Living the ‘Wild Life’ at the OH Ranch

There’s no question the historic OH Ranch is a special place.  With the Calgary Stampede as a steward of the land, it remains a working cattle ranch with a remarkable history stretching back more than 130 years. But it’s not just that history that the Stampede strives to preserve on the 8,000 acre property along the Highwood River west of Longview.

A Grizzly Bear roams the OH Ranch

It’s not uncommon for ranch manager Ken Pigeon and his wife Deb to spot a variety of wildlife on the land. The cold snap in January had many animals making their way a bit closer to the ranch buildings to forage for food.

Moose forage for food along Ings Creek

“Lately it’s been a lot of moose, eight or nine at a time,” says Pigeon, adding it’s easier grazing for them among the willows along Ings Creek when there’s a lot of snow on the ground. Large herds of elk, mule deer and bald eagles are also a familiar site, with tracks of wolves and coyotes often seen in the snow.

Large herds of Elk are a common sight

One of the Stampede’s three guiding principles for the OH Ranch is to preserve, protect and enhance the natural environment.  It has Heritage Rangeland designation, and operates under an easement agreement with the Nature Conservancy of Canada.  This allows it to remain a working cattle ranch, but also restricts the types of activities allowed on the land. According to the NCC, it ‘serves as a great example of how conservation should happen.’

A Sharp Tailed Grouse at home in the pasture

“To be honest, my first thought is always – what fence did they break,” jokes Pigeon, about seeing large herds of elk and deer move across the land. But while it may not always be easy to have wildlife roam freely among the nearly 300 head of cattle he cares for, Pigeon works hard to ensure all of the different species are protected, even if it means fixing a few extra fences.

Rare and sensitive species protected at the OH Ranch:

Rough Fescue Grasslands

Northern Pygmy Owl

Cape May Warbler

Sharp Tailed grouse

Bull trout

Grizzly bear

Limber pine tree

Source: Calgary Stampede