Thursday, June 10, 2010

Adventures with Elk, Spring Edition

That calf and mom from yesterday's photos have been plopped down right outside the windows of my dorm's lounge all day. Or maybe it's a different calf and mom, but the ones from the photos aren't there anymore. Do you know what happens when mama Elk don't like people walking near their calves?

Before we get to that, let's look at a couple other local residents. Here we have a bird on a pole. The coloration looks like a Tree Swallow, although a little chunkier than the photo in my field guide. And of course the tail is on the other side of the pole.

If you ever come to Mammoth, you'll see more of one species of animal than any other. And that species will be the Uinta Ground Squirrel. The holes they live in cover almost as much of the lawns as the Elk and Buffalo dung do. I can picture the horror on the faces of suburbanites with highly manicured lawns.The squirrels give off a high pitched chitter whenever you walk near them, and considering they're pretty much everywhere, you hear a lot of high pitched chittering whenever you're outside.

I was ready to go out early this morning when I saw an Elk right outside, so I headed for a different door. This put me farther away from the one I'd seen, but within sight of a couple more. They were a reasonable distance away and in the opposite direction from where I was going so I didn't pay them much attention. Until I was walking and heard a sound behind me I'd never heard before. I thought of it as sort of a whinny, but on the internet it's referred to as a mew. I turned and saw an Elk following me. I kept walking, she kept following. It wasn't an all out chase like a few other people experienced this morning, but I was definitely being escorted out of the area. I look forward to things really getting interesting in September when the rut is going on. Check out the photo links on this Yellowstone press release from a couple years ago.

You probably think I'm exaggerating when I tell you Elk are right outside the building. Let me show you.

See? Right outside the building!

In that last photo, you can't see what's on the other side of the Elk right outside the building. Look again.

Yes, they're right outside the building! I took those photos through the window at lunch, staying farther away from the window than it might appear. When I got back after work, sheets had been hung over the windows to thwart the gawkers like me. Someone in a position of authority has been directing foot traffic all day, and traffic cones are blocking cars from the area. Folks actually do try to treat the world with respect here and it's really a pleasure to see.

It doesn't always work out that way though. Sunday night, there was a hit and run collision in the park which took the life of a yearling Grizzly. Apparently, based on tracks, mom and sibling Griz were there at the time also. I hope they're in hot pursuit of that vehicle.

Baby steps.

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