British Painter Julie Askew Ventures Into The Dale Of Wild Wolves and Goes ‘Eye to Eye’.
Unfortunately, most hunters are single minded about what is important and ecological integrity takes a backseat to “getting their elk.”
If the restoration of wolves to the Rockies is really “one of the worst wildlife management disasters since the destruction of bison herds in the 19th Century” as David Allen of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation suggests, I believe we need a lot more of these disasters across the country.
Soggy week, not very conducive to outdoor photography – I was able to make it to Chatfield SP early in the week and Rocky Mountain National Park on Thursday, but other than that I’ve been sticking around the studio and processing photos.
There’s a fox den across the street from my mother-in-law’s house, I’ve been staking out the den in the mornings from 6 to 7 or so. The fox mom, dad, and 2 kits have made many appearances, but I’ve yet to nail any decent shots of the family (fingers crossed for this week!). I snapped this photo of another neighborhood fox one morning as she was attempting to carry two eggs in her mouth without breaking them. It was a slow, painstaking endeavor – frequently stopping to rearrange her precious cargo, jumping several 6-foot fences and even avoiding a couple of speeding vehicles on the way back to her den, without breaking either egg.
Mountain lion sightings are becoming more and more common in Colorado. The Colorado Division of Wildlife has produced a short video about safety in lion country to help educate residents and visitors. The video explains lion behavior, how you can prevent attracting lions onto your property, how to protect pets and livestock, and what to do if you come close to a lion on a trail or in the backcountry.
On the 18th my wife and I volunteered with Defenders of Wildlife, hauling out old barbed-wire ranch fencing from the Betasso Preserve. Betasso is located at the junction of Boulder and Fourmile Canyons, just west of the city of Boulder. Carrying the bales up and down trails was hard work, but the reward is priceless – a safer place for both wildlife and people, as well as the restored beauty of this wonderful landscape. We were treated to a friendly fox and a herd of mule deer as soon as we arrived, too!
Later that day we decided to head to Cherry Creek State Park – quietly enjoying sunset from the shore of the lake made for a perfect end to the day.
Click thumbnail to view panoramas at full size…
My wife was attending an archaeology conference in Montrose, so I decided to drive out and join her for a weekend on Colorado’s western slope. Spent some time rambling around Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Ridgway State Park, and the Uncompahgre Plateau.
On the 28th we visited the Ute Indian Museum, then we joined a group tour to Shavano Petroglyph Park. The petroglyph park lies at the crossroads of several ancient trails used by natives for thousands of years, and those that used the trails left behind some excellent rock art.
Game farms across the nation, but mostly in the West, truck animals to distant, scenic locations where they perform for “wildlife photographers.” On calendars, posters and magazine pages, wildlife fauxtography proliferates like vacationers’ junk mail.
Three of the most respected nature magazines — Audubon, National Geographic and National Wildlife — no longer knowingly accept game-farm shots. But accurate identification is hard because some photographers and most photo-stock houses don’t label game-farm images, aware that disclosure might discourage purchase.
I was thrilled when one of my favorite wildlife conservation groups, WildEarth Guardians, contacted me about using some of my photos for their “Restoring the Wolf, Restoring the Wild” photo essay, narrated by Alan Arkin!
“The release is a celebration and a call to action. From the snowy peaks of the Colorado Rockies to the Mexican border and all throughout the American West, wolves are a symbol of freedom and wildness to cherish and protect.” – WildEarth Guardians
Yellowstone wolf Biologist Doug Smith has played an integral role in the park’s wolf program since wolves were reintroduced 15 years ago. Yet for all that time spent working on the reintroduction, a day in Smith’s life during March can be as unpredictable as wildlife itself.
What was once the most watched, largest and most dominant wolf pack in Yellowstone National Park has dwindled to one collared female, ill with mange, two males forming their own pack elsewhere and no more than six lone wolves wandering the landscape, according to Rick McIntyre, a biological technician with the park’s wolf project.
