The first clue to the unfolding scene of predators and prey was the Bald Eagle with fresh blood on its white feathers. Our group of four photographers pulled off the road in Jackson Hole to study what was happening on this snow covered hillside.
Soon, we identified two bald eagles and a golden eagle perched on boulders. The golden eagle was much larger than the Bald Eagle, but as the scene appears compressed though the 600mm lens, you can’t see the size difference in the photo.
Yes, with binoculars we spotted a bloody carcass between the boulders with a magpie (black and white bird common to the mountainous ecosystem) currently picking at the carcass. The eagles must have had their fill.
Up the hill, watching over the scene was a lone coyote. He was likely the killer of the elk, who may have wandered away from the herd, not feeling well.
Scores of elk stay safe in a tight herd in the valley. It is also possible that a pack of wolves took down the elk. All these animals and moose too roam the national park in great numbers. Soon the bears will break hibernation and join the throng.
While we humans tend to pity the prey, we understand that all wildlife have to eat, and this is Nature’s way. We are privileged to witness it.
Continuing with our family theme during this pandemic as we gather only in family groups, I have some recent wildlife photographs to share with you from Wyoming. My friends and I spotted a mother with her yearling as well as male Big Horned Sheep nearby. The location was the Elk Refuge in Grand Teton National Park in Jackson Hole, a wonderful place to visit in any season.
Best wishes for continued good health to all as we stay home and minimize the spread of the Coronavirus.
I’m the first to admit that I like to sleep in. Waking up to a buzzing alarm clock when it’s dark outside is NOT the way I like to start my day, especially when it’s cold outside. Proof positive that I braved the dark and the cold and forced my sleepy body out of bed at 6am in Jackson Hole is this photo of Rendezvous Mountain at sunrise. As you can see, I was in position to take this sunrise exposure before the first skier appeared on the slopes.
With the temperature only reaching 8 degrees Fahrenheit, my toes felt like blocks of ice in few minutes outside, so I got back in the car to look for some wildlife. We found some bald eagles in short order!
Temperatures might still be below freezing in Jackson Hole with the lakes covered in a thick coating of ice and snow, but the Trumpter Swans find the perfect spot to keep warm and well fed — in the hot springs.
There is a fine mist rising from the hot springs, as the air is around 25 degrees Fahrenheit. The lakes and parts of the Snake River are frozen solid, showing moose tracks across the surface. Last night, we got 7″ of fresh snow.
It’s no coincidence that the ducks are swimming near the swans. They have a symbiotic relationship, as the swans foraging makes it easier for the ducks to forage as well. The swans reach underwater with their long necks, stirring up the underwater ecosystem. Both species can find plenty to eat here.
We interrupt this close examination of bison 😉 for a wider view of the landscape in Grand Teton National Park. Grand it is! How glorious are the vistas of the wide open spaces. In this image, we see a lone tree punctuate the snow covered flat lands at the foot of the steeply rising Grand Teton mountains.
In February, it was bitter cold and windy with many nighttime temperatures dropping into negative numbers (-25!). Snow pack is higher in the mountains than in the lower Snake River Valley, but many low lying roads and areas accessible during the Spring, Summer and Fall are off limits now. During our week in Wyoming, we picked up an additional 7” to everyone’s delight. Then, we also enjoyed “bluebird skies” like this in the image. The skiers and photographers were happy.
Near Kelly, Wyoming —- Who knew that bison have black tongues? In this image, I caught Mama Bison chewing some plants while looking in my direction. I was shooting with a 600mm lens from a safe distance. At least, we hoped we would be safe!
In this next close-up, you can see the bison trudging up the hill in fresh snow. It was also snowing, windy and cold. I like the raised hoof indicating the action taking place. In no time, all five bison had traveled from the field where they were lying, through the hot spring, across the road and up the hill.
This was our best sighting of the week in Jackson Hole. While we spotted moose several times, we never had a good opportunity for photos like this. A shout out to our guide with Wild Things of Wyoming, Colin Boeh, for his experience with finding and safely observing wildlife in Grand Teton National Park. Thanks to Colin, we had a fascinating and very educational day!
Sunday afternoon, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming —
A close encounter with five enormous bison? It unfolded like this: As the bison waded across the hot spring that separated us and approached the road, we backed up several yards to give them plenty of space. We were mindful of National Park Service rules for keeping a safe distance from wildlife, and we anticipated that the bison planned to cross the road and head up the snow covered hill. This scenario was unfolding peacefully until a pick-up truck, pulled up right in front of the bison, blocking their path.
What did the bison do? They looked down the road to us and gave us the stare-down. “Move the truck!” we said quietly — to the driver, but only loud enough that the three of us could hear. Luckily, the truck moved on after a pause of a few minutes (surely taking photos out the window and oblivious to the spot they put us in). I looked behind me for a tree to hide behind, but there were none. I’m not sure what we would have done, had they charged at us. There were several cars and spectators on the far side of the bison, but the three of us were isolated, standing on the road.
Once the truck moved, the bison trudged across the road and up the hill, as we predicted, stopping a few more times to stare in our direction.
There were three adult and two young bison, causing the two mother bison to exhibit protective behavior. It was our job to stay distant, quiet and non-threatening. During this time, I used my 600mm Sony lens to capture as many action photos as I could. Watching these enormous wild animals at close range was a rare and special experience. If you like this image, stay tuned, as I’ve got more good ones!