has allowed myself the privilege to observe the many varied reactions to human interference exhibited by the bears. What I find incredible is a bear’s ability for exhibiting restraint."


For assistance with an injured bear in your area, contact Mike and Ella @ BEARHELP for Orphan Cubs, Injured Bears and Human / Bear Conflicts @ (Cell): 1-705-571-4397 or (Office): 1-705-685-7830. In an immediate emergency, contact the MNRF at the Bear Reporting Line 1-866-514-2327


*Please note, seeing a bear is not an emergency! If a bear is rummaging through your garbage or eating seed out of your bird feeder, wait until the bear leaves to clean up the garbage and remove your feeders.


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Jesse Villemaire
June 9, 2021
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Susan Brown
December 28, 2019
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