Spring in the Rockies began with a beautiful weekend, sunshine and temperatures in the upper 60’s melting nearly all of the snow from the storm on the 19th. Plenty of wildlife to be seen enjoying the weather, most of them just out of my lens range (as usual). The usual prairie dogs, porcupine, coyotes, whitetail and mule deer were out at Chatfield, along with hawks, great blue herons and the returning mountain bluebirds and western meadowlarks.
Saw both bald and golden eagles in Roxborough, as well as mule deer, coyotes and a red fox preparing a natal den – hopefully I can get some decent shots of mom and the kits here later this spring.
Trudging through the marshland around Plum Creek in my waders earlier in the week didn’t produce much, so I was excited that Dan was up for a trip to Banner Lakes on Thursday. The wind left little opportunity for shooting the long-eared owls that we’d gone there for, so we ducked into a blind along Lake 9 and focused on waterfowl. Didn’t leave with many great photos, but really fun shooting nonetheless.
The lack of new photos left me with some time to process a few older shots this week…
The first good photograph of a live wolf in modern Illinois might have been captured by a trail cam last week near Oregon, Ill. It comes about the same time as a reliable report and photos of an apparent wolf, a 140-pound canine, shot near Walnut, Ill.
A handful of outfitters will rally Saturday in Jackson to protest wolves, a predator they say has impacted their livelihood and their heritage by reducing elk populations in some segments of the Jackson Elk Herd.
Conservation groups counter by saying that the Jackson Elk Herd, and the majority of elk herds around the state, are over the population objectives set by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Further, they say that wolves have restored perhaps the only intact ecosystem in the lower 48 states and their presence benefits numerous other species by keeping elk in check.
Across western North America, huge tracts of forest are dying off at an extraordinary rate, mostly because of outbreaks of insects. Scientists are now seeing such forest die-offs around the world and are linking them to changes in climate.
I’ve recently finished my first large-scale landscape panoramas consisting of multiple images merged together – I’m not entirely happy with the results, but it’s a start! Click on the photos below to view the panoramas at full size.
In six days of helicopter work, the crew has captured 14 of the park’s 56 wolves. The park’s wolf population has declined precipitously from only two years ago when 171 wolves roamed the territory. In a normal year, about 25 wolves have been captured and collared, Smith said.
Wolf advocates are celebrating the return of wolves to Colorado after biologists for a recreational ranch recently announced a pack may have taken up residence.
But that same prospect has sparked fear in neighboring ranchers and outfitters.
Spent the evening in Cherry Creek S.P. – plenty of wildlife around including a red-tailed hawk (very close, but too many branches in the way), two far-off bald eagles, several coyotes and whitetail deer, but the muted winter light was just horrible for photography. I’m really ready for the spring to bring some sunshine, blue skies and color back to these grey and brown foothills.
Spent another nice afternoon at Chatfield with my wife – hiked in to the trees to look for the owl, after a half hour of searching I found it roosting about 20 feet up. The light was less than optimum, and there were too many branches in the way to get great shots. Spotted a ton of hawks, but other than that is was an uneventful yet still incredibly enjoyable evening.
Another 6-coyote day at Chatfield – from the Highline Canal to Fox Run, the song dogs were out in full force. One of the Plum Creek yearlings made an appearance, as well as the alphas and an unknown yote. The Catfish Flats female took down another goose, this time alone, just west of Kingfisher.
The male was about a half mile south of her, hunting voles on the far side of a row of trees, unaware of the entire thing. We watched her for a while, then finished the day with a couple of close hawks at Massey Draw.
Spent the late afternoon taking pictures of mule deer at Deer Creek, then Dan and I headed to Chatfield for sunset coyotes. Found the Plum Creek’s (male and female alphas, not sure where the 2 yearlings were) at their usual spot, in sight but way out of camera range in the blowing snow, so we hit the west side of the park. Caught the beautiful Catfish Flats couple (see Valentine’s Day trip report) out in the snow. These two are excellent hunters, this is the first time I’ve ever seen coyotes succeed at hunting geese. My coyote luck seems to be getting a little better, finally – spotted 6 of them today.